Filed under: Editorials, Featured, Tranarchy, Trans
Many recently observed the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) to acknowledge and mourn those in our community whose lives have been lost to transphobic violence, particularly trans women of color. In response to a tweet by Chelsea Clinton (an unsavory capitalist operator herself, just to be clear) regarding the many trans people murdered in the US since 2013, right-wing internet personality Andy Ngo decided to downplay years of outcry over lethal attacks on black and brown trans women.
Styling himself as an editorial provocateur, Andy thought it necessary to let everyone know that America is actually “one of the safest countries in the world for trans people.” Further, he’d like us all to keep in mind that “The murder rate of trans victims is actually lower than that for cis population. Also, who is behind the murders? Mostly black men.”
This reply led to a twelve-hour account suspension, spawning instant martyrization from Ngo’s blogger pals Michelle Malkin and Mike Cernovich, as well as from outlets like The Federalist. Canada’s The Post Millennial (of which Andy is editor-at-large) broke this story on the 25th, and included a comment from Ngo claiming he merely made “a verifiable empirical claim with no value judgement attached,” and that Twitter was punishing journalists for “communicating truths when they are deemed politically inconvenient.”
Oy. There is little so cowardly and so pompous to me as chuds who declare factually-dubious things about groups they loathe, and when prompted for clarification of what they’re implying, say they aren’t hinting at any conclusions, just making observations. This wink-and-nod trickery is so tiresome, yet I’m sure it’ll keep helping reactionaries for awhile.
At any rate, Ngo’s statement is inaccurate at face-value. Let’s start with his first claim, that the US is among the “safest countries” for transgender folks. What does Andy mean by ‘safe’?
The Institute for Economics and Peace, an Australian think tank, releases an annual Global Peace Index which ranks the overall safety of every country, taking into account homicide occurrences, militarization in the region, and a range of other factors; the US has fallen to #128 this year, just ahead of our buddy Saudi Arabia. If the safety of the whole of America is to be reliably-gauged by this metric, I highly doubt that the country’s trans segment is remarkably secure.
Furthermore, I’m not sure how exactly Ngo decided that the US is among the safest countries for trans people, but if he landed on that conclusion based on our frequency of transphobic murder, he’s flatly mistaken. According to the Trans Murder Monitoring project, the US has had the third-largest number of reported killings of trans/gender-diverse individuals in 2019, at thirty lives lost; for context, there were only nine in all of Europe, and none in Africa; the United States is behind only Brazil and Mexico when on TMM’s 2019 report.
As USA Today wrote:
Crimes motivated by a bias toward gender identity – against transgender and non-binary individuals – have generally risen [in the US] since 2013, when the FBI first began recording them. At least 11 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Recent media reports suggest that crimes against black transgender women, in particular, have spiked this year.
The FBI data, however, likely dramatically underestimates the true number of hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, experts, say, given flaws in the current data collection process and massive discrepancies with the much larger number of self-reported incidents.
As for Ngo’s next claim, that the trans murder rate is less than the cis murder rate, he also seems deeply confused. It isn’t clear how accurate various surveys regarding America’s trans population have been – the Williams Institute estimated that a little over 1.3 million adults in the US identify as trans back in 2016, and a year later, GLAAD reported finding that about 3% of the US identified as transgender. So there’s been ample speculation as to how many trans people there even are in the US, with plenty of activists suggesting that there are far more of us than rough government-administered studies can pin down. Right off the bat, Andy’s unsourced notion that the trans murder rate is less than the cis murder rate is discounted.
Regardless, running with this notion are outlets like the Daily Wire who have come to Ngo’s defense, by arguing that the murder rate of trans people is less than the overall US murder rate – as if trans people somehow get out of any other situation where they might be killed. Reality is reflected in a recent report on the deaths of 26 trans people throughout 2018, which includes one individual who was murdered in the Dayton, Ohio mass shooting, and other in ICE custody. My point is that transness adds a unique threat to people’s lives – and a threat that is increasing.
But if you consider how often these attacks can go unreported or misreported (just look into the many instances of victims being misgendered by authorities), and when you take into account that the overwhelming majority of transphobic killings in the US have been inflicted specifically upon transfeminine people of color (a smaller section of the population than trans people in general), the prevalence of the issue is illuminated, and his entire argument is shown to be bullshit.
Next, we encounter the claim that is said to have sparked Ngo’s suspension – he said that “Mostly black men” were to blame for the murders committed against black and brown trans women.
Quite frankly, this is the claim which I’m least interested in tackling. It amounts to little more than employment of a common right-wing tactic, conjuring “black-on-black crime” to throw a wrench into the whole discussion. Michael Harriot wrote much more insightfully about this technique in The Root a couple years ago, and I suggest reading what he had to say.
A majority of white murder victims are killed by other white people, and a majority of Black murder victims are killed by other Black people. The point of the matter is that trans/gender-diverse people are being murdered, specifically young Black trans women often from poor and rural areas. They’re largely in danger from the cis men in their community.
Ngo’s attempt to shift responsibility exclusively onto Black people is irresponsible and ignorant. Andy isn’t just sharing facts without an opinion, he’s knowingly trying to induce complacency.
Fellow travelers who come across this article will basically understand that widespread violence against marginalized groups will never legitimately upset these trolls, and that any gestures toward compassion are superficial. I think it is important to stay mindful of our situation – no matter what they tell you, the fash are not playing with facts.
Please support the Black Trans Travel Fund, the NJNP Collective, the Solutions Not Punishments Collaborative, the Familia Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and other efforts to empower trans women of color, sex workers, and other at-risk communities.