On June 26, 2015, the United States legalized gay marriage. People celebrated in the streets, Facebook profile pictures turned rainbow, and people declared it a LGBTQ win. In the wake of this decision, it looks like the United States is a good place to be gay. But that isn’t the whole story.
In 2013, the Pew Research Center surveyed LGBTQ groups asking, is there a lot of social acceptance of your group? 35% of lesbian women, 15% gay men, 33% bisexual women, and 8% bisexual men said there was “a lot” of social acceptance of their respective group. Transgender people? Their rate was dramatically lower: just 3% of people surveyed agreed.While the LGBTQ community is making some strides through marriage equality, and transgender people are becoming more visible in popular culture with figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Orange Is the New Black‘s Lavernee Cox, transgender people experience some of the highest rates of violence.“Right now we’re experiencing a Dickensian time, where it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times at once,” former head of the Transgender Law Center told Time Magazine in August. “We’re seeing a marked increase in the public awareness about transgender people and really incredible progress for trans rights, especially from a legal perspective. At the same time, we still represent and are part of a community that experiences incredibly high rates of unemployment, poverty and violence.”
“Right now we’re experiencing a Dickensian time, where it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times at once,”
Those statistics he references? Transgender people have higher rates of homelessness, sexual assault, and suicide than their cis-gender counterpart. Transgender people are more likely to experience police brutality, be harassed in school, be sexually assaulted, and be refused medical care. The statistics are overwhelming.Not only are transgender people facing the highest rates of violence compared to the U.S. population, but in the vast majority of categories, they are higher than any other group under LGBTQ umbrella. For example, the Williams Institute, a UCLA Law School think tank, found in their study on transgender discrimination, that survey data shows an estimated 10-20 percent of LGBTQ people have attempted suicide. 41% of transgender and gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide, and the statistic is approximately 10% higher for people of color.Murder rates are no exception. In 2015, at least 22 transgender people were murdered in the U.S. — these are murders that were reported and represented in the media, but there are likely more.According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition, 2015 is the deadliest year on record, with the most murders of transgender people on record.Taking a closer look at the murders, many were motivated by transphobia.Additionally, very few were labeled a hate crime. Most states in the U.S. do not include gender identity as basis for a hate crime.Breaking down the murders by gender and race is sobering—the issue of transphobia intersects sharply with gender and racism.Don’t let the rainbow profile picture blind you— clearly there are still issues.