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Little news coverage given to anti-LGBTQ violence, despite increasingly deadly toll

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Protesters in Berlin rally against homophobia and anti-gay laws. (Marco Fieber/Flickr)

Despite growing violence against queer and trans people, in 2017 cable and broadcast TV only discussed anti-LGBTQ violence 22 times, according to a study published Thursday by the progressive watchdog Media Matters, a Washington-based nonprofit.

"Even as anti-LGBTQ murders went up 86 percent in 2017, broadcast and cable news vastly under-covered both the individual instances and the trend of anti-LGBTQ violence this year," said Brennan Suen, Media Matters' LGBTQ program director in a statement. "This increase in anti-LGBTQ violence is not happening in a vacuum. As LGBTQ rights are chipped away by the Trump administration, the community is being assaulted and killed at alarming rates. Broadcast and cable news must do a better job at identifying these disturbing trends."

Across the seven networks examined by Media Matters – CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co – and over the entire course of 2017, anti-LGBTQ violence was discussed for a total of 39 minutes and 36 seconds. Of any broadcast or cable network, Fox News spent the most time covering the issue.

More than half of this coverage focused on deaths of two specific LGBTQ individuals. Twenty one-year-old Scout Schultz, who identified as bisexual, nonbinary, and intersex and preferred using they/them pronouns, was shot and killed by Georgia Tech campus police in September of last year. In a video, police officers repeatedly asked Schultz to drop the knife they were carrying; Schultz, who had left several suicide notes behind in their dorm room, continued to advance as they told the officers to “Shoot me!” 

The other case was that of Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old teenager found dead in a Burlington, Iowa alley in March 2016. Johnson, who according to his family exclusively used male pronouns but sometimes liked to “cross-dress,” was killed while he was in women’s clothing. The case gained national attention after US Attorney Jeff Sessions sent a trial attorney to assist in charging the defendants with hate crimes. In November, a jury found 23-year-old Jorge Sanders-Galvez guilty of murder, after he and a friend were said to pick Johnson up for sex only to discover Johnson wasn’t a cisgender woman.

As the deaths of Schultz and Johnson indicate, not everyone in the LGBTQ community is equally at risk of facing deadly violence. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a New York-based advocacy organization, of the 52 LGBTQ people killed in 2017, 27 identified as transgender or gender nonconforming, and 22 were transgender women of color.

Transgender women are also at greater risk of violence than their cisgender peers. “Transgender women are estimated to face more than four times the risk of becoming homicide victims than the general population of all women,” assessed the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition in a recently published report.  

Thus far in 2018, at least six transgender women have been killed.

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