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The Real Tipping Point: Death At the Intersection of Hate, Poverty and Respectability Politics

While white trans women and trans feminine people have escaped much of the worst violence, Black, Latinx, Native American and other transgender people of color have not.
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Over the past year or so, the media and left-wing politicians have been keen to report that we have reached the Transgender Tipping Point in a similar way that they frequently call America the thoroughly inaccurate and whitewashed "post-racial society." Neither of these statements are based in the factual world of reality. Current events such as the plague of anti-transgender legislation in the south, the frequent transphobic bathroom rhetoric in the media, and the constant portrayal of Black activists and activists of color as being criminal for merely standing up peacefully for their rights, is proof that the tipping-point and post-racial America were nothing more than fallacies.

While white trans women and trans feminine people have escaped much of the worst violence, Black, Latinx, Native American and other transgender people of color have not. The intersection of being a transgender person of color culminates in the highest rate of murder per capita than any other section of American society. 2015 was recorded as the bloodiest year for the transgender community on record with 23 murders. Only halfway into 2016, twelve trans and trans-feminine people of color have already been murdered in America.

The hateful rhetoric coming from right-wing legislators and conservative media since the start of is not only bigoted, it is deadly. By fueling hate in communities with little knowledge of what it means to be transgender and by increasing suicidal ideation in the transgender community through the overall effects of living in a society that not only refuses to accept you, and calls for your actual murder, the anti-trans backlash increases our body count almost daily. Transgender people are at a far greater risk of assault, murder, and suicide now in June, than before the so-called tipping point. In fact, Trans Life Line, a suicide line specifically for the transgender community, reports that calls have doubled since the signing into law of HB2 in North Carolina. HB2 is aimed at restroom and public accommodation exclusion of transgender people based on the mythical threat of trans women sharing restrooms with other women.

The simple truth of the matter is that there is, in actuality, a far greater threat of sexual misconduct by right-wing legislators than from transgender women who have not committed a single act of rape or sexual assault in a women's restroom according to the nation's law enforcement.

Yet even with these facts well known throughout the LGBT community, not one mainstream LGBT organization has stepped up in a meaningful way to prevent the current anti-trans backlash. Sadly, this is hardly surprising for a trans woman. In the middle of last year, as the climate shifted away from inclusion, the largest LGBT organization in America, the Human Rights Campaign failed to use its lobbying power and media dollars to debunk the bathroom myth in Houston, despite being the lead organization involved. This failure resulted in the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance being overturned by Texas voters. So what's keeping all of these huge high-ranking LGBT organizations from addressing the current anti-trans bathroom bills? Well, publicly taking an unfavorable stance on a contentious political debate does not mix well with business models based on individual donor and shareholder contributions. Meeting the bathroom bill battle with advocacy efforts equal to the bills' potential harms, or even raising awareness of the true potential for harm they harbor, comes at the risk of damaging these entities' newfound political respectability. It seems they have all weighed their options and decided that it's just too high a risk. Or perhaps their funding is too tied up in producing Hollywood-style award ceremonies and backing TV shows that include GLAAD board members such as I Am Cait to fit it into their budgets. Maybe they are just too busy attaching themselves to transgender celebrities and media personalities such as Laura Jane Grace, Laverne Cox, and the problematic Caitlyn Jenner to fit it into their schedules.

Due to the lack of adequate action on behalf of the trans community, we are most assuredly in a state of emergency as a result of the right-wing attempting to appeal to its base rather than being honest with the American people, and the left only acting in half-measures as it does not wish to alienate swing-voters in those same states. Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has recently flip-flopped on the issue at a rapid pace when his numbers diminished as a result of initially calling for trans inclusion, while the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has yet to even publicly say the word transgender in the presence of mainstream media during her campaign - choosing instead to use "LGBT" in her speeches so as not to draw ire from those imbued with prejudice and hate towards the trans community.

While of significant importance, sadly the issues affecting the trans community are not simply restricted to public accommodations. The transgender community is in critical need of material assistance. LGBT organizations need to quickly re-assess their priorities. Instead of primarily focussing on legislation, groups need to understand that laws alone don't put food on the table, or a roof over the heads of the 40 percent of homeless people within the United Stares that are LGBT, or stop people from being murdered, raped, or assaulted. There are already laws in effect to deal with the assault, rape, and murder that the transgender community sees almost daily, yet they do not stop people from committing those acts and simply fail to provide safe-spaces and the basic life-sustaining support many trans and gender non-conforming people are in desperate need of. Many Native American trans women have to hitch-hike hundreds of miles due to lack of available transport and local services, just to see a doctor or to pick up hormones, putting their lives in danger by the simple act of seeking medical help. Many trans women, particularly in the black, native and latinx communities, are culturally discouraged form discussing sexuality and their bodies, and are at extremely high risk from HIV and other fatal sexually transmitted diseases, as well as disproportionally victims of suicide, abuse, and sexual assault. Words have failed these women. What is needed is action.

Right now the media focus is on this weekend's terrible act of hate in Orlando, but it's important to realize that while this was a terrible and senseless tragedy for the entirity of the LGBT both in the United States and around the entire world, trans women have been bleeding out and paying this price constantly and consistently for decades, while little has been done to prevent it. Before the start of this election season the life-expectancy for a Black transgender woman was only 35 years of age. Unless mainstream LGBT organizations use their power to educate the public through the media by tackling the bathroom issue head-on, call out hate whether it's politically expedient for them or not, and start pouring resources into material help for basic needs such as food, clothing, housing and medical assistance, when the election season is over the murder and suicide rates will be even higher and the life expectancy for a black trans woman will be even less.