June 2015 Update: This statistic – that one in twelve trans women are murdered – is circulating on social media once again, thanks to Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out giving trans visibility in the media, with all the transphobic pushback that inevitably occurs, including an anti-Jenner meme and the invariable rebuttal of the meme. I’ve added a lengthy addendum at the end of this post to include a little more about the source of this. The first section of the post was originally published on 31 May 2012.
So the other day Natalie Reed and I (amongst others) were arguing on somebody else’s blog (which I referred to as the third item under discussion here) about violence against trans people, and Natalie pulled out this utterly horrifying statistic:
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.
Now, I have to confess some disappointment that the discussion turned rather more in the direction of ‘how do we know that statistic is right?’ rather than outright horror that this is a fact of the lives of so many people like me. However, the statistic could easily be right:
First, the lifetime risk of murder varies by country, and so often Internet debates centre around the damn United States, we might as well look there. It’s awkward to get a figure, since murder is far from being a common cause of death, but the US ballpark for lifetime risk seems to be somewhere between around one in two hundred (1:200) to one in three hundred (1:300). A US survey of violence against the LGBT community (PDF link) suggests trans women make up about 4% of the LGBT community, and are vastly over-represented in all violence statistics including murder: in one year 44% of all LGBT murder victims were trans women, another year it was 50%. This suggests risk factors for trans women are at least ten times higher than for any other LGBT demographic excluding them. The report also points out violence against trans women is more likely to be both under-reported and mis-reported. So multiplying by the ten-fold risk (i.e. shortening the odds), we are starting to look at a murder rate than might be between one in twenty (1:20) and one in thirty (1:30). We then only need factor in that being LGBT is probably a general risk factor compared to the rest of the community (i.e. non-LGBT) for the one in twelve (1:12) statistic to look vaguely plausible, if totally unprovable.
Under the cut, a choice selection of horrifying quotes from the report. Continue reading