In lieu of leaders

In lieu of leaders

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Less than three months into the year, seven transgender women of color have been murdered.

It is a sobering statistic: Apart from the seven women whose lives were brutally cut short, this number speaks to an evolving and endemic history of violence against trans women of color. It also denotes that little to nothing is being done to curb this tragic trend.

The rates of violence against trans women of color have been increasing every year, and the spate of violence already in 2017 suggests that course is continuing. Typically, the community might look to the top for guidance and leadership; that the current federal administration is populated by anti-LGBT figureheads — whose very policies have encouraged the stigmatization of the trans community — does little to quell fears. 

However, a coalition of Congressmembers recently implored Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step up and take action.

The six lawmakers included the names of the seven victims, along with details on the alarming rates of violence against transgender communities, particularly women of color, and urged him to vigorously investigate the recent incidents as hate crimes.

“It is incumbent upon the Department of Justice to enforce the federal laws that govern such clear examples of anti-transgender violence, especially because most states lack similar hate-crime protections for transgender people,” the Congressmembers wrote. “No person, regardless of race, sex, gender identity or religious affiliation, should worry if they will be shot outside their home or stabbed while going to work, but for many transgender people in the United States, fears of violence are a constant presence in their lives.” 

With Sessions’ documented history of bigotry, few in the LGBT community are likely anticipating him to prioritize combatting violence against our community. 

In lieu of strong leadership from Washington, D.C., state and local governments need to be working in tandem with law enforcement, and with LGBT communities, to work against anti-trans violence. From enacting — and enforcing — hate-crimes and nondiscrimination laws, to creating education and awareness programs to providing resources for trans individuals, there is a role for every person in this fight. 

We grew accustomed in the last eight years to looking to our leaders — even when they needed a fire lit under them — to take action on LGBT issues. It’s up to us now.

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