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Robin Boylorn on Trans Women of Color Dying Due to Hate Crimes

The CDC reports that black women have the highest rate of intimate partner violence in the country. Black women, including trans and gender nonconforming women, die predominantly at the hands of black men as a result of patriarchy, toxic masculinity, transphobia and transmisogyny. While it is important to acknowledge who is responsible for murdering transwomen of color, I want to highlight the significance of their visibility while they are alive.

Hate crime statistics are staggering, but incomplete. There is no official or federal source on how many transgender people are killed in a given year, and because of a lack of statistics, which includes underreporting and misgendering, it is impossible to know the actual number of trans victims.

What we do know, however, is that trans women of color are the most vulnerable to this epidemic. We know that the life expectancy for trans women of color is 35 years old. We know that cultural ignorance and hate, coupled with state sanctioned violence and disregard for the lives of those who are different, results in societal ambiguity and dismissal. We know that, for the most part, the lives of trans women of color are absorbed into the alarming statistic of a crisis no one wants to talk about. We know that trans women of color deserve better.

They are vulnerable not only because of discrimination, but because of the multiple jeopardy of an identity that includes blackness, womanness, and femininity. They also experience discrimination in employment, criminal justice, housing, and health care, leading to conditions of poverty, unemployment, homelessness and police brutality.

Trans identities are currently popularized through TV shows like "Orange Is the New Black" and "Pose," but in reality we only learn about everyday trans women of color through their deaths.

We must see and humanize black trans women beyond the problematic contexts of violence. We must consider what it means to create a space where transwomen (and men) can exist beyond their vulnerability to violence. We must shift the narrative from “who she was” to “who she is.”

The murder of transwomen of color deserves our immediate attention and urgent intervention, but even more we need to create safe spaces for trans women to exist, and live, and thrive out in the open. We must humanize their experiences and vocalize our support through advocacy, policy, and relationship. They must be made visible, not through the tragedies of their deaths, but through the miracle of their existence.

I’m Robin Boylorn, until next time…Keep it Crunk!

Written by Robin Boylorn

Edited by Brittany Young

Intro and Outro voiced by Erika Feurtado          



Brittany Young is Alabama Public Radio's Program Director and Content Manager. Brittany began her public radio journey in the spring of 2015 as a news intern for APR while in graduate school at The University of Alabama.
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