I’ve seen several blogs report high-level results from the recently-released 2013 Hate Crime Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Primarily, the newsworthy item is that the FBI listed only 33 cases of transgender hate crimes (that is, hate crimes where gender identity was the single motivating factor) across the entire United States for the study year. This number prima facie appears to be tragically low, but I believe that some of the anger directed at the FBI is sadly misplaced.
The FBI can only report that which has been first reported to them. The FBI is not the primary investigating agency for the vast majority of crimes, so the people who decide on whether or not a crime has a hate crime component are the local prosecutors and district attorneys. Second, a very large number of crimes against us are not reported by the victims. I personally know of three transgender persons in Kansas City who were physically assaulted for their gender identity or presentation recently. Since none of them would report the assaults to the police, those events were not officially reported.
It must also be noted that the qualification for a crime to be a hate crime is stricter than most people believe, and it involves establishing the motivation of the attacker. For example, merely using a transgender slur like “stupid tranny!” during an attack does not in itself qualify the attack as a hate crime. Words can easily be taken to be “incidental” during an attack. The government must establish that the gender identity or expression of the victim was a primary motivating factor for instigating the attack. And here we get into a bit of a quagmire, as establishing someone’s true motivations is quite difficult. Since we cannot read the minds of others, a perpetrator can simply claim “I was drunk and don’t remember saying anything like that” or “I was mad, I said a lot of things I don’t mean” as a defense to avoid a hate crime charge. Unless witnesses can give first-hand testimony or some self-incriminating evidence exists of the intent of the act, making a hate crime charge “stick” is difficult.
That having been said, there are some interesting facts from the report which I have not seen reported elsewhere, and I’d like to focus on some of them because perhaps we can learn some helpful information. Of the 33 victims and 31 incidents:
- 25 cases were anti-transgender hate crimes, and 8 were for gender non-conforming behavior.
- Most attacks were perpetrated by a single individual (39 offenders total per 33 victims total).
- 8 of the anti-transgender crimes were aggravated assault, 7 were simple assault, 4 were criminal intimidation, 3 were robbery, 1 was burglary, and 2 cases were vandalism.
- 1 of the gender non-conforming crimes was rape, 3 were simple assault, 2 were larceny/theft, and 2 were vandalism.
- 4 offenders were white, 17 black, 4 were of unknown race for anti-transgender crimes. For gender non-conforming crimes, 4 offenders were white, 1 was black, 1 was of multiple races, and 2 were unknown race.
- A total of 28 incidents were perpetrated upon human beings, and the rest against a business or institution or other “victim.”
- 2 incidents occurred at a transportation terminal, 1 at a bar or nightclub, 1 at a commercial office, 1 at a department store, 1 at a doctor’s office or pharmacy or hospital, 7 incidents happened on a surface road or alleyway, 2 incidents were in a parking lot or a garage, 5 were in a home, 2 in a restaurant, 1 at a college or university, 1 at a gas station, 1 was on tribal lands, and the rest were in an unknown location.
- NO incidents of transgender or gender identity crime were reported in Kansas. Two incidents occurred in Kansas City Missouri.
There are in fact only a few things to be learned from such a small number of events, but if we want to assume this sample size has any validity, it would appear that the primary conclusions can be drawn about anti-transgender hate crimes:
- They are generally perpetrated by a single assailant.
- About half of all crimes are assaults, and rapes are uncommon.
- They can happen anywhere, with prevalence towards the home environment and streets.
While the racial profile of perpetrators is largely black, there is no matrix of perpetrator race/victim race to analyze. Therefore, we cannot say whether the high number of black perpetrators was due to a high amount of black-on-black transgender hate crimes, or whether racial bias was a coincident factor.
Let us also not forget that hate crimes based on sexual orientation – numbering 1,461 in 2013 – may very well encompass members of the transgender community, as anywhere between 50-75% of transgender persons identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or some other sexual preference than heterosexual.
What is the takeaway from this data? I’ll say it’s simply this – transgender and gender non-conforming persons need to stay in groups. Since more acts are committed by a single assailant, and can happen nearly anywhere, safety in numbers becomes key. If you are at all uncertain about going to a specific location or venue, go with someone else. If it’s late and you want to leave a bar and head to your car, ask a doorman to walk with you. Tip them if necessary. Stay in groups, stay alert, and stay safe.