When a shooter opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, killing 49 people and wounding many more, he wasn’t just acting alone—he was inserting himself into a long, horrifying tradition of violence against LGBT people in America.
Despite the stunning growth of Americans’ acceptance of the LGBT community in recent decades, years worth of data on anti-LGBT violence prove that it remains unsafe to be gay in America.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), current data suggests that 20-25% of lesbian and gay people experience hate crimes within their lifetimes.
In 2014, the coalition published their latest report on violence against the LGBT community, using data collected from 16 NCAVP members and ally organizations across fourteen states. The organizations collected this information from survivors who contacted LGBTQ and HIV-affected anti-violence programs in person, by calling a hotline, or by making a report online.
Here were the group’s most striking findings:
Killings of LGBT people are rising
Reported homicides against the LGBT community have surged since 2007 (though this may be due in part to more robust reporting). Transgender women, LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color, and transgender people of color experienced a greater risk of homicide than other LGBTQ and HIV-affected people, the coalition said.
Queer people of color are especially at risk
People of color are massively overrepresented among victims of anti-LGBT violence. Latinx people made up 43% of survivors of anti-LGBT violence, while black LGBT people represented about 23% of survivors. These statistics likely understate the prevalence of attacks against them, given that white survivors are consistently the largest racial group that reports to NCAVP programs, the coalition says.
Among all groups, transgender people of color faced the most violence:
LGBT people face both physical and psychological violence
Physical violence tied with discrimination as the most common form of violence committed against LGBT people, with roughly 15% of respondents reporting experiencing one of the two types of discrimination.
Most attacks on LGBT people are from strangers
LGBT people are more likely to be attacked by people they don’t know. 56.78% of respondents to the NCAVP survey said that the violence they’d experienced came from an unknown offender. (This stands in contrast to violence against women, in which roughly 75% of lone-offender attacks come from people who were previously known to the women.)
Police don’t respond to anti-LGBT violence properly
Police response to anti-LGBT violence is extremely uneven, with a majority of respondents saying that law enforcement was “hostile” or “indifferent” to their claims of violence. That’s why nearly half of victims didn’t even bother to report their attacks to police in the first place. And even when they did, only a tiny sliver classified the reported attack as one of bias.
“LGBTQ people — particularly LGBTQ people of color, transgender and gender non-conforming people, and LGBTQ youth — are disproportionately targeted by the police and subjected to traumatizing forms of state violence,” the report says.
Anti-LGBT groups form a plurality of hate groups
The Southern Poverty Law Center has also documented the rise of anti-LGBT groups in recent years. Mostly fundamentalist religious groups, they now represent the largest share of defined hate groups they categorize.
The NCAVP says these data likely understates the problems the LGBT community faces. They note that the government’s principal data collectors, like the Census or the National Crime Victimization Survey, don’t ask questions on sexual orientation or gender identity. While the FBI does track hate crimes motivated by bias against sexual orientation, only 13% of participating local law enforcement agencies report hate crime data to the FBI.
Orlando may be a particularly LGBT-hostile city
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Orlando was recently ranked as the second-most anti-transgender location in America, as measured by tweets that contained slurs against transgender people.
The Orlando shooting is the deadliest mass shooting and largest-scale anti-LGBT crime in U.S. history. But the data show that LGBT people in America, no matter where they are, face a daily barrage of threats.