Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Making Sense Out of the Murders of Trans Men |

What — if anything — can these four murders tell us about fatal violence against trans men? What can we observe from these most recent murders? And what can we speculate about the responses to these cases?

Very little is currently known about violence against trans men as a whole; murder, as a subset of this topic, is even more shrouded in mystery. How often are trans men murdered worldwide? Are any of these cases hate crimes? What are the risk factors? Are there more murders we aren’t hearing about? How can we prevent more deaths?

While it’s impossible to draw conclusions from these four cases — which are almost certainly only a fraction of the total murders committed — that should not stop anti-violence advocates from considering the issue. The safest place to start is by simply making open-ended observations about what we do know and indicating paths for further inquiry. From that space, we can hopefully initiate a conversation that others will carry forward, informed by their own experiences and expertise. 
Any mention of “fatal violence against trans men” in most circles — trans or cisgender (nontrans) alike — is likely to conjure up one single name: Brandon Teena. The white, rural 21-year-old trans man was raped and murdered in Humboldt, Neb., in 1993, and his tragic death was immortalized in the acclaimed 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry.

For better or for worse, the popular culture status of Teena’s story has lent it a singular dominance, effectively representing the “face” of American trans male murder victims ever since. Its seeming rarity has, over time, led some LGBT activists to conclude that Teena’s case was an anomaly, a fluke, rather than a single incident that could just as easily be part of a much broader — if unpublicized — incidence of sexual assault and physical violence against trans men.

It must be noted that — for a number of reasons — the equally brutal murder of black trans man Evon Young a decade later did not garner the attention that Teena’s murder did. As Black Lives Matter activists have been consistently pointing out, America’s institutional disregard for the lives of black men is well documented. It manifests in myriad ways, including a quicker slackening of media coverage of black men’s murders (if there is coverage at all) and an astronomical incarceration rate. This suffocating silence grows exponentially more potent when expanded to include LGB (and especially) trans people of color.

Making Sense Out of the Murders of Trans Men |

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