At least 28 transgender people were killed in America alone in 2017 making it the most deadly year on record but with at least six incidents recorded since January, it is likely that 2018 will continue to go the same way until we finally do something about it.

How accurate are these statistics?

However, it is likely that the actual number is much larger since some victims are misgendered by police or media or their deaths aren't reported at all. Moreover, the families of trans people often seek to hide their loved one’s gender identities out of embarrassment, and even supportive family and friends may not know enough to reach out to Human Rights Campaign (HRC) after a loved one has died.

As a result, activists are calling for both authorities and the media to respect and use the correct identity, name and pronoun of a victim rather than adding further insult to injury.

Who is most affected?

Trans women of colour are also disproportionately affected with 75 out of the 102 transgender people killed in America in the last five years being non-white, according to the HRC. A separate study by the HRC and Trans People of Colour Coalition estimated that trans women are 4.3 times more likely to be murdered compared to cis women in America. HRC's report also concluded that nearly three-quarters of victims were under age 35, including four minors, and 55 of the victims were killed in the South. The report notes that this part of the country generally has fewer legal protections for the LGBT+ community, including a lack of policies for hate crimes.

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How are trans women of colour most affected?

It should also be noted that being of colour in America also means facing alarmingly high levels of institutional racism and systematic discrimination in terms of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, suicide, sexual assault, HIV infection and incarceration. Trans women, in general, are 1.8 times more likely to experience sexual violence than average and trans people are also four times as likely to have a yearly household income below $10,000 or twice as likely to be unemployed or homeless, according to a survey by the National Centre for Transgender Equality.

Meanwhile, 9% of transgender people reported being physically attacked due to their gender identity with one in eight being physically attacked by a colleague or customer whilst a third of trans people have been discriminated against when visiting a cafe, bar or restaurant and a quarter of trans people in a relationship have experienced domestic abuse, all within the last year

These factors build a strong circumstantial case that trans people are probably more likely to be victims of violent homicides, not less.

Transgender people are estimated to make up a mere 0.6% of the American population and in 2016, the FBI reported that 17,250 Americans were victims of homicide. If estimating how many were trans based on the figures above, then we'd find there were roughly 103 trans murders that year despite the HRC only reporting 23.

Why has there been an increase in transphobia?

These figures cannot be considered without regarding the effects of Trump and his administration's rhetoric has included banning transgender people entering the military, stripping away federal protections for transgender students and so-called bathroom bills, which aim to police who may use gender-specific public facilities and have been considered by sixteen states amongst other forms of discrimination.

In fact, a joint report by GLAAD and The Harris Poll found that only 49% of adults reported being “very” or “somewhat” comfortable with LGBT+ people across seven situations, which is a decline from the previous year's 53% and also the first time the Accelerating Acceptance report has shown a drop in acceptance for LGBT+ people. Additionally according to HRC's post-2016 election youth survey, almost half of LGBT+ youth said that they had taken steps to hide their identity since the election.

Activists also say that the escalation in violence may partially be due to increased awareness of the LGBT+ community as well as a potential backlash to an increase in news reports about high profile transgender people such as Caitlyn Jenner and Chelsea Manning.

What other issues do transgender individuals face?

Yet transgender murders do not include transgender suicides. 41% of transgender people attempt suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). Researchers found that rates of attempted suicide rose for trans people who have a low household income, lost a job due to bias, and were sexually assaulted, among other factors. Worryingly, the 41% figure comes from trans women who survived to both come out and be counted raising concerns about how many closeted trans people have attempted suicide and how many closeted trans people have already taken their own lives?

What is being done about this?

Despite there being a clear epidemic of trans murders across America, state or federal hate crime laws are rarely used to prosecute the perpetrators who tend to be men closest to the victims and the majority of whom remain at large. This includes the murderer of seventeen-year-old Ally Lee Steinfeld, a transgender teenager living in Missouri, who was found with her eyes gouged out, her genitals stabbed, her bones in a bag and her remains burnt. Investigators and locals insisted — without specifying a motive — that Steinfeld’s death was not the result of anti-transgender hate. Out of the law enforcement agencies who responded to cases of gender identity-motivated hate crimes, 88% said that they were not hate crimes.

A 2009 federal law, inspired partly by the 1998 murder of gay college student, Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, included gender identity as a category under hate crime but this only led to a conviction last May. Other than that, most states don't have laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people, according to the HRC.

Indeed, 58% of trans women who have had interactions with police say they were harassed or mistreated by officers, according to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS), ranging from verbal abuse to sexual assault and are often scared of being charged with an offence instead of being helped. The fear of being charged with a crime themselves while seeking help from the police comes partially from the fact that 33% of black and 30% of multiracial trans women said in the same survey a cop assumed they were sex workers at some point. A separate hate crime report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that the rate of LGBT+ survivors of hate crimes going to police dropped from 54% in 2014 to 41% in 2015, with 80% of those who do reach out to law enforcement reporting indifferent and sometimes hostile reactions and unfortunately it is likely that this is still the reaction even though hate-motivated homicides of the LGBT+ community have risen by 86% in 2017 compared to the previous year.

There has been an increase in transgender awareness in recent years with Gwendolyn Ann Smith founding November 20 as the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honour those who have lost their lives to anti-trans violence and the subsequent Transgender Awareness Week between November 3 - 17 to educate people about the issues the community faces. Since then, there has also been the introduction of a day of action launched by LGBT+ advocacy group, Get Equal, under the hashtag #ProtectTransWomen “to celebrate the lives of black trans women and protect all trans women and femmes."

There is also an advocacy website called mic.com which has been keeping track of transgender deaths since 2010 with their website also confirming that young, black transgender women face the greatest danger with one in every 2,600 young, black transgender women is murdered every year compared to an overall murder rate of one in 12,000 young adults.

How can we stop transgender murders rising in 2018?

America's current political rhetoric has led to the people looking for scapegoats for their national issues and trans women of colour, in particular, have become just that. Therefore transgender individuals in America desperately need better legal protection with policies which recognise trans murders without focusing too closely on individual acts and without addressing underlying discrimination whilst there also needs to be an urgent update of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and increased training for law enforcement and other authorities.

There also needs to be a more open dialogue about being transgender with conversations in schools and places of worship so that people are educated about transgender rights and we also need men who love trans women to step up and say so or 2018 will end up being as just as or more deadly than last year.