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Oh god…

And the bad news.

Kellie Telesford’s murderer has been acquitted, despite the most ludicrous transphobic defence I’ve ever heard - that, completely out of fucking left field, she had really died in some sort of kinky sex act. This was, of course, on the basis that trans people are weird and just dig that kind of thing, despite a complete lack of any actual evidence to suggest that theory.

Nothing about this defence made the most remote vestige of actual sense, and yet Kellie Telesford’s murderer has been able to walk free because she was trans. This is evil.

Later edit: Or what Em said.

I’ve noticed in the years I’ve been out that incidents of transphobic violence seem to be relatively less common in Australia compared to North America. I can think of a few cases that I’ve heard about, none of them fatal. Given this, though, I’ve always been curious as to how our courts would react to the trans panic defence. Tonight, a Victorian Court of Appeal case from May, R v McRae, popped up on one of my lists, and it makes for interesting reading. On the plus side, the court rejected the trans panic defence out of hand - but on the negative, it is plainly obvious from the judgement that none of the learned judges could tell their arse from their elbow when it comes to trans issues, resulting in a two-year cut to the perpetrator’s sentence on other grounds.

I’m comforting by the central focus of the ruling, which did hold that the trans panic defence is indeed bullshit. The judgement contains a number of comments to the extent of “okay, so you might be a bit shocked, but no, you don’t get to beat the crap of her.” It was made very clear that his “shock” would be not be considered a mitigating circumstance whatsoever - and to that extent, I’m pretty relieved. It sends the firm message - from my home state’s highest court, no less - that violence against us will not be excused based on the ignorance of those who would attack us. And the perpetrator in this case, he walked away with a five-year prison term -not bad, considering how often our courts will simply let people walk free with assault and bodily harm convictions, no matter how severe the circumstances.

Unfortunately, this case also reveals two things that should be of serious concern: that the three justices presiding over this case didn’t have the faintest clue about trans issues, resulting in the perpetrator’s prison sentence being lowered from seven years, and that Australian jurisdictions desperately need hate crime laws, something which we currently lack in every state and territory.

There are a few issues here that suggest that the judiciary needs to gain an education in trans issues. The judgement repeatedly and uncritically uses the word “deception” to describe the victim daring to go home with this bastard. Of most concern, though, is the unbelievable ignorance displayed when hearing the details of some of his more tangential appeals (paragraph 22 and 23); the court actually held that the perpetrator’s referring to the victim as “it” was not an expression of contempt, and of stripping the victim of her humanity, but rather that he - and I quote - “simply did not to know how to refer to someone who was male or female.” Which is, uh, what the fuck?!? The panel then goes on to find, as a result, that the trial judge’s emphasis on this led him to place a too-severe sentence. When we’ve got judges ruling on cases concerning trans victims who, while noticeably not being based in their own prejudice, clearly remain very ignorant about fundamental things, this suggests to me that we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

The court also says - and I again quote here:

It must be remembered however that the appellant fell to be sentenced for his offending and not for his lack of understanding or the possession of a reprehensible attitude or bias against a person with the characteristics of the victim. After careful consideration of the transcript of the plea proceeding and the judge’s remarks I have formed the impression that this distinction may not have been properly made, that it probably contributed to the handing down of a sentence that, on any view of the matter, was very heavy indeed when comparison is made with the range of sentences and trends disclosed in the relevant ‘Sentencing Snapshot.

In other words, according to Justices Vincent, Ashley and Dodds-Streeton, that a crime was motivated by bias and hatred is an irrelevant consideration. This is a worrying sign, and it signals that we need to get our act together and start pushing for legislative action.  If the courts won’t do it on their own, we need to make it a consideration. I’ve always thought it a bit peculiar that Australia, which is light years ahead of most of the US on LGBT issues (outside of relationship recognition) never got hate crime laws; I suspect because we’ve (thankfully) never had a case like the murders of Mathew Shepard and Brandon Teena on our soil to make this hit home. This doesn’t mean that it’s not our problem, though - and in the wake of the failure of the civil unions legislation in my adopted home in the ACT, perhaps it’s about time we tried to set another legislative precedent.

And on a different note, while I’m on the subject of things legal, I discovered in the detail of the HREOC Report into sex and gender diversity issues (something which deserves a seperate post, but I’m sick and cranky) that there’s another trans lawyer doing the rounds apart from Rachael Wallbanks. As a hopefully future lawyer and as a trans person, it’s comforting to know that there’s actually even a couple people who’ve come before you; we lack so many of the prominent professional role models of those in the States.

> immigration to Quebec

It’s been a good week for getting rid of politicians with a penchant for sexual harassment.

Earlier in the week, Troy Buswell, the Western Australian state Liberal leader, finally stepped down. Buswell had been lambasted for months after various incidents of sexually harassing women, including sniffing the chair and making sexual remarks towards a Liberal staffer, and snapping open the bra of a Labor staffer, and had unbelievably managed to hold on through several leadership challenges. Finally, after the polls showed that his behaviour had gotten so unpopular that the Liberals were going to get absolutely thrashed, he stepped down, and he’s been replaced by former leader Colin Barnett.

It gets better. Len Kiely, the Northern Territory’s boorish Labor Minister for the Environment, has been defeated in the territory election tonight, with a massive swing of more than 18%, double the general election swing - and that against a three-time loser opposition candidate. Kiely had a history of drunken indiscretions until an incident last year where he made disgusting sexual remarks towards a female security guard while trashed at the cricket. He had to step down as Deputy Speaker - only to be brought back into the ministry by Paul Henderson late last year. Karma came back to him this week, however, when the woman he’d harassed letterboxed Kiely’s electorate with a letter about what he’d done.

Good riddance, you bastards.

And on a completely different note, go read the Down Under Feminists Carnivale over at Audrey and the Bad Apples. It’s easy to forget that we’ve got a lot of great bloggers out here, and I’ve got quite a bit of good reading to catch up on.

Things you need to read

I’ve been mentally putting together a post about a host of things - ‘trans panic’ defences, ‘deception’, victim blaming, and all the issues that’ve been swirling around my head in the wake of the Angie Zapata murder.

I’m not quite there yet, but there’s been a few excellent things written over the last couple of days, however, making some really excellent, and sometimes overlooked points when we’re talking about transphobic hate crimes. I put them here so I won’t forget as much as anything else, but they’re posts that really need to be read.

Brownfemipower:

So why is it just a given that “it”-that the dehumanization of Zapata-is not necessarily intertwined with and dependent upon her identity as a Latina? That is, would the panic defense be so easy to get away with if Angie wasn’t Latina? Would she be so easy to turn into “it” if we U.S. citizens weren’t already perfectly aware that Latin@s are people who could “trick” us if we aren’t careful? Even more to the point, would it have been so easy to kill Angie Zapata if she weren’t a Latina living in a country that actively criminalizes and dehumanizes people who look, sound, and have names similar to Angie’s?

Holly:

Seriously, don’t let anyone sell you the usual line that “oh, she tricked him and then he freaked out and killed her.” For one thing, even if that was the case, the appropriate reaction is not to kill someone. But more importantly, it’s often totally fabricated. But everyone just believes it because it’s so “plausible.” It’s the entire audience of listeners to these stories that need to wise up.

There’s also been quite a few people making the point that if you transfer the ‘deception’ bullshit so often used to blame trans murder victims for their own deaths into basically any other context, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Though I’m so unsurprised that even in these circumstances, some “feminist” folks can’t resist using our dead for a good old rhetorical debate: witness the turning of the Shakesville thread into a big ol’ debate about genderqueer pronouns. Ugh.

Oh, for fucks sake

The aftermath of the London Pride fiasco keeps going on, it seems, and it isn’t getting any better.

Sarah’s description of a meeting with the Metropolitan Police over the issue is, um, wow. I especially like the bit where the Pride London representative stated that the ban on trans women using the proper bathrooms was instigated by Pride London, had been done for “health and safety reasons”, and that they wouldn’t have done it if they’d known it was illegal. As Sarah said - “How about not doing it because it’s wrong?”

There’s also a variety of other trainwrecks on behalf of both the police and Pride London, the most horrifying being that a trans woman was sexually assaulted as a direct consequence of the actions of the police officer and Pride steward that night, after being forced to use the men’s bathroom. Sarah ultimately raises the prospect of a trans boycott of the 2009 event, which sounds like it’s well and truly warranted at this point. I’m struggling to think of an example of where an LGBT organisation has behaved this badly towards the trans community - I suspect even HRC would be incapable of something like this.

Thanks to Helen for the heads up.

Read ‘em

Lisa Harney and Queen Emily put up two of the best posts I’ve read in a long time last night last night. I don’t have anything to add, but I strongly recommend that people read them.

* Queen Emily: An open letter to cis feminists

* Lisa Harney: Cis Feminists: Trans Issues Are Important

It’s an important reminder, and a good question about the priorities of the blogosphere sometimes.

Two weeks ago, Angie Zapata, a 20-year old trans woman from Colorado, was brutally murdered, murdered for merely existing. It’s a story we’ve heard all too many times in this community: a young life snuffed out because some utter scumbag freaked out and decided that she deserved to die for his insecurities.

Her killer, Allen Ray Andrade, was arrested by Weld County police on Tuesday. It’s chilling how low the bar is when trans women are murdered - that I’m actually surprised that an arrest has been made and first-degree murder charges (with hate crime enhancement) levelled at Andrade - instead of dismissing her life as disposable and refusing to investigate, as occurred with the likes of Erica Keel and so many others. Even then, the prejudice levelled at her was clear and apparent, with the local police chief (even while initiating a fair prosecution) making remarks to the media about Zapata’s “lifestyle” being responsible for her death. It’s a disgrace that it’s actually an improvement that about half the media actually made an effort to respect Zapata’s name, gender and pronouns, presumably because she couldn’t be painted as a sex worker and her family was very vocal in respecting her identity. Still, the wall of shame included such names as the Associated Press (in violation of their own printed guidelines) and ABC News, and some of the outlets that did ultimately use the right language had to be kicked into it by Monica Roberts.

We can now wait for the inevitable ‘trans panic’ defense at the trial of Andrade, the piece of shit who charmingly referred to Zapata as ‘it’ at every opportunity when interviewed by police. It makes me burn with anger that someone being offended at our existence can still be still routinely treated as a defense to murder, or at least as a path to lower charges. It’s comforting that the Weld County police seem to be holding the line so far, but I’m not optimistic about the odds of finding a non-transphobic jury.

How many years will it take, I wonder, to see legislation comprehensively banning that particular defense, just as we’re starting to see with the related “gay panic” defense in parts of the US? For until that day, and for as many years as that takes, our lives will always be less valued under the law, and there will never be justice for our dead. And when twenty or thirty people in our community are being murdered in hate crimes in the United States alone every year, it sends the chilling message that any of us might well be next.

So close, but yet so far

I was celebrating the news earlier this week that the Rudd government had decided to end the racist policy of mandatorily detaining asylum seekers, often for years on end and without proper access to legal representation. In one fell swoop, Rudd quietly signaled an end to one of the worst eras in our recent history, and fifteen years of government-sanctioned harassment-cum-torture of refugees.

Less than 48 hours later, he went out and appointed Justice Robert French of the Federal Court, the member of the judiciary who did more than anyone to uphold that policy, and deserves much of the blame for its continued existence, as the new Chief Justice of the High Court. In 2001, French wrote the majority opinion in the full Federal Court’s decision in Ruddock v Vadarlis (otherwise known as the Tampa case), which overturned a just lower court ruling, and declared that in fact, sending the SAS to occupy a ship full of refugees to stop them landing in Australia and claiming refugee status, was not detention. It was a racist decision, it was a political decision and it was an irrational decision legally. In the short-term, it doomed the hundreds of refugees aboard the Tampa to years of being political pawns, but in the long-term, it paved the way for a string of policies that deprived refugees of their rights as long as the government could stop them reaching the Australian shore.

I detest French more than just about anyone else in the Australian judiciary, and I’m absolutely gobsmacked that a Labor government would even contemplate appointing him to anything, let alone as Chief Justice of the High Court. It sends a very worrying message about who the Rudd government intends appointing in the future, as well. I consider French worse than his Howard-appointed predecessor (Chief Justice Gleeson), worse than the last two Howard appointees (Justice Crennan and Justice Kiefel), and on a par with Howard’s worst, Justice Heydon. And that it would happen in a week that we’re supposed to be celebrating the end to such an evil era of our history, I’m just gobsmacked.

Consent

I’ve been a little lost for words lately. I’ve always used this blog as part-catharsis, and I have to get this post out. I’m also going to stick the post under a cut, as a possible trigger warning, just in case.

Continue Reading »

Just…fuck.

An Arizona shock jock who goes by the name of “Jon Justice” has made an effigy of Isabel Garcia, a prominent and widely respected immigrant rights activist, and then proceeded to mock sexually assault the effigy on air, while making racist comments. As Emily said, it’s pretty disgusting - and telling - that his first response was to mock sexually assault the effigy, to try to shut down this woman’s voice through sexual humiliation. He’s got a history of making an ass of himself on air, having been fired from his previous job in Grand Rapids after pretending to drown a dog on air. He’s still in his job, at least for now, although there’s a campaign going to have advertisers pull their money from his show. It’s unbelievably sick that any media organisation would even contemplate letting someone of this scumbag’s ilk stay on air in the wake of an incident like this.

There’s a list of things you can do, with updates on the efforts so far, at the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website. (Thanks to GallingGalla for that)

More (and better) from Latino Politico, WoC PhD, Brownfemipower, Nezua, and Para Justicia y Libertad.

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