A Shooting in Halifax, and Why People Are Not Disposable

In Halifax, well-known drag performer Elle Noir was shot in the arm by two men posing as police officers.  She told CBC that she believes they specifically targeted her because she is transsexual:

“They were yelling, ‘Tranny faggot, open the door, let us in, let us in,’ which leads me to believe they knew who I was. I’m in a second-floor apartment. You know, you have to have a security key to get into the building.”

Police have told the Chronicle-Herald that they think the apartment was specifically targeted, but of course have also already ruled out the likelihood of the incident being a hate crime.  But the usual assumption of drugs also doesn’t ring true for the victim:

An armed home invasion leads people to think the victims are into drugs and other criminal behaviour. But Noir insists she and her roommate are not into drugs.

“The only drugs that are in my apartment is estrogen and . . . a testosterone blocker. So unless they want to turn into women, I don’t really think they were after what I have in my apartment,” Noir said. “And my roommate is like anti-drug, completely. Like he wouldn’t even associate with people that have it.”

I don’t know all the details as yet, and will (like many readers, I’m sure) be following what has happened.  We do know that she is recovering and is expected to be fine, although she will be off work for awhile.  The CBC link has an interview.

I do not yet presume that what follows is connected, and don’t want to co-opt what has happened to her. So I’m putting in a separator here, if that helps.

Bill C-389

The previous Parliament passed Bill C-389, which proposed to add transsexual and gender diverse people to the lists of protected classes in the Canada Human Rights Act and the hate crimes clauses of the Criminal Code of Canada.  Bill C-389, however, died in the Senate during the election call, and the legislative process will need to be started all over again.

The Harper Conservatives opposed adding trans people to this legislation because they felt it was unnecessary.  And yet anti-trans violence has been on the rise.  It was only last April that a video recording of a vicious beating at a Maryland McDonald’s went viral online.

With Bill C-389, we are talking about a few different things.  The CHRA protections would have granted explicit protections regarding employment, housing and access to services. And explicit inclusion in human rights is clearly necessary, exactly because of the unfounded “bathroom predator” fears that some were raising at the time (including some Conservative MPs themselves):

But human rights protections are necessary exactly because this irrational fear persists.  It’s necessary exactly because trans people still get conflated with sex predators and child predators, or labeled as “sick,” “perverse,” and “freaks.”  It’s necessary exactly because people become so clouded with assumptions and myths that they argue for our deliberate exclusion from human rights under the pretext that granting them would be “dangerous” or “scary.” It’s necessary exactly because this bias is so entrenched that people think nothing about broadcasting it openly as though fact.  It’s necessary exactly because this “ick factor” response is seen as justification for not allowing an entire group of people to share the same space, to terminate their employment or to evict them.  It’s necessary exactly because it is so pervasive that discrimination becomes not only likely but inevitable — especially if there is no explicit direction in law to the contrary on the matter, and people perceive the opportunity to make an exception.

The Criminal Code inclusion would have addressed both speech and violence against trans people.  It’s not relevant here, so I’ll discuss hate speech legislation at a later date — although I’m already on record saying that 1) the current process is flawed and in bad need of a fix, and 2) I don’t think that said fix should be to scrap all hate speech legislation, since there are some very real and urgent instances that need to be remembered, such as direct incitement and harassment.  But law should not police belief, either.

Hate Crimes Legislation

It’s not unusual to hear people protest hate crimes laws under the premise that it gives “more value” to some lives than others.  On the contrary, hate crimes clauses exist to ensure that lives are not devalued because of a person’s status as a member of a particular group and that violence cannot be excused on the basis of who the victim is.

In an age where how a woman dresses is still routinely seen to completely excuse acts of rape against her, it should be no real surprise that if someone is transsexual, that too is seen by many as ample reason to believe that he or she was “asking for it,” and that acts of violence against them are of no consequence.  It’s so bad that in one 2008 incident in the UK, the person charged was the only person seen on security footage entering and leaving the apartment, was found in possession of stolen items belonging to the victim (including her cell phone), and yet was completely acquitted, because her transsexual status was seen as reason enough to believe that she must have killed herself by auto-erotic asphyxiation out of grief, after a robbery of her apartment.  WTF?

In 2009, this reached a crescendo during the murder trial of Ray Allen Andrade, who murdered Angie Zapata and became the first test ever in North America of hate crimes charges pertaining to trans people.  Some facts of the case: Andrade blatantly told police that “I think I killed it,” he reportedly accompanied Angie to a hearing in which her previous male name was used, Zapata reportedly always disclosed to her dates that she was trans, the two met on the Bisexual section of Mocospace, Zapata wore breast gels which are difficult to keep from being obvious during intimate encounters, and experts testified that DNA belonging to Andrade collected from a pink vibrator could only come from semen (which they later ruled out), vaginal secretions, or through anal penetration.  And I know from experience that it does sometimes happen that someone can consent to sex with a transsexual and then flip out afterward, when second thoughts slip in (fortunately, I did not experience it as violence).

Despite all of that, the defense claimed that Angie had lied about being a woman, and Andrade was “understandably” enraged when he found out — the eternal trans panic defense.  That spring, it was Angie — not her killer — who appeared to have been put on trial.

Some Are Already More Equal Than Others

—————– Trigger alert: disturbing $#!t ahead —————

KNUS radio’s Trevor Carey:

CAREY: And what the transgender segment of our society needs to be telling their type is, you don’t commit fraud because —

CALLER: No, that’s exactly what it was.

CAREY: A), you’re at least gonna get your teeth kicked in, and B) — [caller laughs] — here’s a story from Greeley that turned out very tragic, and you should pay attention to this, because —

CALLER: You know, when I was growin’ up in Greeley, I grew up in Greeley, that kind of stuff didn’t ever, you know, surface in this town. And it’s just sad, you know; my heart just weeps for all, everybody that’s concerned. But, you know, we gotta go back to basics. You’re a man or you’re a woman, and, like you said, if you’re fraudin’ somebody, then you deserve to have your teeth kicked in. Not necessarily hung or you’re killed, but it just — they shoulda known better, you know?

Comments left at a YouTube tribute to Angie and discussed at examiner.com:

“SHE DESERVED TO DIE!!!!”

“why people refer to she when she is “HE”? If Mr. zapata lied to him about he being a real girl gezzzzzzz I dont blame the guy :(”

“No one hunted this guy down and killed him because he dressed like a girl. He sought out and seduced his killer.”

Zoe Brain archived several posts full of attitudes on similar message boards over the course of the trial.  In one, she reposted these screeds taken from The Denver Channel:
JOE says:
Today, 11:16:28
“MUCH RESPECT TO ALLEN ANDRADE HE INSPIRED MY NEXT TATTOO “ALL GAY THINGS MUST DIE” FREE ALLENToTellYouTheTruth says:
Today, 14:41:58
“Murder should be punished by life in prison or death. Now, that being said, the trans gender community should WAKE UP and realize that people have LIMITS. We’re trying to be tolerant, non-judgmental, and fair but then one of you PULLS A NASTY FAST ONE like this and BAM! We get dead man and a life wasting away in prison. You can’t provoke someone and then act like the victim when the object of your antagonism explodes! No, the dude did not deserve to die, but had he lived, he should have been charged with sexual assault or rape, because his unwitting “partner” did NOT give his CONSENT to homosexual acts. At the very least Justin deserved a good beating.

Bettina says:
Today, 07:59:23
“What is happening in this world? This man was RAPED by Justin. How dare ANYONE go about their lifestyle (regardless of male or female) and lead another to believe they are who they are not! Yes, he will face his true sentence when he answers to God, who created each of us as we are, under Natural Law, not conditioned to be someone we weren’t meant to be. God bless Allen Andrade and his family. Also bless the family of the Justin, the victim, and allow them to view this situation as an example of what can happen when we go against Natural Law, the way God created us.

Strongeztman replies:
Today, 05:09:06
“I must respond to the comment prior to mine…this product of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ is “not a creation by my Master or Savior in any way of the means…” he was the creation of people that cognizes as you and that has enabled people as such to behavior in the way that he died. this dude received what his hand asked for!!! He deceived the wrong man this time and “HELL” his surly lifted his!!! Read the book of “Romans” and acknowledge and accept the “Laws” of God regarding ‘Sexual Conduct!!!” God has not and does not alter Thee ‘Laws’ that was ascribe for us to follow for the purpose to satisfy defile desire of mankind!!!

I could go on.  At one point, there was even a “Free Allen” campaign, as though he were some kind of political prisoner.

Unfortunately, one of the sick things about writing on transsexual and gender diverse issues is having to archive both positive and negative commentary for reference later.  There was no shortage of the latter in Greeley Colorado in 2009 (and that is only one of many trials I’ve followed reporting on).

And hate crimes legislation certainly didn’t hinder people from freely speaking what they thought.  Nor did it punish them afterward for doing it.

Andrade was sentenced to life in prison.  Considering how often I’ve seen murders and violence against trans people bartered down to manslaughter or mischief (or dismissed), you can’t tell me that the conviction and sentencing would have still happened if there wasn’t also a hate crime designation under consideration that forced authorities to take what happened seriously.

And yes, I know that the life sentence will not bring her back — but it does mean that justice was done and that — in Colorado, at least — trans people are not disposable.

———————————————————–

Again, I have absolutely no idea if what happened to Elle Noir completely relates to this discussion about hate crime violence, at this point.  I’m not taking the local authorities’ statement that it wasn’t a hate crime as gospel, though.  Isn’t that what they always do at first?

Meanwhile, a slur is not a hate crime.  But if she was targeted because she’s trans, it absolutely is.

Or should be.

    • dentedbluemercedes
    • June 17th, 2011

    Additional information from Xtra: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/More_details_emerge_in_Halifax_shooting-10340.aspx

    Palmeter says the attack on Cochrane does not fit the definition of a hate crime in the Criminal Code as a “public incitement of hatred.” He says that while the attack on Cochrane may meet the textbook definition of a hate crime, the police can only enforce the Criminal Code definition.

    The article also gives a more detailed description of what transpired, and pretty clear indication that the attack was directly aimed at Elle.

  1. The people who consistently make this argument that hate crime laws are unnecessary or spout that right wing full of caca ‘all crimes are hate crimes’ talking point overwhelmingly are not persons of color or members of a group targeted for hate violence.

    Our legal system already privileges some bodies over others. If you attempt to kill the POTUS, a congressmember, your MP, a federal judge, any state or provincial politicians, or a police officer, you will get enhanced criminal penalties for attempting to do so.

    Hate crimes are ones that also send a message to the targeted group irregardless of where they physically live. The James Byrd dragging death happened over 175 km away from me in Jasper, TX on June 7, 1998, but the chilling effect of that brutal killing was felt and talked about not only in Houston and Dallas, but by African-Americans across the USA.

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