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Deadly year for trans community as Transgender Day of Remembrance marked

2020 is on pace to be the deadliest in recent years for the transgender and gender non-conforming community, according to a data analysis released by Everytown for Gun Safety ahead of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Friday. The annual November 20 observance honors victims of fatal anti-trans violence.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention advocacy group, has tracked killings of transgender and gender-non-conforming people in the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., since 2017. It's tracked 29 deaths so far this year, compared to 25 killings in all of 2019, 26 killings in 2018, and 29 in 2017. Three-fourths of the victims since 2017 were killed with guns, said Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group's research director.

"It's clear that ending gun violence must include ending anti-trans violence," Burd-Sharps said on a call with reporters Thursday. "Guns don't cause homophobia or transphobia, but they make that hate more deadly."

The killings were concentrated in Southern states, especially Texas, Florida and Louisiana, Burd-Sharps said. The group found that 76% of the victims since 2017 were Black transgender women, though Black people make up only 16% of the transgender population.

Black Trans Lives Matter
Protestors march in support of Black Trans Lives Matter on June 14, 2020, in New York City.  Michael Noble Jr. / Getty

Sarah McBride, who was recently elected to the Delaware state Senate, said the violence "is a byproduct of a toxic combination of transphobia, racism and misogyny."

"The crisis of violence against the trans community is not just for trans people to solve," said McBride, who is the nation's first transgender state senator. "It's on all of us, as Americans, to ensure marginalized folks in our community are safe, and it's on every American to work towards solutions so we are all free to live without fear of being persecuted or attacked for our identity."

McBride is the former national spokesperson for the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, which has also marked the deadly trend, recording at least 37 deaths in 2020 that include six killings in Puerto Rico. HRC has said 2020 last month became the deadliest year for the trans community since it began tracking the killings in 2013.

"This epidemic of violence, which is particularly impacting transgender women of color, must and can be stopped," HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement last month.

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Riah Milton GoFundMe

According to hate crime data released by the FBI this week, hate crimes motivated by gender-identity bias rose another 18% in 2019 following a 41% increase in 2018. 2019 is the most recent year for which the FBI has released data. 

Advocates warn the FBI's numbers are likely significantly under-reported because they are based on voluntary data participation from local law enforcement agencies. Some transgender victims of violence may have also gone unreported because law enforcement and the media sometimes misgender and misidentify victims by referring to them with their names given at birth, advocates say.

The sister of Riah Milton, a Black transgender woman who was fatally shot in June in Butler County, Ohio, said in a tweet after her death that local media had initially misgendered the slain woman. Milton's sister, Ariel Mary Ann, who is also trans, tweeted using the hashtags, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackTransLivesMatter and #SayHerName. 

In a statement, Ariel Mary Ann said the stories of her sister and other slain transgender victims are "tragic and heartbreaking, but these stories need to be told."

"It may be a sad song but we're gonna sing it again," she wrote. "I will continue to fight and push for the voices of black transgender women to be uplifted until the day I die. We deserve to be heard, to be loved, and for our very existence to be acknowledged." 

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