This Tuesday was the international Transgender Day of Remembrance, which exists in part to commemorate transgender murder victims around the world.
Some commentators have described an “epidemic of violence against trans people”.
Let’s take a look at the statistics.
How many trans people are there in the UK?
The latest government publication on the topic (acknowledging there is no robust data) “tentatively” estimates that there are between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people in the UK.
That includes the 4,910 people who have been given legal recognition of their change of sex in the form of a Gender Recognition Certificate as well as those who self-identify as transgender.
Using the government’s figures, we estimate that trans people make up between 0.3 per cent and 0.75 per cent of the UK population.
How many trans people are murdered in the UK?
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed to FactCheck that “it is not possible to identify transgender victims in current homicide statistics” and “the sex of a homicide victim is determined by the police force that records the crime”.
In other words, there is not yet an official, standardised method for recording the deaths of trans people across the UK. The ONS told FactCheck they are working across government to “develop clear harmonised standards” for collecting data on sex and gender.
But for now, we’ll have to use unofficial figures.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to use stats from the trans rights organisation, Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide. This is the source of figures often cited by trans campaigners.
So what does that data tell us?
The latest Transrespect report says there were 369 “reported murders of trans and gender-diverse people between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018” around the world.
Nearly half of those (167) took place in Brazil, and a further 28 were recorded in the United States.
According to these figures, there was one trans person murdered in the UK in that time, and a total of nine trans people were murdered in the UK between 2008 and 2017. That’s an average rate of one victim per year.
A back-of-envelope calculation based on this data would suggest that the average trans person has a one-in-200,000 to one-in-500,000 chance of being murdered in the UK over the course of a year.
How does that compare to the wider population?
Figures from the ONS for 2008 to 2017 show that the average adult in England and Wales has a one-in-100,000 chance of being murdered in a given year.
The limited data we’re working with suggests that in the UK at least, a trans person is less likely to be murdered than the average person. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the recorded number of trans murder victims is so small that it would only take one or two more murder cases every year for the UK “trans murder rate” to double or triple. And until new reporting methods come in, we are making this calculation based on unofficial figures. We should therefore be very wary of drawing firm conclusions.
What about other violence faced by trans people?
According to the latest Home Office figures, police recorded 1,651 hate crime offences against trans people in England and Wales in 2017-18. Nine per cent involved “violence against the person with injury” and a further 24 per cent involved “violence against the person without injury”.
On that basis, we calculate that the police recorded 545 violent hate crimes against trans people in England and Wales in 2017-18. Of those, 149 crimes resulted in injury.
But the true extent of trans hate crime is likely to be greater – according to the LGBT charity Stonewall, four in five trans people who experience hate crime don’t report it to the police.
At this point, we’d normally look to the ONS Crime Survey of England and Wales to get a more accurate picture. The Survey asks a representative sample of the population whether they’ve been the victim of crime, rather than relying on police records, and is generally preferred by statisticians for this reason.
But the ONS doesn’t publish specific figures on trans and non-binary victims of violent hate crime because the Crime Survey “generates very few cases of hate crimes against transgender individuals due to a small sample size. Releasing this information could be equivalent to releasing individual personal details which we are legally obliged not to do.”
So again, we have to rely on unofficial statistics – in this case, from Stonewall.
Violence against trans people isn’t confined to hate crime (where the victim’s trans status is recorded as an aggravating factor). If the Stonewall figures are reliable, it would seem trans people are at above-average risk of other types of violent crime.
The charity’s research reports that 19 per cent of trans people say they have experienced domestic abuse from a partner in the last year. That’s higher than the recorded rate of domestic abuse among the wider population – 7.9 per cent of women and 4.2 per cent of men, according to the latest ONS data. Although we should point out that the ONS believe their own figures may underestimate the true extent of domestic abuse.
Based on the unofficial figures we have available, it looks like an average of one trans person is murdered each year in the UK.
The limited data we’re working with suggests that in the UK at least, the “trans murder rate” is lower than the UK average.
But – again based on unofficial figures – it appears that trans people are more likely to experience other violent crimes, for example domestic abuse.
All of this is a best guess, not a firm conclusion: we don’t yet have a robust estimate of the total trans population of the UK, and the number of recorded trans murder victims is so small that it would only take one or two more cases every year for the “trans murder rate” to double or triple.
The Office for National Statistics say they are working on creating a standard process for recording violence against trans people.
Until we have those official statistics, we should handle the data we do have with care. Anyone that tells you this is clear-cut – on either side of this often vexed debate – is wrong.