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Trans Violence Is Violence Against Women

by Ida Hammer

December 14, 2011

Trans women are disproportionately impacted by murder and violence, and yet there is a serious gap in anti-violence and anti-oppression organizing when it comes to people who live at the intersection of being both trans and a woman.

November 20th of each year is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Events across the United States and the world are held to memorialize trans people who were killed in the past year. The murders are called anti-trans violence, even though the dead are exclusively trans women or people who were female-presenting at the time of their death. If being a trans person were the main factor, why are there not roughly equivalent numbers of male trans people who are targeted? I believe it's because these women are no less the targets of anti-female violence than they are of anti-trans violence.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects, which tracks the murders of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV affected communities in an annual Hate Violence Report, has found that trans women are disproportionately impacted by murder. In 2010, 44 percent of LGBTQH (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected) murder victims were trans women, and in 2009 trans women were 50 percent of murder victims. Yet trans people as a whole are only about 1 percent of the LGBTQH population. Trans women also more often experienced multiple forms of violence and more severe violence, as well as more police bias and violence.

The Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project, which I organize, is a trans feminist initiative addressing all aspects of violence experienced by trans women.

As people who are both female and trans, trans women experience the overlapping effects of anti-trans and anti-female discrimination and violence. In her book, Whipping Girl, Julia Serano popularized the term "trans-misogyny" to describe the unique intersection of discrimination and violence that is simultaneously anti-trans and anti-female. It is trans-misogyny that is the focus of the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project.

Anti-violence organizing that addresses violence against women generally focuses on cis (non-trans) women, while failing to account for violence against trans women. And anti-violence organizing that addresses violence against trans people generally tends to treat violence against trans people as nongendered, which also fails to account for violence against trans women.

Trans women experience anti-female violence and discrimination as women. But this gendered violence and discrimination is masked by gender-neutral language identifying it as against trans people. Framing violence and discrimination against trans women purely anti-trans -- instead of anti-female -- prevents us from understanding its intersectional roots.

This year, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released, Injustice at Every Turn, a national survey of discrimination against trans people. Significant gender differences are documented throughout the report with trans women and girls experiencing higher rates of violence and discrimination than that of male and nonbinary trans people.

Trans women experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault, less advancement in education and more discrimination in hiring. They are more likely to be fired and denied promotions, more likely to do survival sex work or trade sex for housing and are more often affected by HIV. They are also more likely to have a court stop or limit their relationship with their children, are at increased risk of incarceration, serve more time and experience greater physical and sexualized assault from law enforcement and while incarcerated.

While the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project believes that gender differences in violence and discrimination are important, we also believe that racialized violence and discrimination are no less important. The publications, Injustice at Every Turn and Hate Violence Report show that trans women of color disproportionately bear the brunt of the violence and discrimination.

Too often, violence against trans women is not seen as violence against women. But as the scholar and activist, Barbara Smith, said, "Feminism is the political theory and practice to free all women; women of color, working-class women, poor women, physically challenged women, lesbians, old women, as well as white economically privileged heterosexual women."

This is the feminism on which the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project is based. Trans women are women, and so their issues are feminist issues. We agree with Smith: "Anything less than this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement."

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Ida Hammer is a writer and social justice communicator. She organizes the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project, a trans feminist project addressing all aspects of violence experienced by trans women across multiple identities. She presents workshops and trainings on cis privilege and being a trans ally. She's also involved in organizing against sexualized violence. She's a proud dyke-identified transsexual woman and an organizer of the New York City Dyke March.

Also see "Sexual Rights: Advocating for Vibrant Reframing" by Juhu Thukral in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

See "Book Corner: Feminist Press Picks Five Top Activist Reads" by Elizabeth Koke and Glynnis King in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.


Wow posted: 2012-01-29 23:27:43

Um, no. You don't see transwomen getting raped, only transmen, but you don't say that's sexual assault against men. And before you say that's against women too, how internally transphobic can you get? People murder trans*women because later they find out that they're trans*. You obviously are some dyke-y feminazi who thinks all trans*people are women, and that hate against trans*people doesn't exist even though ciswomen get 100x more equality and still bitch and whine.

Adam, a trans guy posted: 2012-02-02 20:51:58

"You don't see transwomen getting raped, only transmen." I think that is an accurate summary of the status quo: currently many anti-violence projects will serve trans men, but they literally do not see violence against trans women. If you do not see trans women being raped, you are not paying attention. If you believe the myth that trans women are murdered because they were "found out" as being trans, you are buying into make-believe cis supremacist post hoc justifications for murder. The idea is that trans women are targeted because they are both trans and women. That is, trans women experience very different forms of oppression than trans men. We have to recognize that there is a difference in order to properly address the needs of trans women. For example, it means pointing out how anti-violence projects, even when they serve "women and trans people" they really only mean trans men even though trans women ought to be included as women. Talking about "trans people" tends to benefit trans men to the exclusion of trans women.

Brendan Roman posted: 2013-04-18 19:41:28

I think this article itself reveals the real reason that violence against trans women is so common. It is clear from reading this that the author thinks violence against men is less important than violence against women, and only wishes to extend special treatment for women to trans women. But when you have a mentality which says that men are less valuable as human beings than women are -- which is what the feminist position on violence basically reduces to -- then that's not going to change just because someone who was born male changes his (Now her) gender. It's the same reason the Nazis persecuted people with Jewish grandparents even if they weren't themselves Jews. When you have an ideology which is created to dehumanize a group, and it's a group which everyone is born as a member of, then even if they don't consider themselves a member of that group, they're going to face discrimination. Does anyone really believe that this would be a problem if violence wasn't treated as a gendered issue?

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