Insider dedicated considerable resources and a large team of journalists to provide proof that homicides of transgender people are increasing as political attacks, anti-trans legislation and hate speech targeting the transgender community has escalated.
Because the FBI doesn’t track crimes by gender identity, the Insider team hand-built a national database of cases where transgender people were victims of homicide.
The database covered a five-year period and showed that between 2019 and 2021, the number of homicides of trans people had doubled. Only a few cases have led to murder convictions, and only three have resulted in hate-crimes charges. In all, during the period, the team identified 175 homicides that involved trans individuals.
In a majority of the cases, Insider found police investigations were hampered because they misgendered the victims. Insider’s reporting has led to prosecutors revisiting some of the homicide cases.
To create the database of transgender homicides, the Insider team devoted months researching and reading news reports from communities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The team also sent out hundreds of public record requests, including federal record requests to the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The journalists built the database using records obtained from police, prosecutors, coroners and courts.
Reporters gathered information including training materials provided to local law enforcement agencies, memos regarding homicide investigations of transgender individuals and investigative documents in cases where the FBI was involved.
Law enforcement officials refused to hand over investigative files in many of the cases. When they did comply, they provided initial police reports that contained scant information or turned over heavily redacted investigative records.
Insider leveraged the database to report in-depth on individual cases. The team investigated killings by law enforcement, hate crimes, intimate partner violence, the vulnerabilities of sex workers, unsolved cases, prosecutorial missteps, the troubled history of police and transgender communities and the lethal attack on Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2022.
Excellent storytelling brought the database reporting to life and drew attention to the ways transgender people are at higher risk for violent crime and face an uphill battle receiving justice. The team also told the powerfully emotional stories of families, chosen families and communities whose lives have been impacted by the violence. The reporting included interviews with friends, family, witnesses, jurors, judges, attorneys, law enforcement officials and advocates to determine what happened.
The Insider project has been widely cited by the media, advocates and elected officials, including The Marshall Project and the National Criminal Justice Association. It has been embraced by experts on anti-trans violence, who are using the findings to advocate for reform in the criminal justice system.