KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wednesday marks the last day of Pride Month, a time of protest and celebration for the LGBTQ+ community. It's also a time for reflection, both on the progress made and on the violence and discrimination that remains.
Hate crimes in the U.S. reached the highest level in more than a decade in 2019, the most recent year for which FBI data is available.
One in five reported incidents was motivated by sexual orientation, gender identity or gender bias, according to that data.
However, advocates said those statistics barely scratch the surface of a deeper problem.
"When it comes to the legal burdens to prove a hate crime, they're really difficult to overcome," said James Moran, education and policy coordinator for the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (KCAVP). "You have to prove motivation. There are also instances where you have to prove the perpetrator and victim were completely unknown to each other."
As a KCAVP staff member, Moran has followed the tragic trend of violence against LGBTQIA individuals in the metro. Summer 2019 stands out as one of the most deadly for the metro's queer community, according to Moran.
"In a period of two months, I attended four different memorial services," he said.
Brooklyn Lindsey, a black transwoman, was shot and killed in June. Then, in September, Jamagio Jamar Berryman, who identified as gender nonconforming, was gunned down. Shortly after, Brianna Hill, a black transwoman, was fatally shot.
"Unfortunately that trend is not improving," Moran said.
Moran and other advocates are particularly concerned about the uptick in violence against Black transpeople. Since 2013, when the Human Rights Campaign began tracking that violence, 230 trans and gender nonconforming people have been killed.
Black transgender women represent 64% of known victims.
"That particular intersection and part of your identity can, for many of us, put us at greater risk for violence, certainly for other issues in society," said Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative.
Already in 2021, the HRC has reported at least 29 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been fatally shot or killed by other means. In 2020, the organization reported at least 44 deaths, the most on record since HRC began tracking those crimes in 2013.
"With greater visibility has come this increased hatred from folks who don't even know us," Cooper said, "and it just doesn't make any sense."
Moran echoed that sentiment, pointing to a rise in political rhetoric targeting transgender people.
He cited legislation proposed in Jefferson City and Topeka that would limit treatments for transgender youth and ban trans athletes from girls teams.
"The kind of misinformation that's being peddled about transgender people and transgender youth is not doing us any favors," Moran said. "If these measures do pass, we're sending the message that transgender people are lesser than, that they're not worthy of care or protection or participation or rights, and that contributes to violence."
Still, Moran said he is optimistic about the conversations happening on a national level.
Cooper, too, said she believes things can and will get better if more people recognize the humanity of those in the LGBTQIA community.
"I know that every day, every month, every year, every Pride month, nontrans people meet, see or learn about somebody who's trans that they didn't know before," she said, "And when folks get to know us and see that we are real and become friendly with us, then suddenly it breaks some of the misconceptions they have about who trans people are and how we live."
The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project offers free training to organizations, companies and classrooms to educate people about the LGBTQIA community and the violence members face.
In addition, KCAVP has a group for queer youth and allies that meets from 5-8 p.m. on Mondays at 31 West 31st Street #13 in Kansas City, Missouri.