By Conner Yarbrough
Blog Content Contributor
We just lived through the deadliest year for the American LGBTQ+ community in 20 years, and I wish that I could say that I’m surprised.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), there were 52 reports of hate-related murders of LGBTQ+ individuals in 2017, an 86 percent increase in single incident reports from the previous year. Here are a few key stats included in NCAVP’s annual report:
- 67 percent of the victims were young people under the age of 35
- 71 percent of the victims were people of color; 56 percent were black
- 44 percent of the victims were transgender women
- 42 percent of the victims were cisgender men
- 53 percent of the crimes committed involved gun violence
What’s even more frightening is that each of these statistics is not exceptional, they’re normal. And, in comparison to past years, they fall directly in line with an increasingly positive trend. Every year is the new deadliest year for the LGBTQ+ community. A fact that cannot be overstated.
Despite the joy that I and many LGBTQ+ people felt in 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, I can’t help but feel that that victory was a systematic way to sweep a more overarching problem under the rug– the same way that people seem to think that civil rights legislature from the 1960s somehow ended racial inequality and injustice. That’s not to say that I don’t think that we have made progress. We have. However, one step forward and suddenly the conversation for a follow-up is off the table. It’s the Minority Gag Rule: If the establishment concedes to your “agenda” in any way, you have to stop bringing up that pesky “equality” word (what even is that?).
Inequality is multidimensional in the same way that all of our identities are. We identify ourselves with points along a spectrum in almost every facet of our lives: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, gender, veteran status, employment, economic class, and so on. Intersectionality is where each of these characteristics overlap to create what each of us can say we are.
It’s important to recognize the intersectionality of many of the victims and the continuing threats that others like them still face on a day to day basis. To be a transgender woman of color in a society where each of these identities is marginalized individually creates more opportunity for injustice than, say, a cisgender, white gay man. Both may experience discrimination, but there is no denying that the latter is endowed with a societal privilege that the former simply cannot attain. Even cisgender, black gay men lack this same privilege. NCAVP’s report helps to prove that. To be born into a position of privilege is a chance of pure luck. You, personally, did not choose, from the womb, the environment that you were born into. But, to recognize that privilege and act to help those who weren’t as lucky as you is to use your privilege for the betterment of society (rather than relish in it and leave others out to dry).
Nobody has any reason to be ashamed of the body that they were born into; it is who they are. Justice is not a right of the privileged, it is a right of everyone. So, for those of you fighting exclusively for the equality of the LGBTQ+ community and not for women or people of color (or vice versa), and for those of you not fighting at all: what’s your excuse?
I don’t identify as religious, but I pray that the LGBTQ+ individuals, whose names appear at the bottom of this report, and their families, find peace. I pray that their loss is not in vain.
Featured illustration by Melissa Monrroy.