By Dawn Ennis for The Advocate
As the transgender community prepares to mark one of its darkest days on the calendar — the Transgender Day of Remembrance — members of the House LGBT Equality Caucus announced this morning they will hold the first-ever congressional forum on violence againsttransgender people next week.
The congressional forum is set for Tuesday afternoon and will follow a morning press conference held by the LGBT Equality Caucus to officially launch a Transgender Equality Task Force.
Rep. Mike Honda of California — whose granddaughter is trans — said in a statement he will chair this effort to raise awareness of the issues facing the transgender community.
“This week, as we seek to raise awareness of the issues facing the trans community, it is important to renew our commitment to help trans individuals be free of the fear of violence or bullying just for being who they are,” said Congressman Honda. “It is my hope that by launching this workforce and holding a first-ever forum, we will reach some of my colleagues and encourage them to stand with the trans community. It is only through social change that we can truly elevate the conversation in this country and reach a place of true understanding and embrace all people for who they are.”
To date, 21 trans women have been murdered in the United States since January, almost double the number of trans murders in all of 2014. Most of this year's victims were trans women of color.
The move by members of the House to address this issue won praise from the Human Rights Campaign, which is scheduled to participate in the forum:
"Imagine fearing for your life every day. That nightmare is a reality for far too many transgender women, a nightmare that deserves national attention," said HRC president Chad Griffin. "At least 21 transgender people — almost all women of color — have been murdered this year. Today, transgender women are more than four times as likely to be murdered in the U.S. than other women. This forum will bring together a coalition of families, advocates, lawmakers, and other leaders to address the realities that conspire to put transgender people at risk. We are proud to be a part of this work and hope this forum will lead to greater collaboration and action to help end this epidemic of violence."
The other members of Congress who will take part in the panel on the impact and causes of transgender violence chaired by Honda are Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Rep. Joe Kennedy.
They will hear from panelists who include La La Zannell of the Anti-Violence Project and a survivor of violence, Laura Sorenson and Morris Home, the leaders of a drug and alcohol treatment facility dedicated to serving the transgender community, and Joanna Cifredo, a writer, advocate, organizer and a survivor of violence.
Another panel on policy and how to end bias-motivated violence against transgender people will be chaired by Rep. Jared Polis, cochair of the LGBT Equality Caucus. Members joining him are Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Mark Takano, Rep. Mike Quigley, and Rep. Alan Lowenthal.
They will hear testimony from Chad Griffin of HRC, Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Kylar Broadus of the Trans People of Color Coalition, and Sharon Lettman-Hicks of the National Black Justice Coalition.
Also this morning, HRC and the Trans People of Color Coalition released an updated report on what Griffin and Rep. Honda called the “epidemic of violence” against transgender people – particularly transgender women of color., that was timed to coincide with the announcement of the forum.
The joint report focuses on the realities, challenges, and solutions for policy makers and community advocates in addressing anti-transgender violence.
“The LGBT community has long counted on our non-LGBT allies to stand beside us in the fight for equality; and right now, the transgender community needs allies more than ever as we fight for our very survival,” said Broadus. “We are proud to partner with HRC on this work, and we ask all of our cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight friends, loved ones, and supporters to stand up against the continuing stigma and discrimination that is killing transgender people of color at alarming rates.”
Click here to read the joint report from HRC and TPOCC.