A year ago, Ebony magazine published a useful article about CeCe McDonald, the 23-year-old Black transgender woman who was sentenced to 41 months in prison for second-degree manslaughter despite clear evidence that she was simply defending herself from a violent racist and transphobic attack.
It was a good article, and included facts and information of relevance both to McDonald’s case, and more broadly. For instance, that
Studies show that, despite comprising only 8 percent of the LGBTQ community, transgender women account for nearly half of all LGBTQ hate crime murders. Among this group, transgender women of color are nearly twice as vulnerable to violence as their white counterparts. In addition, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 50% of Black transgender individuals face harassment at school and 15% are physically assaulted at their jobs. Such evidence speaks not only to the rising tide of violence against transgender populations, but a lack of commitment from law enforcement to protect and serve them.
The Black trans community is also further criminalized for being poor. Members of the Black transgender community regularly live in extreme poverty, with 34% reporting a household income of less than $10,000, more than four times the general Black population rate, and eight times the national rate. The poverty numbers are enhanced by staggering levels of job discrimination -studies show up to 90% rates of job discrimination among trans populations- all of which contributes to the 41% homeless rate among Black transgender people. These conditions, combined with excessive police presence in poor Black neighborhoods, cause the trans community to also be routinely charged with “survival crimes” like sex work and petty theft, as well as “quality of life crimes” like loitering and sleeping outside.
At the same time that Black transgender people are unfairly targeted by police, acts committed against them are typically rejected by law enforcement. Every day, victims of transphobic violence are ignored by police or treated in ways that only exacerbate the situation. This is often due to the belief among law enforcement that transgendered people deserve the violent acts committed against them. As a result of this belief, police are often openly hostile to transgendered victims. According to studies, 38% of Black trans people indicate that they have been harassed by the police. Even worse, 20% state that they have been physically or sexual assaulted by police. Given this pattern of criminalization and abuse over protection, it is no surprise that most victims of transgender violence (52%) do not report the crimes to law enforcement.
While sexual assault is a real threat for all inmates, trans populations are 13 times more likely to be abused by prisoners and prison officials. In the United States, 59% of trans inmates are sexually assaulted during the time in prison. Those who report abuse to officials often find themselves at greater risk by inmates and prison officials, who believe that transgender inmates deserve to be physically abused because of their gendered appearance. Disturbingly, 0% of transgender inmates consider prison officials to be allies in protecting their physical safety.