Aug 27, 2013

Trans* murder rates - under-reported?

I came across this old tweet today, where the LGBT rights campaigner Peter Thatchell challenged feminist Julie Bindell to condemn the murder of transgendered people:

Now, I want to just say that I personally abhor all gender based violence; I was going to say "equally", but in some ways, the violent murder of a person who aspires to be accepted as a woman is even more chillingly misogynist than the murder of a woman for the crime of already being a woman. In any case, the danger that trans women find themselves in is non-trivial and must be opposed, condemned and mitigated by all means necessary[1].

(For the avoidance of doubt, and for those of us who are more closely involved with Twitter / than is good for us: death threats against trans women are vile, hateful expressions of the deepest visceral misogyny. End of discussion.)

Being cussedly fact-based in my thinking though, I was alerted by the infographic Thatchell cites to what seemed to me an under-reporting of the murder rate of trans* people in Europe. If the information contained therein is correct, it strikes at the heart of a key precept of trans* activism, namely that trans people are proportionately much more in danger of male violence than non-trans women.

According to the latest census, there are 56.1 million people in the UK, 28.5 of them women. Of the latter, 172 were victims of homicide in the calendar year of 2012 (not exactly identical to the onfographic's November '11 - November '12 time frame, but analogous). That's 0.0006%
 of all British women.

According to Jennie Kermode of Trans Media Watch, the proportion of the population that is trans* can be estimated at about 0.08%, which would bring the trans* population to approximately 450,000. One victim of homicide within that groups in that time frame represents 0.000223%.

It's possible that my calculations are wrong, or that Thatchell's numbers are under-reported; but on the face of it it looks like he should be careful what statistics he goes around quoting, because if what he's saying is that trans* people have about the third of the chance of being victims of homicide as non-trans women do, then who should be called upon to condemn violence against whom?

Again, none of this is to dismiss or minimise violence against trans* people, and trans women in particular. But if we're to make head or tail of the thorny debates on this issue currently threatening to upend the boat of the next "wave" of feminism before it's left the harbour, then being careful with our facts is of paramount importance.

A note on Brasil: I know. It's a terrifying, heart-stopping number compared to the rest of the world. What the hell is going on over there?


[1] I also believe that trans* people "really are" the gender they feel they are. Not necessarily that they are identical in every way to all others who were assigned that gender at birth, nor that they should have unrestricted access to any and all fora they wish to be included in; but they genuinely have a claim to their own gender definition and deserve full legal, medical and social recognition as such. This is a set of opinions nicely calibrated to make me popular with exactly no-one, but what can you do.

1 comment:

  1. It may or may not be significant that the Trans Media Watch submission to the Leveson Inquiry put the prevalence of transsexualism in the UK at 20 per 100,000 (0.0002%). The 0.08% figure relates to their estimated figure for all those who "feel some form of disruptive gender variance", a much wider classification.

    It's difficult to account for the discrepancy in Brazil, though certain factors may be important: the country has a very high homicide rate anyway, especially in poorer areas and it is widely reported that although there is quite a strong tolerance of homosexuality in Brazil, transsexuals are often marginalised and more likely to end up in high-risk areas and occupations including prostitution. It has also been suggested that the Brazilian figures may include all cases where the victim has been known to be transsexual, whilst other countries may only report what are believed to be targeted crimes in this category.