For the first time since his appointment, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called upon the Justice Department to fight back against hate crimes targeting transgender people. However, Sessions botched his commitment by using an antiquated term to describe the trans community.
During a Justice Department summit hosted on Thursday, Sessions said the department is committed to protecting transgender people through hate crime laws. He also noted that the Justice Department is investigating several transgender murder cases in order to confirm whether gender identity played a role in the killings.
“We have and will continue to enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered [sic] individuals are victims,” Sessions said, Politico reports. “I personally met with the department’s senior leadership and the civil rights division to discuss a spate of murders—a number of murders around the country of transgendered [sic] individuals.”
Sessions told attendees that the department will focus its full energy on prosecuting violent crimes, including hate crimes. And he gave praise to the country’s first federal hate crime sentencing for an anti-trans hate crime—a Mississippi man who was sentenced to 49 years for murdering his transgender ex-girlfriend.
However, Sessions needs to brush up on his terminology. “Transgendered” is considered improper by the trans community at large. At times “transgendered” can turn the word into a verb, or even imply that a person chose to become transgender. Most activists prefer the term “trans” or “transgender” used as an adjective—such as its use in “transgender woman”—because those terms are affirming in nature to trans people.
Of course, the LGBTQ community remains mixed on Sessions’ comments. While some activists were pleased to see Sessions’ verbal commitment, others criticized the attorney general for both his outdated choice in words and his prior actions while in office.
Sessions specifically mentioning hate crimes against the trans community is a good, and somewhat unexpected, sign. https://t.co/FMzRZEIT1m— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) June 29, 2017
5/ Sessions: "We have…enforce[d] hate crime laws aggressively…where transgendered individuals are victims." Not true. Also, cut the "ed"— Samantha Michaels (@sjmichaels) June 29, 2017
In the past, Sessions hasn’t been seen as much of an ally to the LGBTQ community. Sessions reportedly supported the Trump administration’s rescinding of trans antidiscrimination protections in education, ultimately supporting the push to remove the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleagues” guidelines. Sessions has also been criticized as one of the most anti-LGBTQ politicians in Trump’s cabinet, due to his long history of anti-LGBTQ sentiments.