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.