Saturday, February 7, 2009

Now its only Five Years, actually Three

First Bulgaria, now Ireland

Less than two weeks ago, I wrote about the lack of adequate justice meted for the death of a transwoman in Bulgaria. She was chased down, stabbed forty times, had her head smashed in with a video player and despite calling her murder an "absolute desire to exterminate", the judge issued a sentence of but seven years to the "exterminator". And yet the Bulgarian judge is still a couple of years ahead of his counterpart in Ireland.

Vincent Murtagh, an apparently homeless man attacked a transwoman/crossdresser with whom he had a one night stand after meeting her at a nightclub. The news story <click here> describes the victim as "a male nurse, dressed in a miniskirt, high heels and makeup. He was a Filipino emigre working in Dublin. Once in the apartment, the story says the victim did acknowledge that he was male but that didn't seem to matter.....then. Four days - DAYS - later, Murtagh returned but this time it was to slash his neck, not once but twice. Despite some quick responses to his cries for help, he died.

So what was the "motive"? Murtagh was "in great turmoil" at having what he felt was a "gay" encounter and just had to eliminate - nay, exterminate - the person with whom he'd been with only a few days before. The judge, buying into this gay panic or trans panic defense, gave Murtagh a sentence of only five years - then suspended the last two. Three years? That's all this Filipino crossdresser's life was worth? Its been said by others that transpeople of color are given even less regard by others, this seems to fulfill that most accurate observation.

Just where in these sentences is the value of human life? How can we as transgender people hope for any semblance of justic in life if there is no justice in taking our life? We seek equity and fairness in employment. We seek legitimacy in our legal status. We seek assistance and understanding for our medical needs. All worthy goals. But at the very least we should be able to expect a minimum of value to our lives. We're not there yet.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Almost, but not quite

Getting it right

One of the hazards of being a minority within a group - in my case transgender within the larger gay/lesbian community - is that you are never sure just how inclusive and understanding the majority is, or wishes to be. The sellout of transgenders by the Human Rights Campaign in the ENDA disaster of 2007 was probably the most egregious example of a lack of inclusion or understanding. Two more, but a bit more subtle, examples have come across my desk this week.

The first is from The Evangelical Network - an LG (B? and T?) affinity group working with "evangelical" churches. TEN describes itself as "a group of Bible believing churches, ministries, Christian workers and individuals bound together by a common shared faith, united in purpose and witness and established as a positive resource and support for Christian gays and lesbians." By not mentioning "transgender", perhaps they've already made their statement clear. But they did include a workshop at their 2008 gathering entitled "Ministering to the Trans/Bi Community", so who knows?

What caught my eye is that TEN has scheduled its 2009 gathering for Charlotte, North Carolina. Well that's a huge message - Trans Not Welcome. Or at least understood. Charlotte - like Phoenix the year before - does not have anti-discrimination laws that offer transgender people any assurance that we will have access to appropriate restrooms, not be legally tossed out of a restaurant or hotel or allow our local sisters and brothers the dignity of keeping their own jobs. Why would I want to attend a conference in such a locale? Why would I want to spend my money in support of that economy? I simply won't, so attending this conference - regardless of the program content - is a no-starter. The 2008 conference had some intriguing speakers, too.

The other example hails from North Dakota where the legislature is considering a bill that would extend anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill, SB 2278, is currently listed as still in committee hearings. It would be wonderful to add another state to the list of those that are already transgender inclusive, and especially a state not known for rampant liberalism, too. And yet.....

The bill includes "gender identity" within the definition of "sexual orientation", specifically definition 19, which states: " "Sexual orientation" means actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression." While this language will likely suffice to effect the desperately needed legislation, I'm not thrilled that transgenders are essentially made a component of "sexual orientation". This is a common misunderstanding - our gender identities have nothing to do with our sexual orientation - that is very difficult to overcome and it is not helpful when we don't even get that message through to our "allies". Do they really understand? Did they have any transgender input into crafting the bill? My guess is no to both.

I've often felt that the T was simply a politically correct addition to most organizations that list themselves as being "LGBT". My experience has been that many have little or no understanding of what the transgender experience is all about. While it is personally flattering to be invited to join boards or groups or committees, the invitation usually comes with the preface of wanting/needing "a transgender" involved. "A"? One? Yeah, sometimes I feel like a token.

Transphobia is present in the LGB part of the community. And there certainly is Homophobia within the trans community. Both are sad commentaries on our alliance. The truth remains however that LGB/T groups are dominated by the L's and the G's and as such issues and needs most important to them take precedent. I just with they'd get the T part right when we are included.