Transphobic violence got less than an hour of news coverage in 2021 – the deadliest year on record

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TV news stations collectively spent less than 45 minutes covering horrific anti-trans violence despite 2021 being the deadliest year on record.

Tragically, at least 57 trans, non-binary or gender diverse people – many of them being trans people of colour – were violently killed in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). It was the deadliest year on record for the community since the HRC began tracking these horrific crimes in 2013. 

The American Medical Association has described the rising brutality amounts to an “epidemic of violence”. President Joe Biden vowed to “end this epidemic” back in 2020 to “ensure everyone can live open and proud and free from fear”. 

Despite this rise in violence, a new study from the media research centre Media Matters for America found that US broadcasters spent a collective total of 43 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021. 

This represented a 20 per cent drop in air time dedicated to covering the “epidemic of violence” when compared to 2020. In 2020, at least 44 trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming people died by violent means. 

The MMFA study analysed broadcasted new shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, SNN, Fox News and MSNBC between 1 January and 31 December 2021. It also looked at coverage of individual instances of violence as well as the overall “epidemic” of violence in the US.

The report found that news networks utterly “failed to adequately report on anti-trans violence in 2021” and only discussed this rise in cruelty in 19 segments – which amounted to only 43 minutes of coverage across all channels. 

“In addition to lethal attacks, trans people faced alarming rates of violence in the past year: they were sexually assaulted while incarcerated, stabbed, beaten at work and relentlessly attacked in public,” MMFA said. 

“Trans people are disproportionately vulnerable to violence due to discriminatory social factors, such as heightened barriers to accessing health care, stable housing and jobs.”

The MMFA report found that MSNBC accounted for more than two-thirds of this coverage with a total of 29 minutes spread across nine segments throughout the year. Every other network spent less than five minutes or less discussing these violent crimes. 

In comparison, MMFA reported that Fox News aired 86 segments about the trans community from 20 January – when Biden took office – through 18 March that was “primarily fear-mongering about trans athletes and lying about best practice healthcare for trans youth”. 

The study found that a majority of the TV news coverage of anti-trans violence didn’t include a trans person with only seven of the 19 segments featuring trans or gender non-conforming voices.

Just four of the 19 segments said the name of a trans person who was killed in 2021, and one CBS reporter deadnamed Nikki Kunhhausen, who was killed in 2019.

MMFA said it was “paramount” that TV news networks “produce accurate coverage about the record levels of anti-trans violence” and that the coverage “must actually feature” people from the community. 

“That TV news networks decreased the amount of coverage they dedicated to anti-trans violence at a time when right-wing voices are spreading anti-trans hate and encouraging the passage of discriminatory legislation is just one symptom of corporate TV news’ larger failure to adequately report on issues facing trans people,” the media monitoring organisation said. 

At least 14 trans, non-binary or gender diverse people have been killed in 2022 thus far. However, these crimes sadly go unreported or misreported so the true toll of this deadly streak of violence could be much higher. 

This had coincided with ring-wing media outlets, personalities and lawmakers launching hateful attacks against the LGBTQ+ community. 

Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ laws were debated in legislatures across the US, and many states passed legislation directly targeting how trans youth can access gender-affirming healthcare or even play sports