A new report suggests that 2016 was the deadliest year for LGBTQ individuals ever on record. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) collected data and reported that there was a 17 percent rise in LGBTQ hate crimes. 2016 was still the deadliest year even if you set aside the mass shooting in Orlando, which left 49 victims.
Shelby Chestnut, Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy in NYC Anti-Violence project explained: “I think with increased visibility comes increased vulnerability… We’re not sending clear messages that LGBTQ lives are valued… Right now you see marginalized communities being pushed further to the margins than ever before.” In fact, Chestnut’s NYC organization reports seeing a 45 percent increase in the number of calls received by its violence hotline.
And in a separate report, Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans, most Americans are more aware of the transgender community than ever before, yet transgender individuals continue to lack access to sufficient health and safety. According to various recent studies, transgender individuals are four times as likely to experience extreme poverty, have a disproportionately high rate of murder, and about 50% will experience sexual violence.
Beth Hamilton, Associate Director at the CT Alliance to End Sexual Violence, explained:
“It puts folks in places where they are more likely to be unsafe…If the only way somebody is going to validate my gender identity or the only access to physical touch I experience is going to be something that is harmful to me or problematic, I’m going to be less likely to sort of stop the behavior.”
And Hamilton reminds us that these statistics likely don’t even show the true rates of sexual violence, as it is frequently not reported by LGBTQ survivors. Hamilton continued:
“Folks feel like, well, we’re already stigmatized, and people already think a certain thing of us, so putting that out there for the world to see is not something that feels good… If there are folks who are not ‘out’ in their families or in their communities, that’s an added (reason it may be unreported).”
The NCAVP also found that police tended to be not helpful or even hostile in some cases when an LGBTQ person seeks their assistance. In fact, the NCAVP report found that the LGBTQ community experiences three times as much excessive force as is normally reported.
And while these statistics clearly show the challenges LGBTQ individuals continue to face, there is a silver lining – people are increasingly reaching out to LGBTQ groups offering their assistance to the community. Chestnut explained:
“People are dying as a result of anti-LGBT violence almost daily in this country, and it is everyone’s problem…. People need to understand that it’s happening in their communities whether they’re wealthy communities, poor communities, white communities, communities of color, immigrant communities. … Now, more than ever, people need to stand up and defend the rights of LGBT people.”