Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Damn right it's not just words

ETA: BREAKING: Jury found Andrade guilty of first degree murder (along with other counts)

Life in prison without parole. Thank god.

Yeah, this is the cheery fucking post, today. Recently, not one, but -two- eleven year old boys, separately, have killed themselves because of homophobic bullying.

mzbitca says:

April 21st, 2009 at 10:42 am - Edit
Everytime I see some homophobic asshole complain about how gay marriage/the “gay agenda” is hurting them I just want to fucking scream. THEIR agenda is basically killing people and they don’t want to see people fucking holding hands or getting married.

And while homophobia is not the -same- as transphobia?** (and yes, there's a separate issue about co-optation and erasure w/in LGBT organizations, but put that on hold for now) Or misogyny, for that matter? or any other form of gender-based oppression? (After all, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover never ID'd as gay) Let the record show that they have the same noxious roots. Particularly in childhood.

little light says:

April 21st, 2009 at 9:58 am

God, it just makes my heart ache.

And it was so nearly me, too. I remember kids beating me up with teachers watching, who’d smirk and play innocent when I asked them for help. I think they thought it would fix me, you know? I hear in so many of these bullying stories that the people who think bullying is an important part of growing up say, over and over, it teaches children how to fit in, teaches them to be better, teaches boys especially how not to step out of line, and these are important lessons somehow. They think this bullying fixes kids and teaches them not to be freaks. They know it goes on, even encourage it. And some of us survive, somehow, but some of us–like, God, these poor 11-year-old children–don’t.

And you know–you know–there were a lot of people who knew this was going on, and chose not to stop it, because boys will be boys and that’s how kids are and hey, the kid needs to learn.

We need to find a way to give kids other, safer ways out of this. It just breaks my heart.

Little light had her own post on childhood bullying recently. Read it, if you're up for it--there's trigger warnings at the top. And then, if you're still up for potentially stomach-churning, read all the comments.

Still here? Okay. Moving on. The ongoing Angie Zapata trial, luddites and germs.

Angie Zapata was raised in Fort Lupton, Colorado, the second youngest of six children. Early in life, Angie’s family knew that she was transgender, but it wasn’t until around age 16 that she began living her life full-time as Angie. Being a woman was who Angie was - an incredibly loving daughter, sister and aunt. As a transgender woman, she faced harassment, bullying and exclusion — and eventually death. In July 2008, Angie Zapata was brutally murdered with a fire extinguisher because of anti-transgender bias. She was only 18. Zapata is survived by her mother, Maria and siblings Monica, Gonzalo, Stephanie, Ashley, and Nicole.

In high school, Angie endured harassment from other students and received little support from school administrators. In early 2008, Angie dropped out of school and moved to the city of Greeley, where she rented her own apartment. Babysitting her nephew and four nieces became Angie’s full-time job. She planned to move to Denver to pursue her interest in fashion and makeup as a cosmetologist.

A vibrant everyday Greeley teenager, Angie was an integral part of her family and community. Angie’s sister, Monica Zapata, recounted to The New York Times that, “We loved to take her out, because she got so much attention. I couldn’t even take her to Wal-Mart because people would turn around. Everybody knew Angie.” Although her friends and family were supportive, Angie was no stranger to the difficulties of life as a transgender woman. Monica Zapata said of the harassment Angie faced at school: “One time she came home crying saying, ‘Why, Monica, why won’t people accept me?’”

While the precise details of their meeting are not known, it is believed that Angie met the man who has admitted killing her through a mobile social networking site. On July 17, 2008, Angie Zapata was brutally murdered in her Greeley apartment. Two weeks later, Allen Andrade was arrested. Andrade has been charged with first degree murder, aggravated motor vehicle theft, identify theft and a bias motivated (hate) crime by the Weld County District Attorney.

The trial marks the first time that Colorado’s gender identity-inclusive hate crimes statute has been applied in the investigation and prosecution of an anti-transgender murder case.

You can follow the updates on the trial through Twitter. ETA: warning, details may be triggering.

But, so, yeah, words mean things. And in case you thought it stops when you enter the nominal world of grownups, or even that it's just limited to the "bad apples" like Andrade who actually commit the murders: here's the all-too-common-transmisogynistic trope playing out within the trial:

to wit, not only "She asked for it," but according to the prosecutor, she doesn't even get to be recognized as "she," and THAT'S -why- in this case she "had it coming," basically.

This story in the Greeley Tribune makes my blood boil. Not, surprisingly, the coverage itself, but the defense tactics in the Angie Zapata trial:

The first few times, it almost seemed like the public defenders were misspeaking.

But then, those watching the murder trial of Allen Andrade started muttering under their breaths. Witnesses on the stand continued to correct the attorneys questioning them.

Family members and friends echoed repeatedly, “my sister,” “Angie,” one by one on the stand Friday as public defenders Annette Kundelius and Brad Martin questioned them about “Justin.”

Ok, so got that straight? The defense is ungendering Angie Zapata by using a male name and pronouns. Hammering home that she had a “male” body. That she was “really a man.”

Well, what’s the difference, some more clueless cissexual people might wonder? First, this is a matter of respect. Angie lived and died as a woman. Her family and friends were adamant about that, even in the face of persistent ungendering. Of course, this is a criminal trial, not generally regarded as a place for respect. But neither is it supposed to be a place for poorly reasoned argument. Make no mistake, this is a cheap, dirty tactic.

More importantly than respect, this sets up an impossible standard for trans people to meet. Even if we out ourselves–as Angie Zapata clearly did–we are nevertheless “proved” to have been lying. It means that living her life as a woman, having the name of Angie, of itself constitutes an act of deception. In the trial’s mini-opening statements, the defense said:

“This case is not about judgment of a lifestyle,” Martin told the jury. “It’s not about whether Justin [sic] Zapata’s lifestyle was right or wrong. It’s about a deception and a reaction to that deception. … Justin’s Moco Space profile was that of a female, not of a transgender, and it certainly wasn’t that of a man.”

This article here lays out the reasoning in its title “Andrade: Stunned Victim or Homophobe.” Here, Andrade is improbably conjured as the VICTIM, not the woman he brutally bashed to death. Because obviously, a trans panic “victim” couldn’t simply walk away, couldn’t simply have been mistaken, couldn’t go “nope, sorry, not for me.” No, he’s so victimised–traumatised–by Angie’s sheer existence as an embodied trans woman with a penis, that he was forced to kill her.

Get it now?

(That's a rhetorical question. If the answer is "no," or if you're planning to argue,*** you need to -not- do it here. Yes, it's taken as granted that you're not a murderer, really. Just don't).

** fascinating. The automated spellcheck doesn't recognize "transphobia." It gives "homophobia" a pass, though.

***Kristin said...

...No matter what (and across a wide range of political viewpoints), it seems to be taken as unproblematic to center cis points of view on your experiences because cis points of view must always be validated. No matter that you're specifically writing about experiences that cis people do not have, there still seems to be this instinctive impulse to center cis experience.

...And there's a fair amount of entitlement in all of this, eh? I'm starting to think... I mean, so I've certainly fucked up in this kind of way, but here's the thing.... When cis people start to feel this instinctive urge to center *our own experiences* to the point of drowning out a story of emotional trauma and abuse... When we begin to do this *even though* we are demonstrating an extreme dissonance with the profound pain being expressed... When we can only think to engage with narratives like yours by calling the veracity of your claims into question under the guise of "objective truth"... Honestly? We ought to STFU, stop ourselves from centering our own experiences, recognize what we're doing, and deal with our blind spots without inflicting pain on marginalized people.


GallingGalla said...

yup. words set the environment. words say that it is ok to go to the next step, give one more excuse for the more violently minded to commit those violent acts. people who other us with their words had better get this through their heads.

there are Certain People *koff*koff* who need to read this, many times over, until they get it. nope, not talking about dirtyratsack and kittyg, they are unreachable, but those other Certain People who think their words don't mean anything and yell at us for being M33n 3v0l trans activist bitches.

Ouyangdan said...

Words do matter.

Following the trial in the news and on twitter you can see that the defense in trying to confuse people by using inappropriate pronouns and such. No matter how many times the lawyers are corrected. The defense is trying to feed on the hope that someone in the jury is also a big ol' transbigot who didn't get weeded out. I might just be beginning to feel my way around trans issues, but even I can see that is pretty fucked up.

The only "good" thing I can see in this is that Andrade has backed into a corner now. By using this disgusting "trans panic" defense he admits that he killed her out of hate and fear...for simply existing as she did. There is no backing out of that. Hopefully his disgusting defense tactics will make the fact that this is a hate crime completely obvious.

lankydancer said...

Jeebus, when it rains, it pours. I've been following the Angie Zapata trial when I can (mostly through blog updates and the suchlike), and have just been disgusted by the defense's blatantly transphobic tactics. The timing of that with BitchPhd's big mess o' fail and the parallels between the 11 year-old boys' deaths and Little Light's experience (the whole "bullying with make you right" meme is so unbelievably toxic and just a perfect example of the idea that the nail that sticks out deserves to get hammered down, you know, for the good of all of us) have just driven home how pervasive this shit is.

And yeah, like you said: homophobia isn't transphobia isn't misogyny isn't...isn't. and yet so much of it is based on the same assumption that different=defective=subhuman and deserving of pain/death unless they shape up. And that perception sure as hell is produced through "just words".

As much as it infuriates (and apparently makes super-rambly) me, thanks for posting this, because it's damn important to remember that words, and particularly words we apply to people, whether they be names (e.g. the whole misgendering and misidentification issue at Angie's trial), epithets such as "gay" (obvs. only when used pejoratively, which is what happened with the young boys) or labels such as Kitty's (I think? Her blog got linked in the comment thread from your post on the BPhd thing) "man-women", fucking matter.

We name things and give them labels to figure out how they fit into our world, and labelling people in ways that make it patently clear that you either don't believe that they have a right to fit into it, or that they can only fit in on your (hateful) terms, has a significant and measurable effect. Dehumanization always finds its roots in naming and labelling before it leads to violent actions, and we (the humanity "we", not just bloggers or what have you) cannot afford to forget that.

Jennifer said...

(here via Letters from Gehenna)


Reminds me of a favourite quote...

The habit, very prevalent today, of dismissing words as "just words" takes no account of their power. But once the Idea has entered into other minds, it will tend to reincarnate itself there... It may for some time only incarnate itself in more words, more books, more speeches; but the day comes when it incarnates itself in actions, and this is its day of judgment.
- Dorothy L Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, first published in 1941.
(and not to dismiss the potential emotionally-hurtful effects of words alone, either - but the point being that words don't stop at words.)

belledame222 said...

Hey, welcome, Jennifer.

Renee said...

You know I felt relief at first when I saw the verdict on twitter. Just thank God he is going to pay and then I thought about the stats at Remembering Our Dead, which state that two transpeople die from unnatural deaths a month. How many have died since Angie needlessly? I realized that justice will happen when cisgendered people stop their trans hated and stop committing acts of violence against them. Rest in peace Angie.

Kim said...

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee are back, Belles.
Don't noes if weeee are back for GOODSES ... but weeee still want to be in your belly!

( :) )

belledame222 said...


Alon Levy said...

It's good he got convicted. It's also good the AP story doesn't mention any plans for appeal - apparently, the conviction was such a slam dunk that appealing should be a waste of time.

belledame222 said...

THat is good, yes.

Jha'Meia said...

Ugh, when I posted on my LJ about the defense purposefully using the wrong pronouns and name to describe Angie, I got an admonishing comment telling me "not to hate the defense since she's only doing her job". Yeah, okay, so I'm not allowed to dislike the strategy? Man. It made me so mad how I couldn't state on my own space that using the wrong words is wrong without someone trying to correct me.

belledame222 said...

hey, welcome, JM