As the title suggests, everything on this blog concerns violence against trans women.
The Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project is a trans feminist project addressing issues of systematic, institutional and interpersonal violence and oppression experienced by trans women (those who were coercively assigned male at birth and identify or are identified as women/female) across multiple identities (e.g., race, class, dis/ability, citizen-status, nationality, sexuality, age, HIV status, and form, status, or age of transition, etc.)
Ida Hammer is a writer and social justice communicator. She organizes the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project. She presents workshops and trainings on cis privilege and being a trans ally. She's also involved in organizing against sexualized violence. She's a proud dyke-identified trans woman and an organizer of the New York City Dyke March.
Even in the progressive Bay Area, transgender people face rampant violence and discrimination, an issue we covered in-depth in last year’s feature “Transphobia.” Across the…
In 1979, Black women were being murdered in Boston. The murders started in January and by April six cis women had been killed. By June, 13 cis women were dead, 12 Black and one White.
Boston Police showed little interest taking the murders of Black cis women they alleged to be prostitutes seriously. So the Combahee River Collective, a Boston Black feminist organization, other Third World feminists as well as White antiracist feminists all with a political understanding of how violence against women is both racialized and sexualized started to organized and rally around the murders of these cis women. Out of this the group CRISIS, with a focus on self-help and community involvement, and the Coalition for Women’s Safety, a coalition of Black, Latin@ and White working to develop programs for community safety, were formed.
Throughout the organizing, Black and Third World feminists encountered conflicts with how the murders were being narrowly framed. Some within the community treated the murders as purely racial, downplaying or ignoring the obvious gendered and sexualized aspects of these killings. And male paternalism contributed to the proposal for Black men “to protect their women.” There were also racial barriers that complicated alliance building between White and Black women over the murders.
To address these and other issues concerning the political consciousness within the communities affected by the murders, the Combahee River Collective produced a pamphlet addressing the question: “Why did these women die?”:
In the Black community the murders have often been talked about as solely racial or racist crimes. It’s true that the police and media response has been typically racist. It’s true that the victims were all Black and that Black people have always been targets of racist violence in this society, but they were also all women. Our sisters died because they were women just as surely as they died because they were Black. If the murders were only racial, young teen-age boys and older Black men might also have been unfortunate victims. They might now be petrified to walk the streets as women have always been.
The pamphlet goes on to give some statistics and notes:
These statistics apply to all women: Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, old, young, rich, poor and in between. We’ve got to understand that violence against us as women cuts across all racial, ethnic and class lines. This doesn’t mean that violence against Third World women does not have a racial as well as sexual cause. Both our race and sex lead to violence against us.
It’s now 35 years later and I see strong parallels between the sort of organizing that took place around those 13 women and the sort of organizing we need to be doing around the murder and violence taking place against trans women of color.
Within the LGBT community the murders of trans people are talked about like they are solely cissexist or anti-trans based. But like the Combahee River Collective’s analysis of the Boston murders of Black cis women, we need to have an analysis that accounts for the fact that almost all murdered trans people are women or on otherwise on the trans female spectrum, and that the vast majority are women of color. It’s important that we understand that trans people are being targeted as much for their gender identity and race as for the fact that they are also trans.
While the analysis of LGBT organizations tends to be too narrow, the attention these murders get from most feminist and antiracist organizations is virtually nonexistence. The framing of these these murders as simply due to the victims’ transness or sexuality is not helpful to the extent that it lets feminist and antiracist organizers off the hook by being able to say it is only a “trans issue” as opposed to also a women’s issue or a racial issue.
When it comes to violence against trans women, it’s time we start taking the question “Why did they die?” more seriously. We need to move beyond events like “Trans Day of Remembrance” that intentionally erase the gendered, racialized and classed analysis of why certain trans people are being killed. Even “Trans Day of Action,” while including an analysis of race and class, is often seen by participants and onlookers as solely a trans march, as opposed to also being a women’s march and a people of color march.
Even suggesting that organizing center trans women of color specifically is a radical notion. This doesn’t mean that White trans people, trans men and nonbinary people don’t also experience violence and oppression. Of course they do. But I also think there is a serious danger of falling into the trap of looking at anti-trans violence in primarily race- and/or gender-neutral terms. I think this is where the need for a trans feminism of color/antiracist trans feminism comes in.
We also need to move beyond “transphobia” as the way of framing anti-trans violence. Transphobia denotes an individual prejudice and has a taint of victim blaming that reinforces concepts like “trans panic.” I suggest we replace this with “cissexism,” which is better at denoting what is actually an issue of cis power, not just prejudice or a negative attitude about trans people.
There was a post going around this morning that originally claimed there were over 1,000 murders of trans women last year, based on the 2013 NCAVP report.
In fact, according to the report there were 13 such homicides in 2012.
The poster made an edit, but still maintained…
One thing to keep in mind, from the “Limitations of the Findings” section of the report:
The vast majority of this report contains information from LGBTQ and HIV-affected-identified individuals who experienced hate violence and sought support from NCAVP member programs. Local member organizations then submitted data to NCAVP, which NCAVP compiled and analyzed for national trends. Since NCAVP only measures data collected from individuals who self-reported and from other public sources, it is unlikely that these numbers represent all incidents of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people in the United States. NCAVP’s data may particularly omit populations such as incarcerated people, people in rural communities, people who may not know about their local anti-violence program (AVP), people living where the closest AVP is too far away to reach, people who are not out, people who are uncomfortable with reporting violence, and people who face other barriers to accessing services or reporting. While the information contained in this report provides a detailed picture of the individual survivors and victims; it cannot and should not be extrapolated to represent the prevalence of hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities in the United States.
Which isn’t to invalidate anything said above, but to give an important bit of context to the report itself.
The report can be viewed in full here: http://www.avp.org/storage/documents/ncavp_2012_hvreport_final.pdf
The Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project has been following violence against trans women for three years and one thing that is for sure is that violence against trans women is seriously under reported. With murders in particular there is not even the benefit of self-reporting, as in the case of other forms of violence. Most murders of trans women are those that have been reported by (nationally accessible) media and/or community activists. If a murder of a trans woman isn’t reported (or is misreported) in the media or if she was unknown to vocal community members, then the murder goes unnoticed.
The fact is, most acts of violence against trans women are not reported, and when the are reported they are usually misreported (usually by misgendering the victim). Often it takes sensationalized account to bring these murders to the attention of the public. Additionally, most women are not connected to a vocal, organized community; even in major cities like New York and San Fransisco. As a vulnerable and marginalized population, it has to be expected that most murders of trans women are not going to be noticed.
The Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project has noticed cases of murdered trans women that were originally missed by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects. And this project is dependent on media accounts that are accessible online and easily identifiable as trans women. So, yes, the reported number of murders is just scratching the surface.
Nonetheless, 13 murdered women in any given year is itself a tragedy. Even a single murder is cause for concern! There is no need to exaggerate the numbers in order to consider this a serious problem in need of our attention. Focusing on the exact numbers may not be as important as focusing on why these 13 women where killed. While the number can fluctuate, there is less variation in who is being killed.
What we do know is that at least a dozen trans women in the U.S. will be killed in cases that are high-profile enough that we will know about them. This is a pattern found in the NCAVP reports that has been going on for years. Furthermore, we know that these are going to be almost entirely Black and Latina trans women, with very few exceptions. And that about half of these women, give or take, will have had some experience in the sex trades. We also know that they will have been killed by cis men. And it is not unusual for these women to have known their murderer and have had some form of intimate or sexual involvement with him. And it is a rarity, if it happens at all, that the man was “surprised” to learn the woman was trans.
The problem is, these murders are too often labeled simply “anti-trans,” or worse “anti-LGBTQ” or “anti-queer.” This is very misleading. If these were anti-trans murders there would be a fairly even mix of trans people of all genders, races, and economic status. When looking at the last two decades of violence, we find that a white trans man like Brandon Tina is the outlier, not the norm. The race, gender, and economic status of those killed is no less important than that she was trans.
Yet how often are these murders considered effects of institutional racism, sexism, and economic injustice as they are called “transphobic”? How often are these murders considered acts of sexual or intimate partner violence? Not often enough. In order to end this violence we need to consider the full person and the context of her life and death.
Excerpt from article:
"A woman in New York City left a nightclub in late 2010 to meet some friends for tacos. While she was walking to the restaurant in the Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, a man pulled up beside her in a dark-colored car and began talking to her. As the woman inched closer to hear what the man was saying, two undercover police officers jumped out of a van and arrested her for engaging in prostitution. She was thrown into a van with a dozen other women and taken to the115th Precinct in Jackson Heights to be fingerprinted before being transferred to Central Booking. There, she was then jailed in the men’s unit, where she endured painful verbal harassment from some of the cops and men in custody, according to the community organizing group Make the Road New York, which identified the woman by the pseudonym ‘Natasha.’ Her story sounds more like a rare kidnapping than a routine arrest, but Natasha’s arrest would come as no surprise to anyone who has been harassed or arrested by police for what’s known as ‘walking while woman.’"
In 2011, Ida Hammer (pictured above with writer Janet Mock and actress Laverne Cox at the 2013 NYC Anti-Violence Project Courage Awards) founded of the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project. A life-long activist, Ida has committed herself to improving the lives of women and LGBT individuals. In recognition of her advocacy work Ida is included in the inaugural Trans 100 and is most recently the recipient of the AGLP’s 2014 Barbara Gittings Award for her exceptional leadership and advocacy for trans women and lesbian Issues.
Now Ida needs the support of her community to raise funds for her upcoming surgery. Ida is lucky to have insurance that includes her surgery, which will assist her in paying for the hospital stay, operating room, and anesthesia. Unfortunately, her surgeon doesn’t accept insurance, so she will need to pay the surgeon’s fee herself. Her goal is to raise $13,500. The Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project currently has just over 2,600 followers. If each of you would be generous enough to chip in just $5, Ida will easily meet her goal.
To donate go to: http://www.gofundme.com/6hpp2s
Founder of the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project and an organizer of the NYC Dyke March, Ida has committed herself to improving the lives of women and LGBT individuals through her activism. Now she needs the support of her community to raise funds for her upcoming surgery.
AM Tonight host Alicia Menendez and I did something fun, awkward and enlightening. Alicia suggested that I “flip the script”on her during our interview about my book Redefining Realness and ask her all the invasive questions I’m asked to prove my validity during interviews.
The following is a series of screengrabs where I ask her to prove her identity as a woman to me by asking about puberty, her transition from girl to woman, her genitalia and whether she used tampons. This was beyond uncomfortable but I hope our demonstration illuminates the problem in our media culture and it serves as a teaching moment for us all about self-determination and the fact that we are all valid, real and don’t need anyone’s interrogation into our lives, bodies and identities.
Janet Mock for HEROES . Writer . NYC, 2013
“I am a trans woman. My sisters are trans women. We are not secrets. We are not shameful. We are worthy of respect, desire, and love. As there are many kinds of women, there are many kinds of men, and many men desire many kinds of women, trans women are amongst these women. And let’s be clear: Trans women are women.” - Janet Mock / How Society Shames Men Dating Trans Women & How This Affects Our Lives
In April or May of 2013, I invited (as Janet Mock says) people into my life to experience this wonderful journey in becoming who I truly am. It felt so beautiful but I was fearful of offering the invitation because I didn’t know if my family and friends would still love me. I was afraid of losing my job and my career as an artist. I was afraid of not being able to fund my transition. I was filled with so much anxiety and that is because we are often targets of violence and abuse on a daily basis. The day my anxiety, depression, and fear decreased was the day I discovered an introduction video by Janet Mock on her website. She said, “I know that you can live the life of your dreams as well. I promise that it gets better. I know because I am you. I love you and I can’t wait to see you on the other side.” I honestly sat in front of my computer and cried. I needed to hear that I would still be loved. I needed to hear that it was okay to embark on this journey of self-discovery. I needed support.
Through Janet’s agency, she has inspired me to continue to live my truth and the importance of telling one’s story. Not only for me, but also for others within the trans* community. In the past 11 months, I have never felt so complete in my entire life. The struggles are THERE, believe me, but I feel so much stronger and beautiful than ever before. Janet.. thank you for your words, your encouragement, your hard work, your time, your voice, and your soul. You are truly an inspiration.
If you haven’t, please purchase Janet’s “Redefining Realness" here.
Honored to be a small part of your empowering photography project.
Monica Jones, a transgender woman of color and activist living in Arizona, was arrested and found guilty by a judge of “manifesting prostitution” because authorities are targeting and profiling trans women. #StandWithMonica!
Hate violence. Betrayal by loved ones. Employment discrimination. These are just some of the issues that transgender women face. Though often perceived as a bastion of tolerance, New York City is an often hostile place for transgender women to make their way and be themselves. But despite rampant stigma and discrimination, trans women survive in the city, forging community and sisterhood with women who share their experiences. “In My Skin” tells the story of a theatre ensemble made up of nine transgender women who come together to create a play based on their lives and then perform it at Joe’s Pub at the legendary Public Theatre in downtown Manhattan.
And that’s the official blurb for our film “In My Skin,” a short doc that will be premiering at the Boston LGBT Film Festival in early April!!
Huzzah - excited about the premiere of “In My Skin”!! Any Boston people out there?
Sylvia Rivera is one of my dyke heroes! The above pictures are of Sylvia Rivera with her wife Julia Murray. While people are quick to talk about Sylvia Rivera’s life, I never, ever hear anyone acknowledge that Sylvia was in a relationship with another women. It would seem that not all parts of her life are given equal respect and attention.
As a trans woman who loves women, it means something important to me personally to know that Sylvia Rivera was in a relationship with another woman. I’ve been made to feel isolated by others because I’m a trans woman who loves women. I’ve had the term “kai kai” disparagingly thrown in my direction on more than one occasion.
Trans women loving other women is treated as taboo by many in the “community.” There is some serious hostility directed at trans women who love women from some trans and queer people (I’m not even talking about gaystream LGB people). That is, some of those very same people who routinely evoke Sylvia Rivera’s name so often are the same people who take issue with trans women loving other women.