Safety planning ahead of LGBTQ events is a tragic necessity

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category icon Editorials, Opinion

Community news journalists are well-versed in the issue of safety planning. We talk about it in relation to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. We write about it when covering issues related to domestic violence and the hardships people face when confronted with statistics that they are more likely to be murdered by an enraged and unstable romantic partner after they decide to leave. And we talk about it every time there is a mass shooting at a school, movie theater or nightclub.

But there’s nothing “usual” about discussing safety planning in relation to a daytime community event being held at the local library.

So when Paul Iarrobino, founder of the LGBTQ storytelling group Our Bold Voices, brought it up over coffee, it struck this journalist as a sad reminder that feeling safe in an everyday place like the Camas library isn’t a given for many members of our community.

The discussion about safety wasn’t too surprising, though. After all, the statistics surrounding violence against LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people have been growing over the past few years and show no signs of slowing down.

In June, USA Today reported that recent FBI data shows violent crimes against members of the LGBTQ community have been on the rise since 2014, with 1,130 incidents — the majority of them targeting gay men — reported between 2014 and 2017.

The article cites LGBTQ advocates who blame the Trump administration’s actions and words for the increase in homophobic and transphobic violence.

“After Trump’s election, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country, including incidents targeting the LGBTQ community and people of color,” the article states. “In 2017, the president announced on Twitter he would be banning transgender people from the military. At an annual National Prayer Breakfast (in) February, Trump defended a state-funded Michigan adoption agency’s efforts to ban gay and lesbian couples from adopting children.”

Robin Maril, associate legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, told USA Today: “The level of discourse that we are getting from the Trump administration and leadership only hurts our community, only hurts trans people. It gives a sense of impunity and a license to harm folks.”

And the murder rate for transgender women of color in the United States is truly frightening. The New York Times reported on Sept. 27 that: “In the United States this year, at least 18 transgender people — most of them transgender women of color — have been killed in a wave of violence that the American Medical Association has declared an ‘epidemic.’ The killings, which have been reported across the country, have for some prompted a heightened sense of vigilance.”

Many transgendered people, especially those of color, report they no longer feel safe in many public settings.

That type of fear can be incredibly isolating. And isolation is the last thing we should want for our transgender children, who already face a greatly increased risk of suicide and self-harming behaviors — according to the nonprofit Trevor Project, “transgender youth reported significantly increased rates of depression, suicidality and victimization compared to their cisgender peers” and one in three trangender youth reported attempts to take their own lives in 2018.

Those statistics on suicide and self-harming among young transgendered folks are one of the reasons it’s crucial that groups like Our Bold Voices share their stories of coming out — and of finding love and acceptance in the world — in communities like Camas, Washougal, Battle Ground and other areas that may still be lagging behind when it comes to LGBTQ resources and acceptance rates.

The Our Bold Voices presentations planned for National Coming Out Month in Clark County are geared toward families and youth. We can only hope local law enforcement (or those tasked with ensuring safety protocols at the Camas library and Battle Ground High School) will take into account the very real risks LGBTQ folks face every single day and be vigilant about ensuring the safety of the Our Bold Voices panelists — as well as their supporters in the audience — before, during and after the events.

~ Kelly Moyer, managing editor