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Biden at town hall: There should be 'zero discrimination' against trans people

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden addressed the startling number of trans women of color killed this year.

By Casey Quinlan - October 16, 2020
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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden denounced the recent killings of transgender women of color during an ABC News town hall on Thursday.

At least 33 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in 2020 so far — the highest number of fatal attacks against transgender people recorded since the Human Rights Campaign started tracking them in 2013.

Most of the victims were Black and Latinx transgender women.

Biden’s remarks were spurred by a question from a Pennsylvania woman who has a transgender daughter. The mother, Mieke Haeck, asked Biden what he would do for transgender equality.

“My youngest daughter is transgender,” Haeck told the Democratic presidential nominee. “The Trump administration has attacked the rights of transgender people, banning them from military service, weakening nondiscrimination protections, and even removing the name transgender from some government websites. How will you, as president, reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda and ensure the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected under U.S. law?”

“I would flat out just change the law and eliminate those executive orders, number one,” Biden responded.

He went on to speak about the violence and discrimination transgender people often face.

“The idea that an eight-year-old child or 10-year-old decides, you know, ‘I want to be transgender. That’s what I think I’d like to be. It would make my life a lot easier.’ There should be zero discrimination,” Biden said. “And what’s happening is too many transgender women of color are being murdered. They’re being murdered.”

At first, Biden said he thought 17 transgender people had been killed in the United States this year, but said he wasn’t sure if it was the correct number. Haeck then gestured that the number is higher.

“It’s higher now? And that’s just this year,” Biden said.

At a second town hall hosted by NBC News on Thursday night, Trump was not asked a single question about the LGBTQ community. The advocacy group GLAAD called NBC’s oversight a “shame and a disservice,” while praising ABC’s town hall with Biden.

“It is a shame and a disservice that President Trump was not asked about his abysmal record on LGBTQ issues and national media needs to end this silence moving forward,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “LGBTQ voters and our allies make up a powerful voting bloc and deserve to know where the candidates stand.”

Advocacy groups have been pushing for more debate questions that focus on LGBTQ equality. Earlier this month, 13 LGBTQ and progressive advocacy groups sent a letter to vice presidential debate moderator Susan Page asking her — to no avail — to press Vice President Mike Pence on his anti-LGBTQ record. Pence did not have to answer for his record on LGBTQ rights during the 2016 vice presidential debate, either.

Unlike Pence, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has made a point to talk about violence against transgender women. In 2017, she tweeted that the chance of a young Black trans woman being killed is 1 in 2,600, compared to 1 in 12,000 for young adults and 1 in 19,000 for the general population, according to an article from Mic.

During the Democratic presidential primary, candidates talked about the discrimination LGBTQ people face, including violence against transgender Americans.

“We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially African American trans Americans and the incredibly high rates of murder right now,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said at a Democratic debate last year. “We need to have a president who will fight [for] and protect LGBTQ Americans every single day from violence.”

Last year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) brought national attention to the death of Layleen Cubilette-Polanco, an Afro-Latinx trans woman who died from an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement at Rikers Island jail in New York. In June, newly released video footage from the jail showed that after Cubilette-Polanco’s seizure, guards tried to wake her for roughly an hour and a half before they called for help. Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of New York and several Rikers employees.

“Let’s be clear. Layleen Cubilette-Polanco should still be alive,” Warren tweeted last year. “Solitary confinement is cruel and inhumane. We must end this practice, enforce strict standards for medical care, and provide extra layers of protection for LGBTQ+ people.”

Donald Trump has remained silent on the violence against transgender women of color. In the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 presidential election, the Trump campaign has hosted LGBTQ “outreach” events — while failing to acknowledge the Trump administration’s 181 attacks on the LGBTQ community.

The so-called “Trump Pride” coalition claims that Trump is supportive of the LGBTQ community, and that he is the “most pro-gay president ever.” In reality, the administration has moved forward with rules that enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the cover of “religious freedom.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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