Friday, November 21, 2008

Remembrance: A just society protects ALL citizens, transgender or not

I'm late, but this Thursday that just ended 2 hours ago, was the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

On this Day, we remember all people who were murdered for being transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender variant. Any person who does not fit into the gender dichotmomy of "male or female" - those who look different - were targets or potential targets of people who think their "freaks". Unfortunately, the idea that trans people are "freaks" is an idea in most people's minds.

An idea or thought can never be eliminated from a head, but it can be re-cast alongside counter-thoughts when we consciously think about the obligation we have to treat EVERY person with an equal level of basic respect. A person can learn to think of transpeople as people, and thus deserving the same respect. But this requires a willingness to stay conscious of this thought, and many would care less to do that work.

Most of these uncaring people won't kill, but a few will. And sometimes you wonder how much less guilt these killers feel than they would for a non-transgender person. They feel less guilt because "everyone" thinks they're freaks. There will be far less outrage, and often an emotion that is grossly unusual for a tragic murder: joking. People will think its funny that the tranny got killed. This laughter would be far less likely to happen if the murder victim was non-transgender. Face it, people laugh at transgender people, and thus the murder of them is just another joke.

So why shouldn't murderers feel freer to kill these victims? We all know trans are jokes right? Stranging or shooting them shouldn't cause a fuss.

Let's look at some of these "humorous" murder victims:...

Nakia Ladelle Baker, Location: Nashville, Tennessee,
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma to the head, Date of Death: January 7, 2007

Keittirat Longnawa, Location: Rassada, Thailand
Cause of Death: Beaten by 9 Youths who then slit her throat, Date of Death: January 31, 2007

Moira Donaire, Location: ViƱa del Mar, Chile
Cause of Death: Stabbed 5 times by a street vendor, Date of Death: March 5, 2007

Michelle Carrasco “Chela”Location: Santiago, Chile
Cause of Death: She was found in a pit with her face completely disfigured. Date of Death: March 16, 2007

Ruby Rodriguez, Location: San Francisco, California
Cause of Death: She had been strangled and was found naked in the street. Date of Death: March 16, 2007

Erica Keel, Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cause of Death: A car repeatedly struck her. Date of Death: March 23, 2007

Bret T. TurnerLocation: Madison, Wisconsin
Cause of Death: Multiple stab wounds. Date of Death: April 2, 2007

Unidentified Male Clad in Female Attire, Location: Kingston, Jamaica
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds to the chest and lower back. Date of Death: July 7, 2007

Victoria Arellano, Location: San Pedro, California
Cause of Death: Denied necessary medications to treat HIV-related side effects. Date of Death: July 20, 2007

Oscar Mosqueda, Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
Cause of Death: Shot to death. Date of Death: July 29, 2007

Maribelle Reyes, Location: Houston, Texas
Cause of Death: AIDS; Reyes was turned away from several treatment centers due to her transgender status. Date of Death: August 30, 2007

11 murders, all in the first half of last year: Jan, March, April, July, August. There has to be more than 11 murders a year, right? How many more weren't on that list? How many this year? How many every year? How many in the years, decades, and centuries before the 70s/80s when the modern gay rights movement started?

How many more things happened when no one bothered to look or report the "incident"?

Jokes and murders aside, those with more civilized dispositions will still find reason, and advocate that reason, for leaving transgender people behind. That we found ourselves debating, for the upteeth time, at the last minute, whether or not to include trans people in the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) is evidence of how resistant the government is to take a stand for transgender people, even while promising a stand for gays and lesbians, who have long been viewed as a fifth wheel themselves. That Congress's greater pro-gay leanings STILL mean there's a mindset that says "no go for trans", shows how badly we turn our eyes away from the abuse, harassment, and terrorizing of transgender people in the workplace and the street.

Even GAY advocates will sometimes be less than understanding transgender people, even while defending them. Paul Varnell had written an op-ed "Death by Homophobia" about the murder of 14-year old Lawrence King by a classmate. While Paul is clearly condemning the murder, he also adds something which suggests that Lawrence's self-expression can be blamed for his murder:

--------"Nothing excuses the shooting of a gay youth. But young King, after all, dressed in a way that he knew created a hostile reaction. Teachers and counselors should have advised King that it is fine to be gay and self-expression has value, but that in the real world self-expression has to be combined with prudence and that his behavior and manner of dress created unnecessary hostility and risk. King was reportedly living in a foster home for abused children. But even there, someone should have advised against going to school dressed in a way that exposed him to harassment and made his life miserable.

Part of the problem is that King was apparently acting out his understanding of what it means to be gay. But I cannot think of any gay man I know who dresses in high-heeled boots, jewelry, painted fingernails and makeup. Where did King get the idea that that is the way to express being gay? You have to wonder if the gay community’s lionizing of drag queen entertainers promotes that perception.What King clearly needed was some other, less risky, ways to express his gayness."------

How do you judge Paul? He clearly wanted Lawrence to have kept himself safe. But how much is too much to ask of a person? What if instead of dressing up, someone had decided that merely admitting you were gay was "creating unnecessary hostility and risk"? Would it be right to advise Lawrence to claim he was straight? Is asking someone to hide their sexual orientation too much, but asking them to hide their gender expression fair to ask?

Paul seems to think so. And I'm sure he's not the only pro-gay gay person who thinks so. Any viewpoint or opinion will ALWAYS have some number of followers (though it might be 1% or far less).

So, even those gays who are advocating for gay rights, advocating for gay-straight alliances in school, even these gays, true fighters against homophobia, will have some who believe transgender people should be less visible than they believe the rest of humaniy, including them, should be.

We fail transgender people every day.

The fight against sexual and gender bigotry is a multi-front war. While monsters will gear the voting public to take away the right to marry, others will take away the right to live. And they'll do it with more comfort and less fear of getting caught BECAUSE they know we won't go out of our way to help "those people".

What should we do?

There's many things one can list, but for tonight, I'll list this. Support the two federal bills: Hate Crimes Act and Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).

And demand that they include gender identity as well as sexual orientation.

As the federal strategy rolls forward, these two bills will likely become re-introduced, as they were last year after Democrats took majority after 2006. We have better chances now, but we have to keep the phone call/email pressure on. I will bring word to you of what will happen, even as I wrestle with all the other issues in equality and choice, including Prop 8 and pro-choice legislation.

I will keep hunting for the path to Hate Crimes Law and ENDA becoming signed, with ALL included. And I will tell you...


Sue said...

This is wonderfully written and I think your main point needs to be restated. We fail trans people every day. And we do. We allow people to cut trans rights out of the equality discussion because it makes things to difficult, to complicated, because it isn't their turn yet.
And it's just not right.

H4736 said...

Thank you for your comments. Is there a part that should be stated differently? Move the "we fail" sentence higher up?

Sue said...

No, I think it's really well written. I just think it needs to be said more often in general.