India Transgender Day of Remembrance
Indian transgender people and supporters hold portraits of alleged victims of transphobia during a candlelight vigil to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance in Hyderabad, India, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015.  Mahesh Kumar & AP

At Least 21 Transgender Americans Have Been Killed in 2016, Say Advocacy Groups

Nov 18, 2016

On Sunday, vigils will be held in several cities to remember the transgender people who died in acts of violence this year. According to advocacy groups, at least 21 transgender Americans have been killed so far in 2016. The somber toll is released each year, but this one is coming at a time of heightened uncertainty for the LGBTQ community.

A report released on Friday by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, details the stories of each of those 21 individuals, the majority of whom were transgender women of color. Being a woman, a minority and transgender “are all characteristics of people in the United States who are more susceptible to violence,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center, told TIME for a previous story about the causes behind such murders.

The most recent FBI hate crime statistics, released in November, showed an uptick in reported incidents related to gender identity and gender expression, from 31 in 2013 to 114 in 2015. Though each case has its own context and unknowns, advocacy groups believe that transgender people are often "killed for just being who they really were," the report says.

Transgender people are also more likely than the general population to live in poverty, experience joblessness and suffer harassment — risk factors that may increase the likelihood of experiencing violence.

Many LGBTQ advocacy groups have expressed concerns that intolerant attitudes are being normalized by the populist surge that elected Donald Trump to the presidency, at a time when transgender people are more visible — and more central to America's culture wars — than they ever have been. Those fears have been exacerbated by Trump's selection of vice president-elect Mike Pence, who has repeatedly taken positions against extending rights to LGBTQ people during his political career.

But many in the community also have hope that they will continue to win more rights on the local and state level, even if proposed legislation like the Equality Act is unlikely to go anywhere so long as Congress and the White House are controlled by Republicans.

“You can still make gains, even when the government is not on your side," says high school student Lillian Weiner-Mock, who participated in walkout protests in Berkeley, Calif., after the election. "You can still fight for your rights and keep your community strong.”

Sunay's vigils will be held as part of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial than ends Transgender Awareness Week each year.

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