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Violence Against Transgendered Persons: An Unrecognized Problem (1992)

Violence Against Transgendered Persons: An Unrecognized Problem (1992)

©1992, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1982). Violence against transgendered persons: An unrecognized problem. Press Release, American Educational Gender Information Service, Inc., Decatur, GA.





In 1991 and 1992 the nonprofit American Educational Gender Information Service campaigned against violence toward transgendered and transsexual people. This was years before Remembering our Dead and the Day of Remembrance. No one was talking about the problem. We did.


Violence Against Transgendered Persons

A Statement of an Unrecognized Problem

And Some Suggestions For the City of Atlanta

By Dallas Denny

American Educational Gender Information Service, Inc.


Violence against transgendered persons is a largely unrecognized problem in Atlanta and throughout the nation. The murders of three transgendered citizens and the attempted murder of the fourth in the fall of 1991, and the murders of two more transgendered citizens in the fall of 1992 have focused media attention on what so far been an unrecognized problem. We believe it is time for the problem to be recognized and addressed by the city of Atlanta.

We have discovered that transgendered persons are routinely being found murdered in major cities throughout our nation. The numbers are large, but the transgendered population is small, suggesting disproportionate violence against transgendered persons.

The problem is compounded by the ignorance and misconceptions of police officers and others, who do not understand what transgendered people are like, or worse, who have inaccurate notions of what they are like. Few transgendered persons are flamboyant. Few are prostitutes. Few frequent bars. Most are law abiding citizens who mind their own business: they are airline pilots, engineers, physicians, attorneys, bank clerks, psychologists, businessmen, businesswomen.

Violence against any faction of society is violence against the entire society. People do not wear placards proclaiming their gender status. When transgendered persons are assaulted and murdered on the streets of Atlanta, then nontransgendered persons, especially those who do not present as rigid stereotypes of men and women– female athletes, persons from other countries, artists, musicians, actors, men with long hair, women with short hair, and others– are in danger also.

In a decade in which the diversity of Atlanta can only increase, the city must take special precautions to protect its citizens and visitors. Violence is not good for business, especially in The City Too Busy Too Hate.

We commend the mayor and city council for their efforts to protect our citizenry, but believe that there is need for improvement. Following are our suggestions to the city of Atlanta for dealing with this problem.

1. Public Statements: We recommend that the mayor and the city council make a public statement deploring violence against all citizens of and visitors to Atlanta, and stating that such violence will not be tolerated.

2. Public Report: We recommend that a written report of the murders and other violence against transgendered persons be prepared and made available to the public.

3. Consideration of Serial Killer Hypothesis: We recommend that the Atlanta police department consider the possibility that violence against transgendered persons is being done on an organized basis in the United States, and that a serial killer may be operating in multiple areas.

4. National Survey of Violence Against Transgendered Persons: We recommend that the Atlanta police department take the initiative to survey the police departments in other major American cities, querying them about violence against and murders of transgendered persons, and positing the question: “Do you think that a serial killer could be in operation here?” We would like for the results of this survey to be made public within six months.

5. Sensitivity Training: We recommend that existing sensitivity training for officers of the Atlanta police department be augmented by material about the diversity of the population of Atlanta, with emphasis on the needs and characteristics of the many factions of the community: women, persons with physical handicaps, the mentally retarded, gays and lesbians, the foreign-born, transgendered persons, persons of different races. We further recommend that sensitivity training be extended not only to police officers, but to all city employees.


We cannot overstress the need for education of city employees. Training can help police officers and others make accurate spot-judgements and good decisions when under pressure, and can alleviate overreaction and abuse of innocent citizens. For example, a mentally retarded man was recently beaten by police officers. This man had the easily recognizable stigmata of Down syndrome. If the officers in question had been sensitized properly, they would have recognized that the man was mentally retarded and probably would have reached a different decision for action.

We would be happy to work with other factions of the community and with the city to prepare a gender sensitivity training program, or to help in any other way which would help to ensure that all of Atlanta’s citizens and visitors will not be the victims of violent attacks.