November 20, 2017 at 11:41 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Transgender Day of Remembrance observed on Capitol Hill

From left, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

As the nation observes the deadliest recorded year ever for transgender people on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, members of Congress are lending their voices to raise attention to anti-trans violence.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), chair of the Congressional Transgender Task Force, introduced a resolution in the U.S. House on Monday to recognize violence against transgender people.

“Our nation has lost too many transgender Americans to targeted, bigoted violence in our communities,” Kennedy said. “With this resolution recognizing Transgender Day of Remembrance, Congress can commit to confronting these tragedies and protecting all of our citizens.”

In addition to recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the resolution calls for enhanced federal data collection of anti-trans violence and encourages federal and state governments “to study, respond to, and prevent violence against transgender people.”

The original co-sponsors of the resolution are Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) as well as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

At least 25 transgender people were killed throughout the United States in 2017, making it the deadliest in history for anti-trans violence since those numbers were recorded starting in 2013. According to a report for the Human Rights Campaign, 84 percent of the transgender people killed this year were people of color and 80 percent were women.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim in Congress, had already introduced a resolution in September against anti-trans violence, specifically noting violence against transgender women of color.

Ellison said in a statement Monday the Transgender Day of Remembrance “takes on even more significance” in 2017 as a result of the significant rate of violence against transgender people.

“We also recognize that the victims of this violence are almost all transgender women and transgender women of color,” Ellison said. “This is an important day, but we should not consider our jobs done because we’ve observed this one day. Instead, we must commit ourselves to the principle of liberty and justice for all and ensure everyone is safe to live and thrive in their community.”

Ellison’s resolution observes transgender women of color are more likely than white transgender women to face mistreatment by police, an assumption they’re sex workers and incarceration in prison.

Among other things, the resolution calls for ending racial profiling in law enforcement practices; ending the practice of placing transgender people in solitary confinement; and ending the practice of immigration detention for vulnerable populations, including transgender people.

Co-sponsors of that resolution are Grijalva, Kennedy as well as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Ellison also produced a video recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the record amount of anti-trans violence in 2017, issuing the call that transgender protections rescinded under the Trump administration be restored.

Also on Monday, the LGBT Congressional Staff Association hosted in front of the U.S. Capitol an event recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Participants held a moment of silence and read the names of the transgender people killed this year.

Attendees included Bishop Allyson Abrams, founder and current pastor of Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, and Kory Masen of the National Transgender Center for Equality.

Todd Sloves, president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, said in a statement the organization is “proud to stand with the transgender community on and off Capitol Hill.”

“On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we want to demonstrate that there is strong support for the transgender community at the center of our nation’s capital, where the decisions that influence the direction of our nation are made,” Sloves said. “We can never forget that members of our community continue to be targeted for who they are. Today and every day we stand up to say they will not be forgotten and discriminatory and violent behavior against the most vulnerable within our community will not be accepted. We look forward to making this an annual tradition until there are no names to read.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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