A new report finds that at least 52 queer people were killed due to their gender identity or sexual orientation last year; political climate blamed
It’s a hard time to be queer.
At least 52 LGBTQ individuals were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2017, a rise of about 86% from 2016, according to a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. The actual number of victims was likely higher since the report only took into account single homicide incidents, so mass violence events like the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre weren’t counted. Transgender and lesbian victims were likely also undercounted due to the way law enforcement authorities often report them, LGBTQ advocates say.
The most targeted groups in the community were transgender women and gay, queer or bisexual cisgender men. The former made up 40% of all 52 victims last year, with transgender people of color especially liable to becoming homicide victims. This continues the trend of a years-long increase in violence against trans women. More surprisingly, the NCAVP also saw a sharp increase in crimes committed against queer cisgender men, with 20 homicides in 2017, up from just 4 the year before.
According to the report, most of the gay males were killed during or after hookups, many of them initiated online or via personal ads. “There appears to be a trend of…using [hookup] sites to identify and harm them,” the authors wrote, adding that some homicides stemmed from robberies. Additionally, remnants of the stigma against homosexual sex and hookups could have also led to violence motivated out of shame.
The majority of homicides were committed in just two states: Texas and New York. Georgia, Louisiana and Florida round up the top five. One of the most shocking crimes listed was the assault-homicide of 17-year-old Ally Lee Steinfeld, who had just come out as trans earlier last year. She was attacked by four assailants, one of whom is suspected to be a former boyfriend, and killed.
The leading cause of death was gun violence, with 52% of all victims being killed by firearms. Death by stabbing was the second most common cause. Three-fifths of all the victims were black, 23% white, 8% Latinx and 4% Asian.
What explains the exponential jump in LGBTQ people killed? One reason could be escalating rhetoric and actions undertaken by the Trump administration and some state governments against gay people, says Beverly Tillery, the director of the NCAVP. “It has given an opening for people to feel like they can commit acts of hate-based violence without much repercussion,” she told the Huffington Post.
While U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch social conservative, has withdrawn some federal protections for transgender people, he also confounded critics by personally sending a top federal prosecutor to investigate the murder of a gender fluid teen in Iowa.
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