The past year was the deadliest to date for transgender and gender non-comforming Americans, according to a recent report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The HRC, an LGBTQ+ lobbying and activist group, released the report on Nov. 20, which also marked Transgender Day of Rememberance in the U.S. According to HRC, at least 47 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed since the start of 2021.
That’s the highest amount of fatal violence towards transgender and gender non-conforming individuals since 2013, when the federal government began keeping track of anti-transgender violence.
But the report also notes that the number of victims is likely much higher due to a variety of reasons: Some individuals may not have been identified as transgender or gender non-conforming, while other crimes may have not been reported at all.
“Racism, sexism and pervasive stigma against transgender and non-binary people are all deeply ingrained in our culture, creating a toxic reality for our community,” Jay Brown, senior vice president of programs, research & training at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, wrote in a statement. “But as we’ve seen from the past, society can change. It must.”
The rates of violent crimes against the LGBTQ+, particularly transgender individuals, has been steadily increasing in recent years. According to previous HRC reports, at least 44 transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals were killed in 2020; that number was up from at least 25 killings in 2019 and 22 reported deaths in 2018.
Black transgender women face the highest risk of fatal violence, as they are also subjected to the “daily injustices of racism, sexism and transphobia,” per the HRC. Over half of the transgender victims killed this year were Black women.
The HRC attributes the rise in violence, in part, to a rash of anti-transgender laws passed in state legistlatures across the country this year. According to HRC, the amount of anti-transgender bills introduced during the 2021 legislative session marks “the highest number” of such proposals in the history of the country.
Earlier this year, a number of states introduced or passed legislation barring transgender women from participating in women’s sports. Such measures have been enacted in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Montana and implemented by an executive order from Gov. Kristi Noem in South Dakota.
Another batch of bills seeks to ban gender-affirming medical treatments for trans minors — including the use of puberty blockers and hormone therapy.
In a statement released Saturday, President Biden said the bills are “nothing more than bullying disguised as legislation, they are un-American, and they endanger the safety and well-being of our children.”
“I continue to call on state leaders and lawmakers to combat the disturbing proliferation of discriminatory state legislation targeting transgender people, especially transgender children,” the statement continued. “I also continue to urge the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act so that all people are able to live free from fear and discrimination.”
The Equality Act, which would would codify federal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in the United States’ civil rights and labor laws, passed the House in February, but has stalled in the evenly divded Senate.
If passed, the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The protections would include education, housing, loan applications, and a number of other areas.
"Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families for far too long," President Joe Biden said in a statement at the time. "Despite the extraordinary progress the LGBTQ+ community has made to secure their basic civil rights, discrimination is still rampant in many areas of our society."
"The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, locking in critical safeguards in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems — and codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ+ movement into enduring law," Biden added.
Opponents of the bill, which include Republicans, religious leaders, and other conservative groups, say that it would infringe upon religious freedoms and give transgender athletes unfair advantages.
"The bill may have equality in the title, but it certainly does not serve all Americans,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said at the time, claiming the bill "is a vehicle for serious, harmful consequences.”