2016 deadliest year on record for US transgender people, campaigners say

Information about the unsolved murders of LGBT victims is seen at police offices in Washington, in the US, on Oct 10, 2016.
Information about the unsolved murders of LGBT victims is seen at police offices in Washington, in the US, on Oct 10, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - Murders of transgender people hit an all-time high in the United States this year, campaigners said on Thursday (Nov 10), amid fears of a backlash against the transgender community following the election of Donald Trump as the next US president.

Glaad, a US advocacy group that tracks transgender murders said 24 transgender people were murdered, exceeding last year's tally of 22. Most of this year's victims were women of colour, Glaad said.

The announcement comes as transgender advocates worry of a reversal of their civil rights gains under the new government of President-elect Trump.

During his election campaign Trump said he embraced the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

But his promise to nominate a conservative justice to fill a vacancy on the US Supreme Court has raised fears that an expansion of transgender rights under President Barack Obama is now under threat.

Kevin Nadal, executive director of the Center for LGBTQ Studies at the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York, said he feared there could "definitely be an increase in hate crimes against trans and queer people" under a Trump government.

"When candidates who demonstrate hate are elected, they give similarly-minded people the permission to act on that hate," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In 2015, the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an advocacy group, classified as hate crimes all but four killings of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the United States.

The latest victim was Noony Norwood, a 30-year-old black transgender woman who was shot in Richmond, Virginia, earlier this week.

The killing follows a trend that has seen the death toll for transgender women of colour climbing in recent years, said Nick Adams, a Glaad spokesman.

The organisation has been compiling its figures since 2013 by tracking homicide cases in the media and when notified by families of the victims and community members.

The number of transgender murder victims could be higher, Glaad said, because police, media and families at times misreport the gender of victims.

Last month, the US Supreme Court agreed for the first time to rule on transgender rights in a case in which a Virginia public school district is fighting to prevent a female-born transgender high school student from using the boys' bathroom.