Monday, June 15, 2009

Justice for Teish and all trans people

I read a good article in Transgriot the other day, pointing out the egregious lack of media coverage for the trial of Dwight DeLee who is accused of murdering Lateisha Green in Syracuse, NY. In comparison to the media spotlight, comparatively speaking, that was aimed at the Angie Zapata murder trial in Colorado, this trial has almost become a nonevent. And that's a shame because this trial highlights a district attorney who is trying to make a hate crimes murder case against someone in a state that doesn't include gender identity and expression in its hate crimes laws.

DeLee's attorney, Clarence Johnson, has already tried and failed to remove the hate crimes designation as unconsitutional. Thank goodness Onondaga County Judge William Welsh saw the ploy as the desperate attempt it was and ruled against it. So far, it hasn't come up, as far as I know, but I have some more misgivings about this case. I fear that the defense will not only use the "trans panic" excuse in one form or another but will also try to remove the hate crime charge by pointing out that Teish was a trans woman and that she was therefore not covered by existing New York hate crimes law.

The potential success of such an argument in a state where marriage equality legislation has once again eclipsed the fight for equal protection for trans people would add yet another injury to the insults the trans community experience in New York. We need to remind those in power how the message sent to the TLBG community in the Syracuse region by the murderer affects all of us and not just the unfortunate family of the victim. We need to write and call the local Syracuse media whose clueless coverage reinforces the ignorant perception of those who are trying to deal with a rare but treatable medical condition as being mentally ill, repugnant to normal humanity and deserving of such violent treatment.

I hope and pray that the circumstances of the case make it impossible for Mr DeLee's attorney to argue against the hate crimes addition on the basis of Ms Green's gender identity and I also hope and pray that the New York State Senate will move S2406, the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA), out of committee, onto the Senate floor and onto the Governor's desk for his promised signature. This year, before marriage equality.

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