Joe Biden, recognizing 2020 was the most violent year ever recorded against transgender and gender non-conforming people, said in a statement Friday evening the ongoing deaths are “unacceptable.”
“Violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, particularly Black and Brown transgender women, is an epidemic that needs national leadership,” Biden said.
Pointing out the tally of deaths for transgender and gender non-conforming people is 33 for 2020 alone, according to the Human Rights Campaign, Biden placed the blame squarely on the feet of President Trump.
“It’s unacceptable,” Biden said. “These deaths don’t exist within a vacuum. Dehumanizing government actions and rhetoric as well as a failure to address risk factors like domestic and intimate partner violence, underemployment and unemployment and poverty, housing insecurity and health disparities, put this community at risk.”
The most recently identified case of anti-transgender violence was the killing in Indiana of Sara Blackwood, who died Oct. 11 after being was shot while walking home, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Biden’s statement comes on the heels of recent ABC News town hall, when Biden took a question from the mother of a transgender child, Mieke Haeck, a physical therapist based in State College, Pennsylvania, on reversing Trump’s anti-transgender polices. When Biden, as he denounced anti-transgender violence, initially suggested the number of deaths this year alone was 17, the woman gestured to him it was much higher.
Biden in his statement echoes Haeck’s question, identifying the transgender military ban, weakening of non-discrimination policies and removal of the word transgender from government websites as among the current administration’s anti-transgender policies.
“From banning transgender patriots from serving their country, to attempting to limit transgender people’s access to health care in the midst of a pandemic, to literally erasing the word transgender from government websites, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have fueled the flames of transphobia in our nation while refusing to acknowledge the epidemic of violence,” Biden said in a statement.
A key component of Biden’s pledge to combat to anti-transgender violence was signing into law the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation that would expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Biden has previously said the Equality Act would be his No. 1. legislative priority he’d sign the bill into law within 100 days in office.
“My administration will enact the Equality Act to end legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, expand economic opportunities for LGBTQ+ people, reform our treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in our criminal justice system, ensure access to accurate identification documents, and improve government data collection to better track violence against the transgender community,” Biden said.
Biden, speaking before a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Columbus, Ohio, in 2019, has previously said anti-transgender violence “must end” and indicated that would happen if Trump were out of office.
“The fastest way to end it is to end the Trump administration,” Biden said at the time.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.