How the media reports on murders of the transgendered – and how it conflicts with the data

How the media reports on murders of the transgendered – and how it conflicts with the data

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The following post is about news media reporting and how public perception is influenced. This post is not about the transgender community. All murders are wrong, period. Violence and hate are wrong, period.

News Reports

Time Magazine: Two recent murders of black trans women in Texas reveal a nationwide crisis, advocates say

ABC News: Not enough “outrage” in wake of rampant anti-transgender murders: Activists

The ABC web page meta tag does even further, labeling this an ‘Epidemic’

<meta name="fb_title" content="'Epidemic' of violence against transgender people sparks call for action" />

Human Rights Campaign: A national epidemic: Fatal anti-transgender violence in America in 2018

What does the data say about this?

Here is the count of murdered transgendered from either HRC or GLAAD.

  • 2015: 21
  • 2016: 23 or 27 (GLAAD)
  • 2017: 29
  • 2018: 26
  • 2019: 18 through early September, if we assume a random distribution during the year, this leads to an estimate of about 24 in 2019.

Using the GLAAD estimate of 27 for 2016:

Same as above but using the HRC estimate of 23 for 2016:

From the data itself, the number of transgendered who are murdered is nearly constant from 2015 to 2019 and possibly declining. The number of murdered in early years, was smaller, such as 12. The change in numbers may indicate a change in data collection. HRC hypothesizes that “Some victims’ deaths may go unreported, while others may not be identified as transgender in the media, often because authorities, journalists and/or family members refuse to acknowledge their gender identity.” Their hypothesis is that the number is not accurately counted (a reasonable assumption), although it would likely be inaccurately counted in the same way for each of the years 2015-2019 shown above.

How does this murder rate compare to the general population?

How many transgender people are there in the U.S.? The estimates range from 0.3% or 700,000 to 1.4 million. GLAAD claims that 12% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBTQ and in 2017, 3% of the U.S. population identified as transgender or 9.9 million people.

According to Census.gov, the U.S. population is approximately 330 million as of September 2019.

Using those figures, the murder rate for the transgender community in 2018 (26 people) is approximately:

  • At 700,000:  0.00371%
  • At 1,400,000: 0.00186%
  • At 9,900,000: 0.000262% (about 10x smaller)

According to the CDC, the number of homicides in the U.S. was 19,510 in 2017. The total population in 2017 was approximately 326 million. Thus, the overall homicide rate in the U.S. in 2017 was:

  • Overall homicide rate in 2017: 0.006%

Based on the available data the murder rate for the transgender community is one quarter to one half that of the U.S. population as a whole – or using GLAAD’s population estimate, less than 1/10th that of the overall population.

HRC implies the murder rate must be (or should be) worse and hypothesizes that transgender murders are undercounted (which is not an unreasonable assumption). The lower murder rate could also suggest that the estimate of the number of transgendered is too high as well.

Regardless, based on actual data, the news media reporting is not supported by available data.

The GLAAD estimate that 3% of the population is transgender yields a murder rate less than 1/10th of the U.S. population. This is a strong indicator that their 3% estimate is significantly over estimated the correct number.

Propaganda

This type of reporting is extremely common where unusual events and extreme events get the focus in media reporting. Is there propaganda involved? Both HRC and GLAAD have incentives (fundraising, political power) to make a bona fide and serious problem appear worse than it may be. The above news reports are based on press releases and studies from such groups. Reporters have a responsibility to note when their data comes from an activist group but they seldom do that. “Studies” from special interest groups and their press releases to the media are a primary conduit for propaganda messaging.

Reporters and editors have a responsibility to go through the numbers with a fine tooth comb. They can still report on the above, but should note that some of the claims may not be supported by data. Unfortunately, “news” often skips accuracy in favor of sensationalism and their minds go numb at the sight of numbers.

Note

Merely for noting the difference between the reporting and the data, I will likely be branded a Nazi and an LGBTQ hater or some such. For the record, as a former manager, I hired and worked side by side with many gay and lesbian technical staff. I regularly had lunch with the president of our company’s gay and lesbian employee group (a friend) and have kept in touch with several of those who I used to work with. I had a relative die of AIDS. I have a nephew-in-law who is gay. When I lived in the Seattle area in the now distant past, I was a volunteer with a group doing fundraising to fight HIV/AIDS. Please don’t make incorrect assumptions and resort to name calling.

Again: All murders are wrong, period. Violence and hate are wrong, period. Meanness is wrong.

I strongly discourage anyone from anyone using the above information as anti-gay or anti-transgender messaging. That is not the point of this post.

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