[There are] lies, damned lies and statistics. –Mark Twain
It will not surprise you to hear that I follow a number of transgender news feeds. Staying abreast of happenings within one’s broader demographic requires some discipline, particularly when one’s “broader demographic” is rather narrow.
As with news in general, transgender news reads a bit dark. Violence makes good television, at least if ratings are any clue. Following this trend, it has become increasingly common for transgender murders to be not only reported, but counted, as in, “This marks the ___th murder of a transgender person this year.” The final tally last year, according to The Advocate, was 27.
I understand what The Advocate and others are trying to do. Shining a light on anti-transgender violence is part of the process of curtailing it. Further, each death represents a grim loss–first and foremost for the individual, then outward to their families, friends and society in general. I applaud that they are individually remembered and lamented. I feel their deaths somewhat more closely than the average murder because I identify with the class struggle which often lies beneath it.
But let us not too quickly get lost in the numbers or gloss over ridiculous phrases such as “the average murder”. The reason that some of you might not have choked on these words the first time I used them owes largely, in my opinion, to the fact that murder is anything but rare. In 2015, there were 16,000 murders in the USA, and by all accounts the final numbers for 2016 look to be higher.
Each one of the victims reflects an epidemic of violence that we, as a nation, have done little if anything to address. Indeed, we tend societally to respond to rampant violence by buying guns, a remedy which has been proven to double the likelihood of being murdered and triple the chances of dying by suicide. Of course those stats don’t apply to us, right?
Let’s do the numbers: 27 transgender murders. 16000 total. This means that, if reported accurately, transgender people, who represent perhaps 0.3% of the population, account for less than 0.2% of US murder victims. The problem isn’t necessarily that we have a transgender violence problem specifically, but rather that we have a violence problem in general.
By all means, let us mourn and remember the dead, not just as numbers, but as individuals bursting with unrealized promise and potential. Let us feel the outrage inherent in the fact that someone was killed for being who they are. Nevertheless, let’s not get too parochial about it: Trans people really are killed for being trans, but likewise children are killed because they are children. Women are killed because they are women. The poor are killed because they are poor. Murder is the ultimate affront to egalitarianism. Somehow, somewhere, someone was deemed to be expendable.
That. Let’s stop that.