Content provided by ClaireOverThere and republished with permission. To read more of Claire Kohner’s writing, visit clairekohner.wordpress.com.
On September 27, 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would eliminate the “trans-panic” or “gay-panic” defense to seek a reduced sentence for murder or assault against the LGBT community. AB-2501 specifically states, “the provocation was not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation…”
The new law no longer allows a defendant to use transphobia or homophobia as a reason to seek reduced sentences for murder or assault. This also makes California the first state in the nation to eliminate the “panic” defense and paves the way for additional states to take similar action. Minnesota, I’m looking at you.
Why is this a big deal? According to the Tran-violence Tracking Portal, a transgender person is “400 times more likely to be assaulted or murdered” than the general population while only making up less than 2% of the total population. Year to date 2014, there have been more than 45 acts of violence in the United States against a person who is transgender, with June being a particularly brutal month:
In May, two trans women were attacked on Atlanta’s MARTA while witnesses filmed the assault and laughed and taunted the victims. One of the victims stated, “Nobody tried to help. They were all standing up on chairs videotaping,”
June: Tiffany Edwards 24 shot, Earlier this month, Zoraida Reyes of California, Kandy Hall of Maryland, and Yaz’min Shancez of Florida were all found dead and local police have ruled all of these deaths homicides. Yaz’min Shancez’s body was riddled with bullet holes and partially burned.
June 14 Baltimore City a trans woman was found dead in an alley in a pool of blood.
Sept 2014 North Memphis: Police identified Alejandra Leos, A transgender woman was murdered just steps away from her home in north Memphis.
Oct 2014 in Australia, a chef murdered his transgender partner before chopping her up and putting her in a cooking pot
These are only a small slice of the incidences against people who are transgender. Reports of rape, harassment, verbal and emotional abuse, cyber-bullying as well as physical violence can often go unreported by the victim, or by the authorities refusing to take a report. As a trans woman, I am no stranger to cyber bullying.
The constant meme of the trans women being “a man in a dress” continues to be perpetuated in the media and used as comedic fodder for people like Ray Jessel where on the America’s Got Talent, he cheerfully sang “What She’s Got (The Penis Song). Again, the trans community was labeled as “too sensitive” and told “it’s only a joke, get over it” What’s not a joke is that intolerance against the trans community also seems to be on the rise. Three high profile anti-transgender rants portraying people who are transgender, as either too sensitive or as something less than a person that can be abused, have been published in the last 3 months.
In August, an essay titled “Transphobia is Perfectly Natural” was published in Thought Catalog by Vice Co-Founder Gavin McInnes. Now removed from the site and labeled as “Hateful and Abusive”, Gavin McInness was put on indefinite leave later that month for his transphobic rant. The essay included lines like, “We see there are no old trannies. They die of drug overdoses and suicide way before they’re 40 and nobody notices because nobody knows them.”, “These aren’t women trapped in a man’s body. They are nuts trapped in a crazy person’s body,” and finally, “They are mentally ill gays who need help, and that help doesn’t include being maimed by physicians.”
This last week, the NY Times ran an article titled, “When Women Become Men at Wellesley”, a piece explaining the dilemma at an all-woman’s college faces when their female students transition to male [FTM]. The article goes on to say that although trans men [woman who identify as male] are allowed to attended Wellesley, trans women [men who identify as female] are not able to attend. Academia seems to be perpetuating the patriarchy that trans men are men [which is true], but trans women are also men [untrue]. The difference? Trans men were raised as “biological” females while trans woman were raised as “biological” men, therefore, trans women are men.
Brendan O’Neill of The Spectator UK recently wrote an article titled, “Now it’s the tranny-state.” The T-word, considered a slur in the transgender community, was tossed around like a volleyball. The article began, “Why are trannies so touchy?” he continues, “No matter how many attractive-sounding words get attached to transgenderism, there’s no escaping the fact that it is, at heart, a desire for physical mutilation to try to fix a profound personal identity crisis. And that, in my view, is not positive or healthy.”
What’s not positive or healthy are articles of intolerance, hate, and a fear of what society does not know about the transgender community. Often the ‘T’ has been silent in the LGBT movement and it’s time the media, and the LGBT community as a whole, begins to recognize that their minimization of our community, particularly MTF transgender people, is nothing more than acceptance of the violence and a permission slip to continue.