While reported incidents of non-deadly violence perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people significantly dropped in 2014, reported homicides against the community increased by 11 percent, with transgender women and people of color disproportionately affected, according to a new report.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) on Tuesday published its annual report, which examines reported incidents of anti-LGBT violence in the United States. The report is based on 2014 data compiled from 16 of its member programs operating in 14 states.
The NCAVP found that the number of reported non-deadly acts of violence plummeted from 2,001 cases in 2013 to 1,359 in 2014 — a 32 percent decrease.
The coalition, however, stressed that the drop only represents a change in the number of cases reported, and doesn’t necessarily mean that non-deadly anti-LGBT violence is down.
The NCAVP speculated that the decrease could be attributed to the lack of high-profile incidents reported in 2014. Such episodes are usually followed by large advocacy and awareness campaigns that successfully encourage other victims to come forward, the coalition said.
In 2013, for example, reported cases of anti-LGBT violence spiked following the highly publicized murder of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old Harlem woman who was beaten to death by a group of men who were upset to discover that she was transgender.
“This decrease should not be an indication that anti-LGBTQ hate violence is declining,” said Chai Jindasurat, co-director at New York City Anti-Violence Project, a NCAVP program. “In fact, it should be a call to action for policymakers, funders, and service providers to increase funding, legislation, public awareness and outreach that encourages reporting of hate violence incidents and promotes safety for LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities.”
Indeed, the NCAVP report shows that reported homicides within the LGBT community are on the rise. Member programs documented 18 cases of murder in 2013 and 20 in 2014, representing an 11 percent increase.
Among those 20 LGBT murder victims, 16 were African-American or Latino, and 11 were transgender women, underscoring a troubling trend that the coalition has been noting for years, according to Osman Ahmed, research and education coordinator at NCAVP.
“Trans violence has been an epidemic and a trend that we’ve noted for at least five years, and definitely way before that,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera.
So far in 2015, there have been eight reported homicides of transgender women, though Osman said some of those cases involved domestic disputes.
The bright spot — if there is one — is that media and law enforcement are more accurately reporting crimes against the trans community, largely because of increased advocacy efforts and public awareness of trans issues.
“Trans folks are actually being identified as trans in media reports, whereas before you would see reports in the media as ‘a man who was wearing women’s clothing,’ or just ‘a man,’” Ahmed said.
Ahmed noted the recent case of London Chanel, a transgender woman who was murdered in Philadelphia. After local media incorrectly identified Chanel as a man, her friends commented so widely and emphatically on news stories and social media that the error was corrected.
“Now we are just getting better reports from the media and we are able to identify trans homicides a little better,” Ahmed said. “I think the better reporting is due to the fact that the trans community in the United States has really congealed into a vibrant and resilient trans movement.”
Still, Ahmed said that police have a long way to go in embracing the trans community. “There is still a very hostile attitude that many survivors face when they interact with the police when they report hate violence,” he said, “so there is a likelihood that they will be re-victimized.”