As someone who tries to advocate and educate about the transgender experience, I try my best to keep up to date with the new of and about our community. Sometimes it's not an easy read. Yesterday, two stories wound up in my news box that caused a lot of frustration and anger.
The first came out of Bulgaria via a story in Der Bild from Germany which reports that a murderer of a transwoman has received a seven-year sentence for causing that death:
"A 20-year-old Bulgarian man has received a seven-year sentence for killing a transvestite by stabbing him 40 times and smashing his head with a video recorder. The judge at the Hamburg court referred to the murder as an "absolute desire to exterminate", although he had "no motive". The man allegedly chased his 31-year-old victim through his apartment with a 30cm-long knife after an argument. He then started stabbing him, and when the body continued to move he smashed his head with a video recorder."
Seven years? Is that all our lives are worth? And "no motive"? I'll admit I'm not up on the nuances of Bulgarian law, but what is "no motive" when he chases her around the room, stabs her FORTY times and then bashes in her head with a video recorder. Don't think this is unusual or just some expression of prejudice from Bulgaria, these incredibly light sentences - if any is given at all - are also prevalent here in good ol' America as well. And don't think the brutality of this murder is anything unusual either - in fact, its quite typical. What is it about our lives that causes so much anger and violence? Sad.
The other story that got me down was from Illinois in which the state will apparently allow a transperson's birth certificate to be authoritatively changed only if their genital surgery was performed here in the United States. According to this story, the law that permits obtaining a corrected birth certificate was inaugurated in 1961, but four years ago an "administrative rule" changed the process to limit it to "Buy American" surgeries only. Again, WHAT?
Where a person has their surgery should have absolutely no bearing on this part of our transitional journey. Like the women in the story, I had my surgery in Thailand as well. The surgeons are talented, the care is professional, the cost is substantially less and most use a "one-step" process. Most surgeons in the United States do the surgery in two steps - a vaginoplasty, then three to six months later the labiaplasty. This is an unnecessary process in my view, increasing cost, travel issues and risk. So why would my surgery not count, but those done by surgeons here do? It's a bit reminiscent of the fallacy of the early estimates of the prevalence of transgender lives about thirty years ago. It was based on those who had "Buy American" surgeries only. Under that definition, I wouldn't be counted - and neither would those who, for their own legitimate reasons, do not have surgery.
I am thankful the ACLU of Illinois is aiding these women in their effort to gain authenticity. For what its worth, the ACLU has been most diligent in its efforts to obtain legal justice for transgender people. My local chapter aided a dear friend when she was arrested and jailed overnight for getting married.
Tomorrow will be another day, perhaps with some uplifting news from the transgender community - perhaps not. I just wish the difficult news wasn't so tragic or unnecessary.