I’ve been thinking a lot about trans issues a lot in the past few days, and have especially been considering the disturbing statistics associated with the violence and oppression transgender people face. The statistic that disturbs me the most, which I have now seen on many other websites, was first presented in the comments section of this post on the phrase “Die Cis Scum” (emphasis mine):
Natalie Reed says:
The difference is VIOLENCE.
Go look up how much risk there is for atheists being murdered by Christians. Now how about that one in twelve risk for trans women being murdered by cis people. Or one in eight if you happen to be a trans woman of colour.
My first reaction to this statistic was along the lines of, “ONE (1) IN TWELVE (12)?! Holy FSM, this is fucking horrifying! Trans people have every reason to be freaked out by cis people, not just because of the oppression and discrimination, which is bad enough, but especially if cis people are murdering trans people at this rate. Trans people have every reason to be freaked out if cis people are murdering trans people at all, especially if those murders are based on hatred toward trans people, especially if trans people are targeted for being trans. This has to stop!”
Then the big fat “SCIENCE!” switch in my brain got flicked on, so after my initial horror, I thought: “I’m going to find a primary source for this statistic right now.” Why: Because the statistic is an important one. If I’m going to make a claim, especially a shock-inducing or surprising and/or horrifying one, I had better back it up. Or, if I’m going to file this statistic away in my brain under “transgender issues”, then I want to make sure I verify it.
Naturally, I googled, and found a bunch of websites citing the 1 in 12 statistic, but not linking to any sources. I also spent a good amount of time in the Wash U. journal library and on Google Scholar. Here is what I found:
This link, discussing the horrific murder of Alexis King, attributes the 1 in 12 statistic to the Human Rights Campaign, however their link is broken. I searched the HRC website and did not find the statistic, though I did find Transgender Americans: A Handbook for Understanding and the HRC Research Overview on Hate Crimes and Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People. The HRC makes clear that Transgender people face a disproportionate amount of violence and hate, even when compared to other non-trans LGBT people.
This link on parents supporting their transgender teens, says:
Although social acceptance for transgender people is growing, parents continue to abandon youth with gender-identity issues when their children need them most, advocates say.
49 per cent of transgender people attempt suicide.
Transgender youth account for 18 per cent of homeless people in cities such as Chicago, but researchers estimate fewer than 1 in 1,000 people is transgender.
1 in 12 transgender people in America is murdered.
Transgender youth whose parents pressure them to conform to their anatomical gender report higher levels of depression, illegal drug use, suicide attempts and unsafe sex than peers who receive little or no pressure from parents.
Less than 1 to 1.5 per cent of individuals experience persistent regret after sex-reassignment surgery.
Sources: Guidelines for Transgender Care (2006), Gender Spectrum Education and Training, Families in TRANSition (2008)
Guidelines for Transgender Care (2006) is a book by Walter O. Bockting, Joshua M. Goldberg. I don’t have access to the book, but I do have access to an online Transgender Health Program by the same authors. I looked at all of the references searching for statistics on murders. I found:
In the Social and Medical Advocacy with Transgender People and Loved Ones: Recommendations for BC Clinicians, I found this information:
One American study of transgender adults found that approximately 50% of respondents were survivors of violence or abuse,(28) and another found that 25% of transgender respondents had experienced hate-motivated physical/sexual assault or attempted assault. 29 In a recent survey of transgender people and loved ones in BC (n=179), 26% reported needing anti-violence services at some point in their life. In examining reports of hate crimes against transgender people, researchers found that 98% of all “transgender” violence was perpetrated specifically against people in the male to-female spectrum; (30) of the 38 murders of transgender people reported internationally in 2003, 70% were women of colour. (31)
Reference 31 is Goldberg (2004). an abstract of that article is here, and an online version of the article should be available here, but the article is not there.
Also within the Transgender health Program is Counselling and Mental Health Care of Transgender Adults and Loved Ones, which says:
It is difficult to estimate the extent of violence against the transgender community as the vast majority of violence is not reported. Tracking mechanisms typically do not differentiate between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals (Goldberg & White, 2004), and there are no mechanisms to track trans-related violence against non-transgender loved ones. Trans-specific studies suggest high prevalence of sexual abuse/assault, relationship violence, and hate-motivated assault across the lifespan (Courvant & Cook-Daniels, 1998; Devor, 1994; Kenagy, 2005; Lombardi et al., 2001). Data relating to trans-specific hate crimes indicate that 98% of incidents were perpetrated against people in the MTF spectrum (Currah & Minter, 2000). Non-transgender significant others, family members, and friends (SOFFAs) are also vulnerable to transphobic hate motivated violence, as evidenced by the murders of Philip DeVine, Lisa Lambert, Willie Houston, and Barry Winchell (Cook-Daniels, 2001; Goldberg, 2005). The extent of relationship violence against SOFFAs is unknown.
Even though none of these articles mention a 1 in 12 murder statistic, I grabbed Lombardi et Al (2001) and read the full article. It says:
There is definitely a disproportionate number of trans people being murdered. This is clear, and horrifying.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) began to collect data concerning attacks upon trans-people in 1995. While NCAVP documented only 69 such attacks in 1995 (2% of their entire sample), they believe that violence against trans-people is pervasive and grossly underreported (NCAVP, 1995). NCAVP could not draw any definite conclusions because of
the small sample size. However, they did find that while trans-people made up only 2% of their entire sample, trans-people made up 16% of all murder victims. For the most part, these incidents either go unreported or are misreported as anti-gay/lesbian incidents.
The Gender Spectrum Education and Training, Families in TRANSition (2008) comes from the website genderspectrum.org. I can’t find the actual citation, but a search of their website offers no information about murders.
This website cites Kay Brown as well, but places the murder rate at 6 times the national average.
This website also cites Kay Brown (apparently the quote below comes from HRC, though I can’t find it on the HRC website:
…one expert estimates that transgender individuals living in America today have a one in 12 chance of being murdered.  In contrast, the average person has about a one in 18,000 chance of being murdered. 
1. Kay Brown, instructor for “20th Century Transgender History and Experience” at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco, Washington Blade, Dec. 10, 1999.
2. Based on the FBI’s “Uniform Crimes Reports, Crime in the United States 2000,” showing the murder rate of 5.5 people per 100,000.
I can’t find any information on Kay Brown, except this website, accessed via the wayback machine.
Similarly using the wayback machine, I found an old copy of the dead-linked HRC article mentioned earlier. It says:
Transgender people are often targeted for hate violence based on their non-conformity with gender norms and/or their perceived sexual orientation. Hate crimes against transgender people tend to be particularly violent. Our best estimates indicate that one out of every 1,000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate crime. This estimation is based on data collected by the national organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance track the number of transgender people killed each year in hate-based attacks using media articles, community reports and other publically available data. By this count, they estimate that at least 15 transgender people are killed each year in hate-based attacks, although we believe the number to be higher based on transgender people’s common fear of going to the police and widespread misreporting. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates approximately 14,000 homicides in the country each year. Based on these figures, we can estimate that approximately one out of every 1000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate-based crime
I decided to look at some statistics on murder rates and how they might relate to transgender people. I know that the murder rates are higher in other countries, but for the sake of simplicity (and easy of data-gathering) I’ll focus on the US for the moment.
According to the Williams Institute, .3 of individuals identify as transgender. That’s 1 in 333 (ish).
According to the FBI, people living in the US have a lifetime murder risk of 1 in 240, in 1997. I don’t have current statistics for lifetime murder risk, but from 1997 to 2010, the homicide rates fell from a total of 18,208 (1997) to 14,748 (2010).
If 14,748 people were murdered in 2010, and 1 in 333 people in the general population are transgender, and transgender people are murdered disproportionately to other demographic groups, then we would expect greater than 1 in 333 murders to be murders of transgender people. So, greater than 44 people.*
According to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, 14 transgender people were murdered in the US in 2010.
According to the Hate Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-affected Communities in the United States in 2010, there were 27 murders of LGBTQH people. 20 of those murders were LGBTQH people of color. 11 were transgender. 6 were transgender women of color.
My brain is beginning to hurt from all of these numbers, but I have not yet found a primary source to back up the 1 in 12 murder rate for trans people. I don’t know if the 1 in 12 statistic is a lifetime incidence, or a worldwide incidence, or based on some other factor, because I don’t know where the statistic comes from.
A lot of these sources point out that crimes against transgender people go under or un-reported, but that still does not explain why I can’t find a source for the 1 in 12 statistic – Someone arriving at such a statistic would have the same limitation of under or non-reporting of crimes.
If trans people are not being murdered at this rate, then I am thankful. I am thankful because people do not deserve to be murdered for who they are. People do not deserve violence and discrimination because they fall outside gender normative paradigms. Even one murder of one person due to their lack of gender normativity is absolutely unacceptable. Murder is vile, and murder out of hatred for people based on their lack of gender normativity is a whole new level of vile.
If I have somehow missed the primary source for this statistic, I will be glad to kick myself squarely in the teeth for managing to overlook it.
Goldberg, J. M. & White, C. (2004). Expanding our understanding of gendered violence: Violence against trans people and loved ones. Aware: The Newsletter of the BC Institute Against Family Violence, 11, 21-25.
Kenagy, G. P. (2005). Transgender health: Findings from two needs assessment studies in Philadelphia. Health & Social Work, 30, 19-26.
Lombardi, E. L., Wilchins, R. A., Priesing, D., & Malouf, D. (2001). Gender violence: Transgender experiences with violence and discrimination. Journal of Homosexuality, 42, 89-101. Abstract here.
TL:DR – I read a statistic that 1 in 12 trans people’s lived end in murder, and cannot find a primary source for said statistic. However, trans people are being murdered because they are trans, and the murder of even one trans person is unacceptable.
*There are limitations to looking at population statistics in the way that I have and I totally expect criticism for this math here. Certain demographic groups are murdered disproportionately to other people, and some murders of transgender people might not be reported as murders of transgender people, especially if said murder was motivated by something other than their transgender status. I know this is not quite the best comparison and sort of assumes people get murdered at random, but the idea is that is 1 in 12 transgender people are murdered and they are murdered disproportionately to other demographic groups by a factor of 10+, we’d expect them to at least be murdered more often then at “random”.