Category Archives: Legal

Legal issues of transgender and transsexual persons.

Malaysia: Court Convicts 9 Transgender Women for “Posing as Women”; Plus, a Fantastic Protest Cartoon

Malaysia_Transgender_Woman

On June 17, 2015, A Sharia court in Malaysia sentenced nine transgender women to fines, and two to one-month jail terms under a law prohibiting “a male person posing as a woman.” Religious police arrested the women in a raid on June 16, 2015, and they pled guilty the next day. A lawyer filed an appeal and the two women sentenced to jail were released on bail pending the outcome.

From the original article:

The nine women, known as mak nyah in Malaysia, were attending a private birthday party at a hotel when officials from the Kelantan Islamic Department (JHEAIK) raided the party and arrested them. In each state in Malaysia, religious department officials are responsible for enforcing state Sharia criminal codes. In Kelantan, section 7 of the Syariah (Sharia) Criminal Code of 1985 states that “Any male person who, in any public place, wears woman attire and poses as a woman shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months or to both.”

The situation for Malaysian transgender women has been declining in recent years due to a steady increase in Muslim fundamentalism, especially in rural areas of the country. Human Rights Watch has published a lengthy document on the history and current status of Malaysian transgender people, and you can download it from them for free here.

The reason that this article is being updated is because of some wonderful work done by cartoonist Kazimir Lee Iskander to highlight the plight of Malaysian transgender women. Prompted by the arrest of 17 transgender women in June 2014 for “impersonating women,” he was inspired to draw a political cartoon series to show how transgender people are harassed in Malaysia – and to offer hope. “I didn’t want everyone to hear the story and assume Malaysia’s some fundie hell-hole (even though it can be),” he was quoted as saying. “I also wanted to show a little bit of the activism happening on the ground.”

You can view the complete cartoon on the artist’s site here, but the first four of the 21-part series are included below.

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_01

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_02

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_03

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_04

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Slate.

Transgender Kansas City Woman Killed After Being Run Over Multiple Times

Tamara_Dominguez

A transgender woman is dead tonight after repeatedly being run over behind a Kansas City church parking lot.

This is breaking news, but the basic details are known. Tamara Dominguez, a 36-year-old transgender woman, was killed in a church parking lot at Independence Avenue and Spruce at 3:00am Saturday night. After exiting a black Chevrolet Avalanche, the male driver hit her with his vehicle, then ran over her at least two more times.

Kansas City police say that they do not know if it is a hate crime, but it’s clear that some serious level of hate or rage has to be involved to repeatedly run someone over.

There is a short video at the link below. Her family has set up a GoFundMe site to help pay for her burial expenses.

Source: Transgender woman killed after being run over multiple times

Kansas State Agencies Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages

Source: BREAKING: State Agencies Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages | Equality Kansas

Equality Kansas, which has many fine people working for it (including my good friend and mentor Sandra Meade), is announcing that Kansas State Agencies are throwing in the towel and recognizing same-sex marriages. The reason is not given, but my speculation is that perhaps Governor Brownback or others in the government finally decided that they didn’t want a Constitutional crisis on their legacy. Whatever the reason, we are winning.

I want to note to the readers out there that it may take several days or weeks for all regional county offices to fall into line, especially the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Even well-intentioned bureaucrats can sometimes err on the side of delay out of fear of losing their job. Please observe the following procedures to make life simpler for yourself:

  • If possible, phone the local office of the DMV yourself and ask if they are issuing drivers licenses with name changes for same-sex marriages. Regardless of how they answer, note down the name of the person you speak to, and the time of the call.
  • If they reply that they are, then ask them exactly what information you need to bring with you. Ask them to repeat this if you are at all unsure. You may want to record the information just so you will not forget.
  • If they reply that they are NOT issuing new licenses, don’t get angry with them. The person on the phone is some low-level person who was given the worst possible task – answering inane and insane questions from the general public, many of whom are angry. They will not and have no ability to change the policy suddenly because you yelled at them. Contact Equality Kansas by e-mail, or your personal legal counsel, and describe the situation. Note the time you phoned, the person you spoke to, and exactly what they said.
  • If you are told they will issue you a license, and then they change your mind after you arrive, stay calm. I know you’re unhappy and you’ve taken time out of your day. Ask to speak to the manager, and note their name. Ask them politely the reason why they will not issue. Don’t negotiate with them – you will not win, and it will only make you and them angry. And being arrested for the catch-all of “disturbing the peace” is a crappy way to spend your day. Pretend like you are Mr. Spock on an away mission if you have to. Note the time and place and everyone you spoke to. Then contact Equality Kansas or your personal legal counsel.

Note that this general policy applies to most other Kansas state agencies as well. Good luck!

Trans*forming the Dialogue – Questioning the Transgender Experience

Trans_forming the Dialogue Logo

Hello everyone, Una Nowling here. I am participating in Trans*forming the Dialogue, Simmons College’s Online MSW Program’s campaign to promote an educational conversation about the transgender community. By participating in this campaign, I will be offering my perspective on what TO ask and what NOT to ask trans*people.

As an activist and “out and loudly proud” transgender woman who works in several professional fields, I am often asked to give lectures on the transgender experience as a whole, as well as specific transgender subtopics. I typically speak at public fora, Pride events, churches, schools, universities, and civic centers. And as part of my opening myself up to the world, I am very frank about my history – I talk about the sexual assault and abuse I suffered, for example, not because I especially enjoy doing such, but because almost certainly there’s someone in my audience who has suffered the same, and been living in silence for years. I invite and will answer almost any question which is asked of me, because my goal is to educate. I do not speak in detail about my genitals and surgeries, and that is my only boundary.

But what about the typical transgender person whom one may meet? Many well-meaning cisgender persons are naturally very curious about us, and this puts transgender persons on the spot, even when they are among friends. They not only are not activists who want to be “out and loudly proud,” they simply want to live, and love, and work, and play, and worship, and be the protagonist of their own life of positivity. Their own personal “American dream,” if you will.

Here are some of my tips for the cisgender folks out there who want to learn more about our people.

First, before you ask any question, ask yourself “is this the sort of question I would ask my grandmother?” Would you, for instance, ask your grandmother if she had had “her penis chopped off?” Or “are you really, really sure that you’re female, or could you just be having a bad month?” Or even “how do you know you’re not a lesbian, grandma? Maybe you should give it a try?” Of course you wouldn’t.


What on earth did you just ask me?

First and foremost, don’t ask us questions which call into question our very existence. Asking us “are we really sure we’re transgender?” essentially overlooks the years of gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, internal struggles, and heart-rending agony which we have gone through to come to accepting that we are transgender. Many of us would have done anything, climbed any proverbial mountain, to have just had an ordinary, average gender identity. This is one reason why, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of transgender persons have attempted suicide. Outside of a few transgender celebrities or very lucky persons, most transgender persons are going to face job discrimination, family rejection, sexual assault, bullying, physical violence, and even murder – on top of having to deal with gender dysphoria. If that sounds like fun, please stand on your head.

Don’t ask about our genitals. I confess that I have neither the time, nor the professional qualifications, to understand why laypeople will walk right up to a transgender person and ask them questions about genitals that they wouldn’t even discuss with their physician. Would you ask a friend at church if her breasts were real or not? Many of us are asked that on a daily basis.

Hot dogsNo…just, no.

Don’t ask us questions about our personal romantic and sexual relationships and preference. For one thing, many of us are still working it out, and it’s a highly painful subject. For another, it’s just none of your business, unless you happen to be making a romantic pass at one of us (in which case, go you!). A large number of us will lose our spouse or long-term partner as a result of transition. Within my own transgender community, the rate of divorce as a result of one partner transitioning is over 90%.

It’s generally considered gauche to ask about our specific medications, surgical techniques and procedures, and the cost of transition. Can you imagine asking a co-worker in the middle of a conference call, “hey Bob, generally speaking how do you feel about digital rectal prostate exams versus PSA screenings?” In addition, please note that for many of us a trip to the physician is even less fun than it would be for anyone else, as nearly 1 in 5 transgender persons report having been refused medical care. Last week I myself was a victim of this, having had two physicians refuse to treat me, and having been subjected to a transphobic tirade by a nurse.

NurseElle Driver from “Kill Bill” would actually have been a better nurse than the one who repeatedly and deliberately misgendered me.

There are some “borderline” questions you can ask, if your relationship with the transgender person in question is positive and long-standing. You may be able to ask “how has your family taken the news?” or “are you going to be alright at work?” Just keep in mind that a very large percentage of us will or currently face ostracism or even violence by family members – in fact, 57% of us will experience significant family rejection as a result of transition. In addition to that, 90% of us have or will face harassment or discrimination on the job, and we suffer from double the rate of unemployment as the general population as a result of “coming out.” A large number of us have lost our church community as well, so again, be sensitive of that when asking about topics of personal faith.

Many ask us about Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, and other transgender persons who are in the media. Just as my spouse is English and has in fact never met Queen Elizabeth, almost none of us will have any “inside information” on public figures. Nor do most of us really want to discuss in detail The Crying Game or Dallas Buyers Club. I will however feel free to bore you with discussions of third-wave feminism and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Not quite a positive media portrayal of a transgender person, just in case you were wondering.

Questions which show innocent curiosity and compassion are normally going to be welcome. I’m sometimes asked about the community, from the standpoint of how large and diverse we are. I’m sometimes asked to tell the story of my personal journey, with no qualifications placed on my telling, and many of us will talk a little about our history to those who listen. Other good questions help to define how people should interact with us. Ask us “what name do you prefer I call you from now on?” or “how should I refer to your gender from now on?” Please note that for those of us who are still not fully “out,” some patience may be needed on your part to remember the proper identifiers to use depending upon the context.

Most of us will be grateful to receive questions such as “how are you coping with this? Are you receiving support? Are you doing alright? Would you like to go shopping with me? Would you like to meet my family?”

But above all, the single best question which I believe we transgender persons can be asked is simply:

“How may I help?”

Helping_Hand

Information about Simmons College

Simmons College is the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender. Their admissions policy may be found here, and the official announcement of their change in policy may be found here.

References

Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, 2011.

I’m Mad as Hell – Transgender Teacher Dies by Suicide After Being Bullied for 10 Years

This story has fired up my blood today, and I’m mad as hell. Not to repeat the Advocate overly much, but the basics are that Karis Ann Ross, age 37 a lead Special Education teacher at a Milwaukee German Immersion school, took her own life over Thanksgiving, 2014.

In her suicide note she apparently didn’t mince words, saying she took her own life due to bullying from specific, named co-workers. The situation was reportedly brought to the school’s principal, and with no effective response. After her daughter’s death, Karis’ mother, Madeline Dietrich, wrote an open letter to the Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. In this letter, the most telling part of the story was the following:

There were four professionals working in Ms. Ross’ classroom, a lead teacher and three teacher’s aids. Each were human beings, and each were women. But three were cisgender, while only one was transgender. Three were black, while only one was white. Three were paraprofessionals charged with supporting the lead teacher’s direction, while only one held a master’s degree and professional teaching certificate. The differences in race, education status and gender identity fostered an environment where Ms. Ross was regularly subjected to intimidation and resistance by the majority group.

 Ms. Ross repeatedly informed the building principal, Dr. Albert J. Brugger. It had gone on for years, but in the weeks leading to the moment Ms. Ross chose to end her life, numerous emails were exchanged between Ms. Ross, school officials and the medical community, all pointing to a crisis which went largely ignored by Dr. Brugger, who rather than mediating or intervening in the conflict, chose to play down the situation and avoided any direct involvement with Ms. Ross and her aids. It is clear by the timing of the suicide, which took place the Saturday afternoon before Ms. Ross knew she must again face the hostility of her support staff and the indifference of her principal the following Monday morning. Each aide was named in Ms. Ross’ suicide letter, along with Dr. Brugger, as the primary cause of her grief. Transgender people are too often rejected by friends, employers, landlords, and family, and are forty percent more likely to attempt suicide than the mean population. Ms. Ross was rejected by the very MPS employees whose job it was to assist her in caring for profoundly disabled children.

Karis_2

What I want to do is say something loud and clear to all the people who know me here in “Transas City.” If you are one of my transgender sisters or brothers and you are being bullied at work, and you need help, you need to contact someone. Right now. One of my best friends is Madeline Johnson, a senior law partner and a woman who has fought for the rights and protection of the transgender community more than most anyone I know. Her contact information is MMJohnsonLaw@gmail.com. If you are being harassed, abused, or mistreated at work because you are transgender, tell her about it. Maybe she can help.

Or at worst, if you just want someone to talk to about being bullied at work over being transgender, message me on Facebook or mail me (if you don’t have my personal mail reach out to us at transascity@gmail.com) and I’ll try to give you some advice on what to do. I don’t promise anything, but maybe I’ll come up with something. Or reach out to your friends, your family, and remember that your job is not worth your life. Do NOT sit there and take the bullying and harassment and think that suicide is your only way out!

If you or someone you know are an LGBT young person (ages 24 and younger) struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals needing support can contact the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

Source: Wisc. Trans Teacher Dies by Suicide After Being Bullied for 10 Years | Advocate.com

Indiana: Bigotry, Discrimination & The Religious Freedom Backlash

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – excerpt from The Declaration of Independence

Matthew 23:4
“Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.”

How does one voice an opinion on a subject that causes one’s blood to boil? An issue that causes such anger that it makes a compassionate person double up their hands into fists and say enough is enough? Well if you’re me, you sit down and write about it. Then you do something about it.

I am not alone in my anger. With Governor Mike Pence’s signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana this past week, we have seen a backlash across our country of biblical proportions. Indiana faces a massive loss in revenue, from such companies as Salesforce and Angie’s List, to Apple & Eli Lilly. Cities like San Francisco and Seattle have restricted official travel to Indiana, and the State of Connecticut has officially joined them. Indiana itself has seen massive protests, and some Hoosiers have even quit their state-sponsored jobs. Even some mainline Christian denominations have become involved in the backlash – both Presbyterians and the Disciples of Christ have said that they will look elsewhere for their convention needs, and both groups have condemned this new law.

I applaud all who have stood up to this form of legal bigotry. Other states and their Governors would do well to pay attention to what is happening in Indiana. So what is this really all about, you ask? Is this a spiteful backlash on Marriage Equality, and about laying the groundwork for the future? In this writer’s opinion, Republicans have a long-term plan to supplant this great nation as a whole and replace it with a Fundamentalist Conservative Theocracy. One in which their version of Christianity is the State religion, comparable in scope to Sharia law in the Muslim world. It is not a popular or widely held opinion, but it is what I perceive as the ultimate goal of such laws. You of course are free to draw your own conclusions.

On Sunday the Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, was asked several straightforward questions. The Governor quibbled, diffused, deflected and obfuscated his way through the interview and would never answer a simple question about the rights of people in his state to discriminate. Even today he is unwilling to speak about it. Watch the interview here.

ABC News interview

Today a letter was sent to Governor Pence from the Indiana business community demanding swift action to fix this issue, you can read the letter here. Corporate Business Letter

These laws exist in 19 states, including Kansas and in Missouri a law is being considered and has been written, and there is a federal RFRA law on the books. Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by Bill Clinton. It is important to state that if you are a person like me who opposes such legislation in one of these or another state, then do your duty and call or e-mail your representative and politely voice your displeasure towards any bill that discriminates, or otherwise impedes another’s basic civil and human rights. This is our government and we choose how it works, we elect people to protect our interests and preserve our rights, not remove them and entrench themselves in power at our expense.

Kansas Law: HB 2203 as enrolled (law as of July 1, 2013 RFRA-Kansas
Missouri Law: There is no law currently on the books or in the legislative agenda that i could locate at this time. This is a link to the proposed language of the bill. RFRA-Missouri

In Missouri there are currently two bills on the floor of the House. State Rep. Jeff Pogue (R-Salem) filed the legislation which opponents call “harmful” “demeaning” and an instrument to “create false fear” of the transgender community. One bill (HB 1338) would require all public restrooms, other than single occupancy restrooms, to be gender-divided restrooms. HB-1338 The other (HB 1339) would prohibit the appropriation or expenditure of state revenues for the purpose of creating a gender-neutral environment, unless required by a federal or state court order. HB-1339

In Kansas there is currently one such bill on the House floor. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald (R-Leavenworth), (SB 175) prohibits the state’s universities from taking action against student religious groups that require members to adhere to the group’s religious beliefs. The bill passed 30-8, and it now goes to the House. Read more here: SB-175 Wichita Eagle, and read the bill yourself here. SB-175

Here is a link to a pdf dated June 2013 covering the law in both states, published by the ACLU. This has not been updated as of yet, but makes interesting reading. ACLU PDF

I look forward to reading your comments on this issue. Cassandra Frost

The Face of Evil: Florida Lawmaker Says Using Restroom Is A Choice For Transgender People

Dear readers, I don’t actually throw around the word “evil” very often. Or at least I try my best to avoid such. But I swear to you, some days it’s almost as if the bigots, fundamentalist religious zealots, and other Hamburglars of human rights are deliberately trolling me.

Such is the case with Florida State Representative and future Nobel prize-winner Frank Artiles, a Republican who has introduced a bathroom policing bill to:

“…restrict single-sex public facilities — including restrooms in restaurants, theaters, workplaces, and schools — to people of the corresponding “biological sex, either male or female, at birth.” Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.”

Furthermore, this budding 21st-century Thomas Jefferson has been quoted as saying:

“People are not forced to go the restroom. They choose to go to the restroom.”

When asked about how this bill would impact transgender persons, Artiles pontificated thusly:

“While I understand there are transgender people who want to use bathrooms however they want to feel, that is irrelevant to me,” Artiles explained. He said gender identity was “subjective” and the birth sex of a transgender person is the only factor that should dictate which restroom they use.

Transgender persons aside, Artiles apparently has never heard of intersex persons, medically documented over centuries of medical science and civilization. Then again, in his defense he’s probably been focused upon the more pressing problems of “why do secular humanists insist that the earth circles the sun” and “the war on Good Friday.”

Florida Lawmaker Says Using Restroom Is A Choice For Transgender People.

Thailand’s Transgender People Aren’t Just ‘Ladyboys’ Anymore

The popular notion of Thailand, even among most transgender persons, is that it’s a country where transgender persons enjoy significant freedom and acceptance. The reality is that the transgender persons of Thailand have existed for a long time under a “benevolent enforcement” government attitude. Meaning that even though transgender persons do not have explicit protections in Thailand, they have been given some measure of protection via tradition. However, from the article:

For worse, the kathoey identity is widely stigmatized.  There’s a reason so many “ladyboys” do sex work—they are often excluded from ‘upper class’ professions, rejected by their families, and marginalized.  Many Thai believe that being a kathoey is karmic retribution for bad deeds in a past life.  Western discourses of medicalization have contributed to third-gender people being seen as sick or disordered. More broadly, Wong of the APTN told The Daily Beast, “transgender people still face daily challenges (use of public facilities, employment, school) largely due to not having legislation on gender recognition of transgender people.”

But relying upon the good will of the smiling policeman on the corner is rarely a secure human rights strategy. Therefore, it’s quite important to take note that Thailand is proposing explicit protections for gender identity and gender expression in its new constitution. What’s more, third-gender persons would be protected as well.

In short, it’s another major advance for our people in a country where such an advance is sorely needed.

Thailand’s Transgender People Aren’t Just ‘Ladyboys’ Anymore – The Daily Beast.

Several New Colorado Bills Are Attacking the LGBTQ Community

What bothers me, dear readers, is not so much the anti-transgender vehemence of some of the supporters of these bills, such as that of Toilet Policewoman Kim Ransom, pictured above. No, what bothers me more is that for the last several years Colorado has seen a strong pushback against treating transgender persons with dignity and respect. In this article which I’ve linked, the authors discuss three different bills introduced by arch-religious-conservatives, all of which could remove rights from transgender citizens of the state.

New Colorado Bills Attacking LGBTQ Community? | Westword.

Introducing the Transgender Newsbank

Martha_Gellhorn

The Transgender Newsbank is a collection of more than 400 newspaper and magazine articles from 1911-1994, organized by year and date. I have spent 3 months finding and formatting these articles for easy viewing, in addition to typing write-ups about them and linking to other topical pages. The Transgender Newsbank is the largest effort of its kind on the Internet that I can find which is freely available, and like all Transas City features is uncluttered by advertisements.

While a Transgender Newsbank may be unexciting to some, it will form the basis of an online historical library to help researchers, scholars, and anyone who is simply interested in the history of our people.

The Transgender Newsbank

Bonkers Bathroom Bounty Bill. Blech.

ToiletPaperMoney
A little bit of alliteration never hurt anyone, dear readers. As opposed to conservative hate, which does hurt people. It hurts in emotional and mental damage done, it hurts by creating unsafe places for minorities, and it hurts by working to set up a theocracy out of what was once a representative democracy.

Kentucky senator C.B. Embry has shown himself to be a Very Special little hobgoblin, who keeps popping up in the news with his capers. In 2013 he opposed an anti-bullying bill which would have protected students based on the gender identity and expression, as well as sexual orientation. But that was just the beginning.

You see, the honorable Mr. Embry has introduced a bill into the Kentucky legislature which would force schools to keep transgender students out of “improper” bathrooms and locker rooms. The method for his madness is to give any student allegedly traumatized by seeing a transgender person in those places $2,500 for their pain and suffering. It does not specify if a transgender person may see themselves in a mirror, they should also be awarded $2,500. Probably because Mr. Embry likely believes, like vampires, we don’t have a reflection.

Dear readers, I can actually see an upside to this policy. For example, one could get together 20 female students to “see” a transgender girl student in their locker room, then pool their $50,000 of winnings and donate them to a good cause transgender cause. And when they get tired of that, they could start building up some college funds, or even donate the legal largess to Mr. Embry’s political opponent in the next election.

Lawmaker Wants To Pay Students $2,500 If They See A Transgender Person In The ‘Wrong’ Bathroom | ThinkProgress.

Russia Says “Nyet!” to Transgender Drivers

Russia, in its never-ending crusade against the evil which is transgender persons, has now decided to marginalize the community even further by denying us drivers licenses. The reasoning?

The government says it is tightening medical controls for drivers because Russia has too many road accidents.

But the Professional Drivers Union supported the move. “We have too many deaths on the road, and I believe toughening medical requirements for applicants is fully justified,” said the union’s head Alexander Kotov.

Right.

Some observers feel that the “next logical step” will be denial of employment, government benefits, and even medical care – to essentially commit “economic genocide” against the LGBT population. And why not? The nation has done this for more than a century, getting rid of “undesirable” populations and attempting to whitewash history ex post facto. One hopes that in this day and age this would be more difficult to do – that there would be no repeat of the widespread murders under Stalin et al.

One hopes.

BBC News – Russia says drivers must not have ‘sex disorders’.

The Unwanted Bride – The Murder of Terri Williams Moore

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Newton, Iowa. May 20, 1976

Just after dawn along Interstate 80, a passing motorist spotted something which made him pull over – the figure of a person, laying on the shoulder just a couple of feet from the pavement. He got out of his car for a closer look, and saw a still form, covered by a blue blanket and pillow. A small shaggy black dog stood watch silently by the figure.

Thus begins the story of the murder of Terri Williams Moore, a transsexual woman who was murdered in cold blood by her husband in what was likely an early case of “transsexual panic.” I’ve purchased an original article on her murder and the aftermath, and conducted a small amount of research to tell the story of a sister from not-so-long ago, who went through so many trials, and yet died trying to do nothing more than live an authentic life. You can read my write-up, and download the original article from 1976, at the link below.

The Unwanted Bride

A Hard Look at the FBI’s Transgender Victimization Data

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I’ve seen several blogs report high-level results from the recently-released 2013 Hate Crime Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Primarily, the newsworthy item is that the FBI listed only 33 cases of transgender hate crimes (that is, hate crimes where gender identity was the single motivating factor) across the entire United States for the study year. This number prima facie appears to be tragically low, but I believe that some of the anger directed at the FBI is sadly misplaced.

The FBI can only report that which has been first reported to them. The FBI is not the primary investigating agency for the vast majority of crimes, so the people who decide on whether or not a crime has a hate crime component are the local prosecutors and district attorneys. Second, a very large number of crimes against us are not reported by the victims. I personally know of three transgender persons in Kansas City who were physically assaulted for their gender identity or presentation recently. Since none of them would report the assaults to the police, those events were not officially reported.

It must also be noted that the qualification for a crime to be a hate crime is stricter than most people believe, and it involves establishing the motivation of the attacker. For example, merely using a transgender slur like “stupid tranny!” during an attack does not in itself qualify the attack as a hate crime. Words can easily be taken to be “incidental” during an attack. The government must establish that the gender identity or expression of the victim was a primary motivating factor for instigating the attack. And here we get into a bit of a quagmire, as establishing someone’s true motivations is quite difficult. Since we cannot read the minds of others, a perpetrator can simply claim “I was drunk and don’t remember saying anything like that” or “I was mad, I said a lot of things I don’t mean” as a defense to avoid a hate crime charge. Unless witnesses can give first-hand testimony or some self-incriminating evidence exists of the intent of the act, making a hate crime charge “stick” is difficult.

FBI_2
That having been said, there are some interesting facts from the report which I have not seen reported elsewhere, and I’d like to focus on some of them because perhaps we can learn some helpful information. Of the 33 victims and 31 incidents:

  • 25 cases were anti-transgender hate crimes, and 8 were for gender non-conforming behavior.
  • Most attacks were perpetrated by a single individual (39 offenders total per 33 victims total).
  • 8 of the anti-transgender crimes were aggravated assault, 7 were simple assault, 4 were criminal intimidation, 3 were robbery, 1 was burglary, and 2 cases were vandalism.
  • 1 of the gender non-conforming crimes was rape, 3 were simple assault, 2 were larceny/theft, and 2 were vandalism.
  • 4 offenders were white, 17 black, 4 were of unknown race for anti-transgender crimes. For gender non-conforming crimes, 4 offenders were white, 1 was black, 1 was of multiple races, and 2 were unknown race.
  • A total of 28 incidents were perpetrated upon human beings, and the rest against a business or institution or other “victim.”
  • 2 incidents occurred at a transportation terminal, 1 at a bar or nightclub, 1 at a commercial office, 1 at a department store, 1 at a doctor’s office or pharmacy or hospital, 7 incidents happened on a surface road or alleyway, 2 incidents were in a parking lot or a garage, 5 were in a home, 2 in a restaurant, 1 at a college or university, 1 at a gas station, 1 was on tribal lands, and the rest were in an unknown location.
  • NO incidents of transgender or gender identity crime were reported in Kansas. Two incidents occurred in Kansas City Missouri.

There are in fact only a few things to be learned from such a small number of events, but if we want to assume this sample size has any validity, it would appear that the primary conclusions can be drawn about anti-transgender hate crimes:

  • They are generally perpetrated by a single assailant.
  • About half of all crimes are assaults, and rapes are uncommon.
  • They can happen anywhere, with prevalence towards the home environment and streets.

While the racial profile of perpetrators is largely black, there is no matrix of perpetrator race/victim race to analyze. Therefore, we cannot say whether the high number of black perpetrators was due to a high amount of black-on-black transgender hate crimes, or whether racial bias was a coincident factor.

Let us also not forget that hate crimes based on sexual orientation – numbering 1,461 in 2013 – may very well encompass members of the transgender community, as anywhere between 50-75% of transgender persons identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or some other sexual preference than heterosexual.

What is the takeaway from this data? I’ll say it’s simply this – transgender and gender non-conforming persons need to stay in groups. Since more acts are committed by a single assailant, and can happen nearly anywhere, safety in numbers becomes key. If you are at all uncertain about going to a specific location or venue, go with someone else. If it’s late and you want to leave a bar and head to your car, ask a doorman to walk with you. Tip them if necessary. Stay in groups, stay alert, and stay safe.

International Update: An Indian Transgender Newsreader and an African Transgender Poster Girl

I have two international updates for you all, dear readers, to remind us of the global struggle for our rights, and of the global narrative of our loosely interwoven stories.

The first news article which I’m sharing is the story of Padmini Prakashi, India’s first transgender television presenter. Happily married with an adopted son and a good job, Padmini is now campaigning for free sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) for all transgender Indians. To quote her from the article:

‘We’re born into the wrong body, it’s not our fault,’ she said. ‘I know so many transgenders who are struggling to pay for surgery. Their lives are frozen in time because of the costs involved. This is not our fault; free surgery should be available for all. It should be our right, along with counselling[sic] and guidance classes and education on sexual diseases. We’re not given any help, no one is trying to assist our community.’

My second article tells the story of Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who recently fled to Africa to avoid a 14-year sentence in her home country of Malawi over becoming engaged to a man.

Tiwonge’s story is a different one, including a belief that her earlier existence as a man was due to a witch’s curse, and when a tribal healer cured her of the curse, she felt she had to start living as a woman. Her trial (where she was forced to attend despite being sick with malaria) was ended when the President, under intense internationally pressure, decided to forgive her “crime.” Unfortunately her boyfriend soon left her for a prostitute, and she now lives on the verge of complete poverty in South Africa, having fled intense discrimination from her village in Malawi.

Two women on different continents, both transgender, and both fighting for transgender rights – in the case of Padmini for her community, and in the case of Tiwonge for herself.