No One Is Talking About the Epidemic Plaguing Black and Latinx Transgender Women Right Now

There is an epidemic of violence facing Black and Latinx transgender women like me. Since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking murders of trans people in 2013, at least 44 trans and gender non-conforming people have been killed every year. What isn’t discussed: the vast majority of these deaths were victims of Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence (DIPV).

DIPV in the trans community is a dire issue linked with homelessness, transphobic violence, and family rejection. I know all this because I’ve lived it. I left home at the age of 15, after countless encounters with physical and verbal abuse at home. I refused to go into shelters because of the fear of rejection and violence, a decision that I believe ultimately saved my life.

I lost my cousin, Clio Addison, in July 2020 to a domestic dispute that took place at a homeless youth shelter in Miami. The shelter had no on-site security, which allowed Clio’s previously estranged partner to walk onto the premises where an altercation escalated to the shooting of the 20-year-old non-binary Black femme.

No one should have to go through the abuse, rejection, and violence I’ve seen.

Too often, institutions that are supposed to keep Black trans femmes safe cause us harm. Just days after I lost Clio, I was fired by my then-employer for advocating on behalf of a transgender client who took their own life due to ongoing abuse by their partner, combined with having no food, housing, financial support, or family. When I sought to hold the organization accountable to actually meeting the needs of our clients, they chose to fire me instead.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone. The issues that Clio and I faced are disturbingly common. We know that 54 percent of trans people report experiencing DIPV at some point in their life, 20-40 percent of trans youth report being homeless, and more than 20 percent report being harassed or discriminated against by service providers who are supposed to help them.

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No one should have to go through the abuse, rejection, and violence I’ve seen. That’s why I am dedicated to being an agent of change. Audre Lorde once said, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” I believe that for transgender people, DIPV is a complex and vicious cycle, largely connected to the inequities that plague our community. These issues continue to diminish our humanity. When we are forced into survival mode, it requires us to attack and defend ourselves against society’s systems, and sometimes those we love.

I believe that radical community care is the only way to address these systemic issues. By helping folks meet their basic needs (housing, employment, and adequate healthcare), I believe that we will decrease the amount of violence our communities face. My hope is to ameliorate the problem by focusing on the root causes of the symptoms—one by one.

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I’ve spent over a decade putting those beliefs into action by advocating for and supporting my communities. Today, I am getting to act on a national stage by building Trans Lifeline’s DIPV services, the first-ever dedicated DIPV services for trans people across North America.

Our vision for Trans Lifeline’s DIPV program is to educate and create infrastructure that sustains trans people so that they can lead safe and healthy lives. Because peer support and therapy provided tools to better navigate my own life, I want to share these tools with everyone I come into contact with. Trans Lifeline currently offers critical resources, trans-inclusivity training, and DIPV training to all operators on our hotline.

I believe that radical community care is the only way to address these systemic issues.

While it will take time, my hope for Trans Lifeline involves an even bigger vision: to have national drop-in centers across the country that offer food, clothing, and medical and mental health care for trans and non-binary individuals. With the opportunities I’ve carved out for myself, through education and community-building, I plan to continue to serve trans/non-binary people, because, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

If you or someone you know are a trans survivor of domestic or intimate partner violence please call Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 or visit www.translifeline.org.

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