Calls to combat a purported epidemic of killings targeting transgender people, especially women of color, are rising, even though U.S. data indicates that people who identify as members of the opposite sex are less likely to end up as homicide victims than their non-transgender counterparts.
Kentucky State University associate professor Wilfred Reilly found that the 2017 homicide death rate for transgender people was about 1.48 per 100,000, less than a third of the overall murder rate of about 5 per 100,000 and a fraction of the rate for men in general (6.68) or black people (18.8).
“All of these large groups — blacks, poor whites, Latinos, men — have a murder rate that’s an order of magnitude higher than the transgender murder rate. That’s what I found,” Mr. Reilly, who teaches political science at the historically black college, told The Washington Times. “The transgender murder rate seems to be remarkably low.”
In fact, he concluded that the homicide rate for transgender people is closer to the rate for women and that most transgender victims are killed in domestic or personal disputes, not hate crimes.
“There’s an attitude on the part of many citizens toward transgender people — ‘it’s kind of weird.’ But that doesn’t seem to translate into violence any more than you see violence directed” at women generally, said Mr. Reilly, author of “Hate Crime Hoax,” published in February.
His conclusions fly in the face of claims by the Human Rights Campaign, which called transgender deaths “a national epidemic” in its 2019 report, as well as the American Medical Association’s June warning of an “epidemic of violence” and approved policies to combat “fatal attacks against transgender people.”
A Sept. 27 headline in The New York Times similarly read: “18 Transgender Killings This Year Raise Fears of an ‘Epidemic.’”
Mr. Reilly crunched the numbers after Twitter suspended openly gay journalist Andy Ngo for tweeting last month — on the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance — that “the murder rate of trans victims is actually lower than that for the cis population.”
“Cis” refers to people who identify with their biological sex.
Mr. Ngo had his Twitter account reactivated last week — after he agreed to delete the offending tweet — and said afterward he was “punished for telling the truth.”
Twitter declined a request for comment.
“Twitter’s decision to force me to accept a false reality in order to use its platform is chilling to those who value truth above dogma, as uncomfortable as the truth may be,” Mr. Ngo said in an article for The [Montreal] Post Millennial. “The dogma of our day is the trans ideology — an authoritarian worldview replete with science and evidence denial.”
For those who might accuse him of cooking the books, Mr. Reilly pointed out that he based his conclusions on FBI figures; a 2016 study by the UCLA Williams Institute, which found that 0.6% of the population identifies as transgender; and the Human Rights Campaign’s database of transgender homicides.
The Human Rights Campaign did not immediately return a request for comment but noted in its November report “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in the United States in 2019” that such killings may be underreported.
“Data collection is often incomplete or unreliable when it comes to violent and fatal crimes against transgender and gender non-conforming people,” said the report. “Some victims’ deaths may go unreported, while others may not be identified as transgender or gender non-conforming in the media, often because authorities, journalists and/or family members refuse to acknowledge their gender correctly.”
Far from rising, the transgender homicide rate has been notable for its stability. There were 21 such deaths in 2015, 23 in 2016, 29 in 2017, 26 in 2018 and 22 in 2019 so far, “and that’s with this very active LGBT lobbying group trying to find as many as possible,” Mr. Reilly said.
Using the higher 2017 count, Mr. Reilly concluded that “if you calculate 29 murders against 1.9 million transgender individuals in the country, the murder rate you get is 1.48 per 100,000. And that’s remarkably low.”
His findings jibe with those of the Federalist’s Chad Felix Greene, an openly gay journalist specializing in social issues, who argued that Mr. Ngo “merely tweeted the facts” and accused Twitter of “arbitrary censorship” for shutting down Mr. Ngo’s popular account, which has 327,800 followers.
“I think it’s a bully tactic,” Mr. Greene said in an email. “Forcing him to delete it is forcing him to publicly admit the tweet was false or hateful. Twitter does this as a way of forcing you to edit yourself to avoid being shut down.”
In the Nov. 20 tweet, Mr. Ngo challenged a message from Chelsea Clinton, who said, “Since 2013, more than 150 trans people have been murdered in the U.S., the majority Black transgender women. On #TDoR2019, we remember and honor the lives lost, hold their loved ones in our hearts and must commit to doing all we can to end this epidemic of violence and hate.”
Mr. Ngo countered, “The US is one of the safest countries for trans people. The murder rate for trans victims is actually lower than that for cis population. Also, who is behind the murders? Mostly black men.”
The Trans Murder Monitoring project reported 331 homicides against transgender people worldwide from Sept. 30, 2018, to Oct. 1, 2019. Brazil led with 130, followed by Mexico with 63 and the United States with 30. Only one U.S. homicide in 2019 has been identified as an anti-trans hate crime.
“Of the known murders between 2015 and 2019, 67 percent were black. But the point Ngo makes is also factually true: 92 percent of the known killers of these victims were also black,” Mr. Greene said in a Nov. 27 article.
Was it insensitive for Mr. Ngo to challenge the “epidemic” claim on a day intended to honor murder victims? Maybe, said Mr. Reilly. At the same time, “my default response is that there’s no forbidden knowledge.”
“And if the reality is that trans people are murdered at a very low rate, I mean, some intelligent conservatives should say that on that day,” Mr. Reilly said. “Being sensitive in a lot of these situations leads to the promotion of expensive, guilt-inducing narratives that aren’t true.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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