Friday, July 17, 2009

Syracuse Sucks If You're Trans And Murdered

"It's just one of those days
When you don't wanna wake up!
Everything is fucked, everybody sucks!" — Break Stuff, Limp Bizkit

How furious am I today? Let me count the ways ....

On second thought, no. Who's listening? Precious few. Yeah, cumulative things get to be a rabid bear when they're piled atop each other and compounded. Starting off the day fighting doesn't help. Nice sticky heat with none of the forecasted "cooling rain" magnifies it. Then losing water (my precious lifeline to cooling off!) for a good portion of the day added a topper to that.

But the news forthcoming wasn't anything pleasing. Quite disquieting actually – some of it, downright infuriating. As they say down here in Texas, it was enough to piss off the dead. First was word that the overwhelmingly democratic U.S. Senate, in its infinite wisdom, decided it would be a good thing to add the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act onto S. 1390: the Dept. of Defense spending bill replete with funding for F-22 fighters which are wasted spending and which Pres. Barack Obama has already vowed to veto if it makes it to his desk!

That's right. Democrats are helping kill off the trans-inclusive Hate Crimes bill in the Senate by sending a veto-ready bill for signature! And that, of course, is if it makes it past a Conference Committee with a joint-session membership (and manages to maintain all the aspects of the current Hate Crimes bill.) If something goes awry and gets cut out and passed in joint session, it goes from there to the President.

Then another headline caught my eye: "Sex-changer's suit claims bias against Parks Department." It was a headline from the New York Daily News (think FOX News in a newspaper format). Now the writer, Jose Martinez, did actually stick to the guidelines, mostly avoiding pronouns, and once referring to "her." But the screaming headline and later referencing that she had not had "a sex-change operation" lets you know where this is going.

The plantiff Chanel Birden wasn't helping her own case either, something her attorney Derek Smith should've monitored and didn't. As a result, the Daily News writer didn't focus much on the slurs and insults she was receiving and filing grievances about before her firing from the mail clerk position at New York's Central Park. Instead, the writer highlighted quotes from her self-describing herself as being "a gorgeous woman" and how she "would always go to work looking very glamorous" and similar responses. Sure, it wasn't officially out of bounds. But it's still predatory journalism looking to caricature and dismiss trans women who don't know better while sublimely covering his own tracks.

"The trans community always seems to have a knack for finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." — trans activist, Cathy Platine

Then I got the bombshell. Lateisha Green's murderer, Dwight DeLee, received his verdict in a Syracuse Courthouse. He was found innocent of second degree murder. He was convicted of first degree manslaughter. The jury determined that after DeLee had lobbed invective and epithets at Lateisha Green sitting in her brother's car, after he'd gone into the house to retrieve his rifle, and after lobbing a few more epithets and leveling the gun at point blank range into the car and shooting Teish, that he'd intended to only "seriously injure" her but had no intentions of killing her. Manslaughter, not a murder.

Any other victim killed in such a manner would expect their killer to receive a murder sentence. Ah, but Teish was murdered while Trans! And further, as my homegirl Monica Roberts would say, she was murdered while Black and Trans! As we read between the lines of this logic, it helps validate the killer's motivations. Why, having a trans person outside near his house practically requires one to go in their house and retrieve their rifle ... pop off a warning shot in their direction from a few feet away, just to make sure you don't have to fear for your life from the transsexual menace!

Certainly any average citizen in Syracuse would understand that threat, that fear! It's palpable!

Reality time: essentially this verdict actually foists some of the blame on the victim. That's right! The good people of Syracuse decided that being Trans, Lateisha Green should've known she's partially to blame for being attacked! It's kinda like women being partially to blame for being raped, Asian store owners being partially at fault for getting robbed in their stores, unarmed black men being partially understood to have been shot by police because of their potential threat – or even white men being partially culpable for getting shot while driving through a minority neighborhood! Everyone should know that's coming, and certainly expect that those who commit these crimes aren't to be fully blamed for it!

At least, that's the logic in Syracuse.

There were a number of statements in the press to note the verdict: "Today's verdict brings justice for Lateisha Green, but it can never heal the immense loss her family has experienced," said Jarrett Barrios, incoming President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

"This verdict sends a strong message that hate violence will not be condoned. How many more like Lateisha Green must spill blood before our society says no to harassment, no to discrimination and no to violence against transgender people? ... {J]ustice was served today." said Rea Carey, Exec. Dir. of National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)

A measure of justice, perhaps. But was absolute justice served? Is Manslaughter a strong message? It must be noted that neither Carey nor Barrios are Trans. Point of fact, only one of the statements put out yesterday on the DeLee verdict by the organizations was from a trans organization (TLDEF - the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund), but the statement was from their non-trans executive director.

Oddly, the lone trans person responding from any major org was from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) who tacked on a trans voice to Exec. Dir. Joe Solmonese's statement. "I am relieved to see Lateisha’s killer brought to justice," said Allyson Robinson, HRC Associate Director of Diversity.

Both IFGE and NCTE remaining silent on this is odd. And to think that NTAC was criticized for putting out press and "drawing attention to ourselves." So leaving the attention to non-T voices and orgs is better?

Either we just don't pay attention to the details any more, or maybe it's just gotten so bad that any conviction more than simple assault of a person who murders a trans woman is a victory. Maybe it's me and all the other Trans folk around the country who are pissed at this lesser treatment by the court that are out of step?

Or maybe this is just a great way to put out a message that's consistent, celebratory and assures that there's no dissension: ensure that there's message control.

One has to wonder how the Gay & Lesbian community would react to this? If Matthew Shepard's murder drew a manslaughter conviction with a maximum 25 year sentence, would Judy Shepard feel this was justice served? If it were the Trans community declaring before press that such as sentence was justice, would the Gay & Lesbian community agree with our statements and consider it closed?

Or if not, would they speak out? After watching their responses in recent months, I believe I already know that answer.

“Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf.” English writer, Gilbert K. Chesterton

"If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." former First Lady to the 2nd U.S. President, Abigail Smith Adams


Jillian Weiss said...

I agree, Vanessa. The idea that he didn't intend to kill when he shot her but merely to wound seems ridiculous.

Having been a lawyer and a juror, I know the pressures that jurors feel to do the "right" thing. They are bombarded, again and again, with the point that they must only decide to convict on a charge if there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. They were faced with a difficult question: what did the evidence show about was going on in the shooter's head? Was it kill, kill, kill, or shoot, shoot, shoot? The location of the wound, and the fact that even the victim's brother didn't realize that the wound was serious, might have swayed the jury to believe that there was only an intent to shoot, not to kill. But it's pretty obvious from where I sit that this defendant intended to kill.

I'm outraged. It bothers me that some advocacy organizations are congratulating themselves on a "victory." There is no victory in a sad spectacle like this.

proudprogressive said...

what Jillian said and seriously - how the hell does one stick a shot gun into a car ..A fuckin shot gun and not expect to kill - the normalizing of gunfire in African American neighborhoods is a sublime insult as if the jury is thinking well what do you expect people in "those" neighborhoods are always shooting eachother - there is so much bias in this verdict its breath taking - I had a feeling things would go down like this when the jury basically asked for all the testimony to be read back to them , didn't know who was who regarding the witnesses, and then what were the other levels of charges.

Intent was there, slurs and motivation were articulated. And indeed its galling to have the GL(bt) step up and claim so victory. ..ok for NY it was the 2nd time ? Hate Crimes got brought into a case but Christ on a crutch , !? this is the sentence they offer.

Indeed you continue to have a way with Words Vanessa - taking this rage and refining it into succinct gold. imho.

Dominique said...

I totally missed the boat on this one, Vanessa. I got the HRC press release and I'm so overloaded with info/life right now, I read "found guilty of First Degree Murder". I didn't even see manslaughter.


Now I'm a bit pissed at myself for gleaning the article instead of reading it.

Manslaughter indeed. WTF???

Christine Beatty said...

One must wonder how any reasonable juror can NOT put the words "shotgun" and "kill" together, especially given the killer's hate speech. How can that be anything other than the jury giving the defendant the minimum crime possible allowed by law? Perhaps there were jurors that were more reasonable, but if enough were intractably committed to the "manslaughter" sentence they could have hung up that jury for days. In any case, it appear Syracuse is a place where a lot more education needs to happen.

Regarding NCTE's silence, it may be they are so focused on lobbying the Senate to get Hate Crimes through they judge don't have anyone to issue a statement? It's a bit disconcerting in the face of the two or three emails I get daily from religious right groups like the AFA (which I subscribe to to keep an eye on them).

Finally, regarding putting the Hate Crimes Act onto the same defense bill that the defense contractor whores in the Senate have stuck an F-22 appropriation, there is reason for hope. John McCain agrees with Obama that the F-22 program amounts to nothing more than Defense Pork and there is time to strip that part from the bill before it goes up for a vote. So call and write your Senators and remind them the Cold War is over, the country is in debt, and we don't need the stinking F-22s at $339M apiece.

Anonymous said...

I have just finsihed reading your obeservations on the DeLee case verdict. I can't agree more with your outrage and disgust. For this, we are denied access to womens' spaces. For this, we are accused of male privledge. For this, we are less important. For this, we are less than equal. For this, we ask justice to protect us and recieve pity - and not even real pity. For this, we ask for equality. We stand in the shadow of the justice and equality for Teisha, Nizah, Rita, Brandon and thousands more and remain hungry - remain waiting. Pray that we do not seek vengence.

Tammie said...

I disagree completely, it does not matter what we think, what matters is what was in DeLee's head and what the defense and the prosecutor was able to prove. The jury convicted DeLee on the evidence they had in front of them. Remember to convict someone of murder, there MUST me no doubt in the juror's mind. BTW DeLee used a .22 cal rifle not a shot gun and fired one shot.

Can you say with out a doubt that DeLee premeditively killed Lateisha Green?

DeLee was convicted of a hate crime, that is important. Stop calling for blood, please!

I believe we in the trans community should always take the high road and set an example of how we want to be treated and not act like the blood thirsty right wing extremists.

On another note, call your Reps and urge them not to include the Death Penalty in the new Hate Crimes Law, also to omit funding for the F-22.

Unknown said...

I have read your post of Friday, July 17 and just wanted to add a slight correction. NCTE did release a statement about the verdict in the Syracuse murder trial. You can find it here:

Anonymous said...

"call your Reps and urge them not to include the Death Penalty in the new Hate Crimes Law, also to omit funding for the F-22."

I understand that the veto threat means that there is a unique reason for having to mention the F-22 funding, but why is the death penalty something that we should be linking to T-specific or even LGB-specific matters? Would you rather have no bill than one with the death penalty provision?