Mic media has launched a new site, Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives, a database, interactive feature, and news feed examining the reported cases of transgender people in the U.S. beginning in 2010. 2016 has had the highest number of documented cases with 23 as of publication.
The project is a collaboration among advocacy organizations such as the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), trans advocates and academics such as Miami’s Aryah Lester, featured among SFGN’s OUT50 and Alexis Dinno, a social epidemiologist at Portland State University, as well as the loved ones and families of those killed.
In an interview with Out magazine, Meredith Talusan, lead editor on the Mic project discussed the necessity of the project, and its challenges. Some of the biggest challenges to collecting the data, she said, are the fact that the U.S. Census does not track transgender people and the FBI does not track transgender murders. Rather it has been left to LGBT organizations and activists “to demonstrate and quantify the crisis.”
“In turn, we at Mic have endeavored to further their efforts by trying to track down cases that have not been accounted for, interviewing family members and loved ones, and tracking down important information that has not been systematically recorded like the rate of unsolved cases as well as prosecution outcomes,” Talusan told Out. – An endeavor which many nonprofits or local news organizations do not have the resources to pursue. The site is meant to be a resource for journalists and academics as much as advocates and activists.
In an interview with LGBT Weekly, Talusan, said the project “focused on bringing light to the systematic failures impacting trans people, especially trans women of color. If everyone in the U.S. were murdered at the rate young black trans women and femmes are, there’s no doubt that the public would consider this a crisis of massive proportions.”
During their reporting, Mic found that Black transgender women face the highest rates of violence with young Black trans women being the most at risk. Among the statistics:
- 72% of transgender victims between 2010 to 2016 were Black trans women.
- Black trans women between the ages of 15 to 34, are estimated to be between 8 and 39 times more likely to be murdered as young cisgender women
Aryah Lester, a transgender advocate from Miami, describes living with the constant risk of violence to Mic. "I tell people that I already have three strikes," she said. "As I'm walking down the street from far, far away, you may only see my color, and that's one strike. And then as I come a little closer, you see my femininity, and that's another strike ... And then when I get closer you may just see that I'm trans."
The database features a collage and profiles of the 111 transgender people killed reported from 2010 through 2016. A team of five reporters helped gather the information, which can be filtered by demographics but also by circumstances of death and case outcome.
Of the 111 murder cases reported the findings were
- 46 unsolved
- 34 pending
- 2 not guilty
- 6 guilty of manslaughter/assault
- 14 guilty of 2nd or 3rd degree murder
- 5 guilty of 1st degree murder
Of the 25 prosecuted cases Mic examined, “six resulted in manslaughter or assault convictions. Each of these cases involved a trans woman or gender-nonconforming femme of color, five of whom were black. Conversely, of the five cases that resulted in first-degree murder convictions, only one involved a black trans woman victim. The remaining 14 cases resulted in second- and third-degree murder convictions, nine involving black trans women and five involving other demographics of trans people,” which led Mic to conclude “People who kill black trans women and femmes are usually convicted of lesser charges than those who kill people of other trans identities.”
In addition to a number of statistics, info graphics, and tracking maps, the feature section of Mic’s Unerased highlights the faces and voices of those killed, following their stories and also featuring interviews with their families and loved ones.
After her murder, Devin Diamon was identified by the media as “Goddess” Diamond, but was very nearly not identified at all, had it not been for a tip on social media from a friend of Devin’s.
Local reports of Devin’s murder repeatedly misgendered her, despite friends’ accounts saying the Devin identified as a woman, using her birth name, was on hormone therapy and was seeing a psychologist through her transition.
Stories such as Devin’s are all too common, and besides being issues of “data collection” also disrespect and dishonor the identity of those lost.
"Our institutions of recording death — coroners, death certificates, police reports, hospital records, obituaries — are unprepared to represent transgender," Alexis Dinno, a social epidemiologist at Portland State University, who is herself a trans woman told Mic. "The boxes labeled 'was transgender' do not exist to be checked off or not. Also, that someone is transgender, whether surgically or hormonally transitioned or not, is not necessarily apparent to individuals and institutions that record deaths."
The feed section of the site is both a news feed of transgender stories and articles, but also a forum for guests to provide feedback.
“We at Mic hope that by studying the problem systematically over this decade, interviewing experts in various fields, and creating visualizations that account for the problem statistically, this would give the public a much stronger sense of the crisis of violence that the trans community is dealing with,” Talusan told Out.