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Hate crimes against transgender people are spiking, data shows

A recent study by UCLA law school found, transgender people are four times more likely than anyone else to experience violent victimization, like rape or assault.

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. — According to the FBI, hate crimes against the transgender community have skyrocketed over the past two years.

KING 5's Facing Race team has been looking into what’s behind the spike in violence, and how it’s impacting local families.

To Craig and Deborah Martinez of Maple Valley, the park by their home isn’t just a green space they pass by every day, it’s a crime scene.

“I don't really want to go by there because I know… I know she'll be dead,” said Craig Martinez. “This is where he murdered our daughter.”

Zoey Martinez, 20, was murdered at Belmond’s Reach Park on Aug. 31, 2021.

Jacaree Hardy, 23, is awaiting trial for her murder.

Zoey Martinez's death came just four years after she came out as transgender.

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“Zoey just got up and told everybody that she wanted to be called Zoella and she didn't want to be called Zach no more,” said Craig Martinez. “She was strong and she didn't let nobody say anything, and everybody was like, ‘OK’.”

Zoey’s parents were supportive but they worried.

“If you're not following what everyone else is following, they want to get rid of you," said Craig Martinez. "And how they deal with that in our society is murder, and they want to murder these people."

“I had a lot of shame around it, I didn't want to be trans, I didn't want to transition,” said Jesse Alalawi, an advocate at Peer Seattle, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit.

Alalawi said the risk of violence was the first thing she learned about being a transgender woman.

“The people that I saw that were representing being trans in the early 2000s were made fun of or beaten, or used for sex,” said Alalawi.

A recent study by UCLA law school found transgender people are four times more likely than anyone else to experience violent victimization- like rape or assault.

A nationwide trend

According to FBI data, the number of hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community has decreased in recent years, but hate crimes against the transgender community jumped 41% from 2019 to 2020.

“They’re your neighbors, they're just people,” said Craig Martinez. “It shouldn't be like this, because somebody is a certain way.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 was also the deadliest year on record for the transgender community, with at least 47 murders reported nationwide.

Zoey Martinez’s murder was the second to take place in Washington last year. But experts say, those statistics don’t capture the full extent of the issue.

“There's definitely an underreporting of trans violence or trans harassment or hate crimes," said Alalawi. "There is a big distrust within the trans population and the police."

Alalawi believes the spike in violence mirrors an increase in controversial political rhetoric around LGBTQ+ issues, like the so-called "Don’t Say Gay" bill recently passed in Florida.

“The bill prohibits classroom instruction about sexuality or things like 'transgender' in K-3 classrooms,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, at the bill signing earlier this year.

“When the public see our leaders not accepting your community, people are more likely to not accept that community,” said Alalawi.

“It's something different. And they can't take it. They don't want to take it,” said Craig Martinez.

Alalawi points out that the community is also disproportionately plagued with a myriad of other disparities.

“We have the highest rate of poverty, of HIV, of sex work, homelessness, the lowest life expectancy of any group of individuals… even more so for trans women of color,” said Alalawi.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 84% of violence against the transgender community is targeted toward trans people of color, specifically trans women.

“We're all human. We all are just trying to live our lives,” said Alalawi. “It's okay not to have the same opinions as someone else. But that doesn't negate their life.”

Back in Maple Valley, the Martinez family flipped through a photo book showcasing Zoey Martinez’s transforming appearance.

“She started taking pictures of herself more because I think she liked herself where she was going with this,” said Craig Martinez, pointing out his daughter's various style choices and the reasons behind them.

As they await justice, Zoey Martinez’s family grieves not just the son they raised, but the beautiful daughter who was just beginning to blossom.

“This is really tough. I mean, I'll never get through it. You know, [it’s] a wound that never heals. This is one of them,” said Craig Martinez.

Transgender wellness and health resources

Youth resources: 

Health resources: 

Legal resources: 

Other resources: 

Seattle resources: 

Transgender Lifeline

A hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to respond to whatever support needs members of our community might have.

US: 877-565-8860
Canada: 877-330-6366
Website: www.translifeline.org 

Sexual assault and domestic violence support services: 

The Northwest Network

Main Services: Support groups, safety and support planning, basic legal advocacy and advocacy-based counseling. The NW Network offers emergency and ongoing advocacy-based counseling centered on survivors’ choices and self-determination. They work to create a supportive space for survivors to decrease isolation, understand the dynamics of abuse, heal from trauma, increase skills and build self-esteem on the road to creating the lives and relationships they want.

Resources and Referrals

From housing, food banks and legal assistance to mental health programs and LGBT social support groups, NW Network advocates connect survivors and their families with the resources that meet their unique needs.

Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
P.O. Box 18436 Seattle, WA 98118
Phone: +1 206-568-7777
Fax: 206-325-2601
Email: info@nwnetwork.org

Asian Counseling and Referral Services

Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization working for social justice and offering a broad array of behavioral health programs, human services and civic engagement activities for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other communities in King County and beyond.

Monday to Friday: 8 am to 6 pm
3639 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S, Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 695-7600 | In inclement weather, call (206) 774-2417 for hours. (206) 695-7606 | TTY: (800) 833-6384 (WA Relay)

Consejo Counseling and Referral Service

Consejo’s domestic violence program provides quality intervention, prevention, and outreach services for non- or limited English-language proficient Latino survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes.

3808 S Angeline St. Seattle WA, 98118
Tel: 206-461- 4880
Fax: 206-461- 6989

General Support, transitioning guidelines, medical providers:

Ingersoll Gender Center

Ingersoll Gender Center is a mutual support and education organization for transgender, trans*, gender variant and genderqueer people, and the people who support them.

Support Group:  Every Wednesday from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m., Ingersoll holds our "All-Trans," peer-facilitated support group at the offices of Seattle Counseling Services, located at 1216 Pine Street, Suite 300. There is no cost for this group, but donations are encouraged to help supplement program expenses. Groups are always drop-in, there is no need to RSVP.

In addition to the Wednesday support group, a Saturday Social Group is also available. This group meets at noon on Saturdays at the Ingersoll Gender Center Trans* Space, located on the lower floor of 517 E Pike Street in Seattle, and is a time for socializing and getting to know other community members.

Transitioning guidelines: http://ingersollcenter.org/transitioningguidelines
Database for Medical Providers: https://ingersollgendercenter.org/ingersoll-directory/

517 E Pike Street, lower floor Seattle, WA 98122
Email: info@ingersollgendercenter.org
Office: 206-849-7859

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