Mic launches ‘Unerased,’ a Database Tracking Transgender Murders in the US

In the most comprehensive investigation of transgender-related homicide to date, Mic Thursday released “Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives,” a project looking at trans murder in America.

Working in collaboration with transgender advocacy organizations, activists, academics and victims’ loved ones and families, a team of reporters at Mic has launched an interactive database of transgender homicides from 2010 to the present. Intended as a resource for activists, journalists and academics, the database contains a wealth of demographic data about each victim, including biographies and multimedia. In an effort to elevate the stories of marginalized populations, Mic will continue to track transgender homicides in the future.

Alongside the database, Mic also has published an investigation by transgender journalist and advocate Meredith Talusan, complete with data visualizations detailing the results.

Among Mic’s key findings:

  • With 23 documented cases so far, 2016 has seen one of the the highest number of transgender homicides since advocacy organizations began tracking them officially in 2010.
  • Black transgender women face the highest rates of violence: 72% of transgender victims between 2010 to 2016 are black trans women.
  • Young black trans women (ages 15 to 34) are estimated to be between 8 and 39 times more likely to be murdered as young cisgender women.
  • Of the 25 cases that were tried, five involved black trans women as victims and resulted in lesser charges of manslaughter or assault. Only one case with a black trans woman victim has resulted in a first-degree conviction since 2010.

Mic found that, because public institutions are not equipped to acknowledge the existence of transgender Americans, the identities of transgender victims are often effaced after death. Many trans people can’t spare the expense of having their names and gender markers updated on government documents. Law enforcement and coroner’s offices are not trained to identify crime victims as transgender. Immediate family members who reject a trans person’s identity often withhold it from authorities, who defer to the family when it comes to revealing personal information. The U.S. Census does not track transgender people, and while the FBI added gender identity as a category in its annual self-reported hate crimes report in 2014, the agency does not track gender identity along with its homicide statistics.

“In reporting this story and speaking with family members of transgender homicide victims, we focused on bringing light to the systematic failures impacting trans people, especially trans women of color,” said Meredith Talusan, lead reporter on the Mic project. “If everyone in the U.S. were murdered at the rate young black trans women and femmes are, there’s no doubt that the public would consider this a crisis of massive proportions.”

Devin Diamond, a black, transgender woman who was killed in New Orleans, Louisiana, in June, would not have been listed among transgender homicide victims if it were not for a friend who happened to post about her using female pronouns on Facebook, where a local reporter came upon the post. Law enforcement, the coroner’s office and her family all classified her as male even though she routinely presented herself as a woman both in person and online, telling friends that she was on hormones and was seeing a psychologist.

“’Unerased’ offers a close, sometimes intimate look at the violence too regularly faced by one of our most vulnerable populations,” said Kerry Lauerman, executive news director at Mic. “It’s the sort of in-depth, revelatory project we’re dedicated to pursuing more of in the future.”

“Unerased” was reported with the assistance of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. To view the report please visit: https://mic.com/unerased.