Statement: Trans Day of Remembrance

On 20 November we remember and commemorate the 325 trans and gender-diverse people who have been reported murdered in the past 12 months globally.[1] Migrants and sex workers make up the majority of victims.

Like other sex workers, trans sex workers go into sex work to survive. In the US for example, trans people are more than twice as likely to be living below the poverty line,[2] and three times more likely to be unemployed (with trans people of colour suffering the highest rate of unemployment).[3] Many of us have to cross international borders to escape transphobic violence in our home countries.

Like other sex workers we live under the burden of criminalisation, and that experience is often compounded by transphobic abuse and violence. In many countries, the biggest culprits are the police[4] who particularly target those of us who are trans women of colour, migrants, street workers, and/or homeless.

Violent men take advantage of our illegal status. When migrant trans sex workers in Ireland were attacked by a gang armed with knives, the Gardaí said they thought the women were targeted as the gang believed they would be less likely to make a criminal complaint.

And it is the same story in other countries. Attacks against trans sex workers working in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne have more than doubled since France passed a law criminalising the purchase of sex in 2016.

Here in the UK sex workers face a crisis. The laws which claim to protect us are used to persecute us. We face saturation policing and get no protection from violence. When a Black trans woman was murdered in Croydon in 2007, we worked with her friends to press the police to thoroughly investigate her murder — her killer is still at large. In other cases, we have protested when police dismiss violent attacks against trans women as “rough play that got out of hand”.

As we mark this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance. we are seeing an increase of vicious attacks on trans people following the UK government’s proposals to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. We note that the opposition to trans rights is being spearheaded by many of the same cis women who call themselves feminists who have voraciously campaigned to increase the criminalisation of sex work (forming unholy alliances with religious fundamentalists) in the process.

We reject the hatred, lies, slurs and abuse. As trans sex workers we are part of the movement against sexism, racism, transphobia, criminalisation, police illegality, repression, elitism, and austerity. We stand with sex workers of all genders across international borders in our campaign for decriminalisation and to get the laws off our backs.

[1] Reports are only those that could be found through Internet research and through cooperation with trans organisations and activists. In most countries, data on murdered trans people is not systematically produced. Murders are likely to be significantly underreported due to misgendering of victims by police and news reports.
[2] A survey of over 27,000 trans people reported that nearly one-third (29%) of respondents were living in poverty, more than twice the rate of the general U.S. adult population (14%). Among people of colour, Latino/a (43%), American Indian (41%), multiracial (40%), and Black (38%) respondents were most likely to be living in poverty. James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
[3] 15% of trans people surveyed were unemployed, three times the U.S. unemployment rate (5%). This was also higher among people of colour, with Middle Eastern (35%), American Indian (23%), multiracial (22%), Latino/a (21%), and Black (20%) respondents being more likely to be unemployed. Unemployment rates among Asian, multiracial, Latino/a, and Black respondents were between two and three times higher than Asian, Latino/a, multiracial, and Black people in the U.S. population. Ibid.
[4] For example, trans people in the US who had interacted with the police while doing sex work or police mistakenly thought they were doing sex work reported high rates of police harassment, abuse, or mistreatment, with nearly nine out of ten (86%) reporting being harassed, attacked, sexually assaulted, or mistreated in some other way by police. Ibid.