It’s not really “murder” if the victim is disposable.
That’s the theme that keeps resurfacing when trans panic defenses are used to effectively stave off any chance of serious sentencing for the murder of a woman who happens to have a penis or a man who happens to have a vagina. We’re supposed to accept that the victim was asking for it, or even maliciously deceiving people in such a way as to deserve the outcome.
In watching comments to the Angie Zapata murder trial (yes, I know she was the victim, but she also appears to be the person on trial), Zoe Brain observes:
This is a paraphrase of some comments being made at one of many locations where the trial — said to be the first in North America to test hate crimes law protections of transgender people — is being reported.
The defense is in full swing, painting the killer, Ray Allen Andrade, as the victim of deception, complete with insistently referring to Angie by her previous male name. After all, to the public and to a jury, it becomes completely understandable that a heterosexual man would explode and kill someone for being in an intimate encounter and then be discovered to be transsexual. Perfectly excusable.
Except that there’s more to the story. In the two days before her murder, Andrade reportedly accompanied Angie to a court hearing in which her previous male name was used. She reportedly always disclosed to her dates that she was trans, and the two met on the Bisexual part of Mocospace. There was much fanfare made of the breast gels inventoried from the murder scene (to highlight the “deception”), but I can testify that even in the mildest of intimate encounters, it’s hard to keep those from being obvious. And then, there is the matter of DNA belonging to Andrade collected from a pink vibrator — the defense has tried to say that this DNA could come from sweat from a person’s hands, but the DNA analyst stated that the amount collected could only come from semen (which they later ruled out), vaginal secretions, or through anal penetration.
But you know, he still must have had no idea, to react like that, right?
Something I have experienced in dating, both before my transition in homosexual encounters and since my transition as a trans female, is how sometimes partners who you don’t really know and who are fully aware of what they’re doing can sometimes become volatile in an instant. The most likely time for this is right after orgasm, after the head clears and a person settles into a moment of awareness. Those people who aren’t so comfortable with the possibility that they might be gay (bi?) or that they suddenly don’t consider their partner a “real woman” can do a 180 degree spin on you in the bedroom, and some girls (and guys, although it doesn’t happen as often to transmen) experience this in the form of violence. I’ve been lucky, and only experienced this in the form of the sudden onset of loathing, spite, aloofness and hostility, although part of being lucky has probably had to do with recognizing when there was a danger, and knowing how to carefully negotiate my way out of the room / situation. And having those things certainly doesn’t necessarily guarantee a safe outcome.
The ongoing trial may or may not give us a clear picture of what really happened that morning. So far, it looks like the only thing Angie has to tell her story is a pink vibrator. And, well, the truth may not be relevant when the victim is disposable.
Does that last comment sound overly melodramatic or unlikely? Consider this: Shanniel Hyatt was the only person seen on security footage entering and leaving the apartment of Kellie Telesford, he was found in possession of stolen items belonging to her (including her cell phone), and yet in August of last year was completely acquitted, because he successfully argued that since she was a transsexual, Kellie must have killed herself by auto-erotic asphyxiation out of grief, after the robbery of her apartment. In November of every year, we remember victims of transphobic violence and neglect, and those memorials are filled with many such stories of ridiculous or panic defenses and trials of the victim.
Lesson: those living outside the gender binary are simply disposable. It’s not a good lesson, but it keeps getting repeated. I pray it doesn’t happen to Angie’s memory.