Lamia Beard; Ty Underwood
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Already in 2015, two transgender black women have been killed: On Jan. 17 Lamia Beard, 30, of Norfolk, Va., died of a gunshot wound; and in Texas, 24-year-old Ty Underwood was fatally shot on Monday.

Today the Human Rights Campaign Foundation—the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization—and the Trans People of Color Coalition released a report (pdf) calling for immediate government reforms and private-sector action to combat violence against transgender people.

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The report includes data from multiple sources and details the realities that conspire to put transgender people, especially black transgender women, at such heightened risk.

“It is imperative that we address the social, economic, policy and structural barriers, and stigma that prevent transgender people—especially transgender people of color—from living out their full potential as equal citizens,” said Kylar Broadus, TPOCC’s executive director.

“The level of violence targeting transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, is a national crisis that the LGBT movement has a responsibility to confront,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This issue reveals how far we still have to go in order to ensure that all members of the LGBT community have equal access to basic dignity and fair treatment.”

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As underscored in The Root’s Jan. 23 article, the rate of physical violence inflicted upon black transgender communities is appalling. At least 13 transgender women were murdered in 2014, and at least two more have been killed so far this year. All but one of the victims whom police have identified were women of color, and all but three were black. The killings have been violent and often gruesome, and the vast majority have gone unsolved. Local media routinely misgender these victims and often emphasize victims’ arrest records to diminish and miscast the lives of the slain.

These tragedies occur at the intersection of racism, transphobia, misogyny and homophobia—forms of discrimination that work together to force transgender people of color into poverty; deny them employment, housing, access to health care and fair treatment from law enforcement; and in too many cases result in death. This creates a situation in which lives are literally put in peril because they are denied access to safety net services including emergency shelters and rape crisis centers.

According to the groundbreaking 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (pdf), conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force:

  • 34 percent of black and 28 percent of Latina and Latino transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents had a household income of less than $10,000 a year.
  • Forty-one percent of black and 27 percent of Latina and Latino transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
  • When they attempted to access shelters, 40 percent of black respondents and 45 percent of Latina and Latino respondents were denied access altogether.

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“We're excited to partner with HRC on this incredibly important issue affecting our community. Since its inception, TPOCC has worked tirelessly to bring to light the violence and marginalization that transgender people of color suffer, and we look forward to working with the LGBT movement more broadly to expand efforts to address these issues,” Broadus said.

HRC and TPOCC are joining other LGBT advocates in calling for federal, state and municipal agencies, as well as foundations, corporations and philanthropists, to take immediate action to reduce the risks that transgender people face. Their calls to action include the following:

  • Support for emergency housing initiatives;
  • Engagement in education and training by medical providers, law enforcement and other direct service providers;
  • State-based required coverage of medically necessary transition-related care in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

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HRC and TPOCC also call on corporations, states and municipalities to pass transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination employment protections and for state attorneys general to ensure full and swift investigations of all open homicides of transgender victims. 

“HRC is committed to continue fighting against the legal barriers and social stigmas that allow this kind of violence to persist,” Griffin said. “Transgender people are suffering and losing their lives in this country, and we've got to work together to roll back  this tide of violence.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a previous version based on earlier news reports that identified Lamar Edwards of Louisville, Ky., as a transgender woman. Friends have reported to the media that he identified as a gay man and likely performed drag. We do not yet know whether Edwards was presenting as female and thus may have been perceived as a transgender woman at the time of his death.

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The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Samantha Master is the youth and campus engagement manager at the HRC Foundation and provides communications support for TPOCC. Beth Sherouse, Ph.D., is the senior content manager for the HRC Foundation.

Samantha Master is a black-queer-feminist activist, educator and member of the Black Youth Project 100. Follow her on Twitter.