The State of Transgender Hate Crimes in D.C.
Last month, D.C. police released a report breaking down every hate crime reported in D.C. [PDF] over the past five years. In 2007, changes to the D.C. Human Rights Act required police to begin recording hate-bias crimes motivated by the victim's "gender identity or expression"—in other words, crimes that specifically target transgender victims. Since then, crimes against the transgender community have been the second most frequently recorded type of hate crime committed in D.C., after sexual orientation.
Since 2007, D.C. police have recorded 16 bias-related crimes based on gender identity. Last year, D.C. recorded seven of these crimes (which can include anything from destruction of property to assault to murder). But as trans activist group the DC Trans Coalition notes, transgender victims often face barriers to having crimes against them reported, investigated, and properly coded as a hate crime. According to the DCTC, "Since many trans communities (particularly low-income trans women of color and those who are sex workers) experience violence at the hands of police themselves, it is likely that anti-trans crimes in general are under-reported. Further, DCTC has also learned via a Freedom of Information Act request that MPD still is not tracking statistics about police response rates to cases involving trans individuals."
And because the transgender community in D.C. is so small, seven crimes in a year is an extremely significant figure. We're talking about a very limited population of potential targets, which means that any hate crime against a trans person holds more power to terrorize the entire community.
In 2009, D.C. experienced several highly visible bias crimes motivated by the victim's gender identity. Last March, a transgender man was assaulted outside of Fab Lounge by some of the gay bar's other patrons. In August, Tyli'a Mack and a friend, both trans women, were stabbed on the street in the middle of the afternoon. Mack was killed. The most recent hate-bias crime based on gender identity occurred last weekend, when two transgender individuals were assaulted in Petworth with a metal pole.
The new D.C. police report resolves one reporting problem for D.C.'s transgender community: In an original hate crimes report released in November of last year, D.C. police failed to distinguish between gender identity and sexual orientation in its data, leaving the transgender community with no information on how many victims were being targeted specifically for their gender identity. After some prodding by activists, D.C. released the fully differentiated data last month.