Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

This past Tuesday evening I included the following snippet in my diary, School Daze.

The average person has a 1 in 15,000 change of being murdered.  A transperson has a 1 in 13 chance of being murdered.  Additionally transpeople are eight times as likely to commit suicide.

Rightly so, cordgrass commented:

you buried the lede

a transperson has a one in thirteen chance of being MURDERED!  I had no idea!  What does that say about our society?

Do you have more links for that?

The data was taken from one of my links, but it should rightly be viewed with some skepticism.   So I went looking for the source.  I had the advantage of knowing who it was, so that made my search easier.  Back in 1999 Kay Brown (proprietress of Transgender Roadmap) shared the data  with students in her class when she was the instructor for “20th Century Transgender History and Experience” at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco, (Washington Blade, Dec. 10, 1999).

Kay used to have a paper online which went through her derivation, but it is no longer available (as far as I can see).  I may have printed a copy back then, but I have thousands of pages of old articles and they are not currently organized in any manner whatsoever.  I’ve moved twice since they were even poorly organized.

But the comparison made between “the average American” and transpeople has some flaws.  The “average American” figure is computed by dividing the number of murders in a year by the number of Americans, so that is really the chance of being murdered in a particular year.  The transgender number is lifetime expectancy…the likelihood that the cause of death of a transperson in murder.  Or, more likely, the likelihood that the cause of death of a transwoman is murder.  Transmen do not die of murder nearly as often as do transwomen.  And if the transwoman is a woman of color, the likelihood would increase.  The likelihood for a transwoman of color who is a sex-worker approaches certainty.

Joann Prinzivalli took a stab at the derivation:

Last year (11/20/2008-11/20/2009), the worldwide compilation of transgender murders from the two lists I have as sources, the American list maintained by Ethan St. Pierre, and the more comprehensive worldwide list maintained by TGEU, there were 166 reported murders of transgender individuals.

Estimates of the transgender population range from 1/10,000 (MTF) to 1/30,000 (FTM) – let’s estimate 1/17.000 overall.

6 billion people in the world – That gives us around 350,000 trans people worldwide.

Reported murders may be only the tip of the iceberg – one rule of thumb is to use 10% – making the 2009 TDOR statistic the equivalent of possibly 1,660 murders in one year. This results in an annual murder statistic of about 0.44%. If we estimate that 20% of worldwide murders are actually reported, it’s more like 0.22% per year.

Life span for trans individuals skews short. Let’s estimate 50 years. If 1/500 is killed each year, that comes out to about 1 in 10 that can expect to be murdered during their lifetime.

Well, not exactly “during” their lifetime;  more like “at the end.”

Obviously, with the exception of the one datum of the 166 reported murders for the period (this year will also have more than 160, but the final numbers will be reported by TGEU on 11/19), it’s all fuzzy data based on estimates and assumptions – but it’s not terribly unrealistic. I am sure that there are people who can make a more reliable estimate – and if that 1 in 12 figure is stated as “an estimated” 1 in 12, it may not be accurate but it’s somewhere in the ballpark.

There are indeed assumptions being made.  Lynn Conway provides a basis for one of them.

Recent calculations indicate that the condition occurs in about 1 out of every 250 to 500 children born as boys, and that about 1 in every 2500 males in the U.S. has already undergone surgical sex reassignment


Some people think those calculations must have some fatal flaw somewhere.

But the actual numbers really shouldn’t matter that much.  Wrong is wrong, regardless of the number of people who have been done wrong.  Amy Johnson is an ally who has penned an essay for the Federal Way Mirror which really bears reading at this time:  Transgender Day of Remembrance:  Let’s stop the violence.

It ends with this:

Although a small percentage (under 5 percent) of Americans identify as transgender, 41 percent of transgender youth have attempted suicide (National Center for Transgender Equality).  Almost one in five transgender people have been refused medical care because of their status, and some report being assaulted, even violently, in a doctor’s office (msnbc.msn.com).

To put this in perspective, note that between one and two percent of folks in our country are Jewish, have red hair, or have Down syndrome.  We don’t stand for this type of discrimination and violence against people because of their religion, hair color, or chromosomal challenge.  Why is our society not outraged at violence because of gender identity?


I plan to host an observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance here on November 20 (Tuesday), when it is observed worldwide.  I hope you can stop by.

1 comment

  1. Robyn

Leave a Reply