One in twelve trans people is murdered in their lifetime–one in eight trans women of color.
You’ve heard this statistic, right? It comes up in just about any argument in which trans people want to talk about their experience of oppression. It’s a horrifying statistic.
It’s also completely, demonstrably untrue–and its propagation has pernicious racist, sexist, and classist effects. Strap yourselves in, kiddos, ’cause we’re going on a ride to Statisticsville, population YOU.
According to the best estimates available from trans* sources about the prevalence of transgenderism in the United States, approximately .3 percent of Americans identify as transgender. That gives us a figure of just barely under a million trans people out of the 313 million folks living in the U.S. today. Now, out of that number, some percentage of these people will be out. Some of them are still babies, so they’re only going to come out later. Some of them may never come out due to oppression, so let’s say that of this million, only half of them ever actually show that they’re trans in a way that would potentially lead to a hate crime.
That’d leave us with half a million trans people who would be out enough for trans hatred to manifest in terrible ways. For the 1 in 12 statistic to be accurate, 41,667 of that half million would be murdered. If the full million were out, the number is, of course, twice that high–83,333.
Now, we do have statistics about how many trans people have actually been murdered, but under-reporting is a concern. The National Transgender Day of Remembrance has documented just 15 cases of trans people being murdered in the United States last year. However, many people believe that most of the murders of transgender people may be misreported as violence against gay or lesbian people. According to our best statistics, 30 people were murdered because of their sexual orientation or identity last year.
Now, let’s assume that every one of those murders was of a trans person, and that furthermore, the actual rate is double due to underreporting–that sixty trans people are killed every year, just for being trans, out of the 500,000 out trans people in the United States. That’s an annual rate of 12 per 100,000. Even using these statistics that have been weighted heavily toward indicating a higher murder rate, it would take an out trans lifespan of about 700 years for the 1 in 12 rate to be true. We’re talking about an exaggeration of the statistics that, in the very least, represents trans activists and their allies blindly quoting a statistic that is overestimating the actual murder rate by ten times. Even with the most generous readings possible of available statistics, the maximum chance a trans person has of being murdered in the United States is less than 1 in 100.
To put it another way, let’s assume that every out trans person has an average of 65 years in which they are out enough to risk violence for their identity (which is, again, weighted in favor of the trans* people and their allies–if we assumed a significantly shorter out time, the rate would need to be significantly higher per year). This would require that in an average of 641 murders of trans people would have to occur–that in fact, in a year like 2011, in which 12,664 murders occurred according to the FBI, one in every 19 murders would be of a trans person.
Let’s talk about another group in America: black males. Black males in the United States have a lifespan of 70.8 years. Recent crime statistics show that nearly half of murder victims–5416 in 2011–were black males. With around 19 million black males in the United States, this means that 1 in 3500 black males in the United States will be murdered this year alone, if we stay on par with 2011. Over a lifespan of 70.8 years, this would mean that black males born today, assuming murder numbers and population stayed constant, have a…carry the 1…let’s see here.
Oh yes, about a 1 in 49 chance of being murdered in the United States. Over twice the rate that trans people are murdered.
When trans activists claim that they’re being murdered at a rate of 1 in 12, they’re trying to claim the gold medal in the Oppression Olympics just by making up their own statistics. In so doing, they’re leapfrogging their own oppression over groups of people whose murder rates are actually substantially higher than theirs. For example, black women, while not murdered at the same rates as black men, are still significantly more likely to be murdered in their lifetimes than trans women. Prostitutes, as a class, are significantly more likely to be murdered than trans women, when we’re using statistics that have any basis in reality.
But by using this 1 in 12 figure, what trans activists do is proclaim that they are being oppressed all out of proportion with other groups. It’s a statistic meant to be alarming, meant to make people think that trans oppression is especially bad, that it is much, much worse than oppression of many other oppressed classes. These made-up statistics, so easily debunked, should be something people are ashamed to repeat–except that they’re not. You can see this statistic all over the internet, and every time it’s used, remind yourself that you’re seeing activists exploiting murders and making up hundreds of crimes that never happened just so that they can have immediate attention paid to their oppression, rather than the oppression of others being murdered at higher actual rates.