Friday, September 24, 2010

Woman brutally beaten for being trans; San Antonio media and police dismiss it

Trigger warning for description of violence against trans women .

A woman was brutally beaten this week for being trans. Media coverage has been scant, and little information has been released by the police, but here is what has been released: an unnanmed 24-year-old woman went on a date with a man with whom she had some kind of "arrangement". When he found out that she was trans, he thoroughly beat her around the face and left her at an apartment complex. She had to knock on a stranger's door begging for help to get medical and police attention.

The San Antonio police department are investigating this crime not as the hate crime it pretty clearly is, but as aggravated assault. This could have something to do with the fact that the Texas hate crime law excludes trans people (but of course, protects sexual orientation). But as John Wright of the Dallas Voice points out, "the new federal hate crimes law passed last year does protect transgender people and presumably could be used in this case. If the man beat the victim because she is transgender and not cisgender, then yeah, we’d say that’s a hate crime."

This act of cissexism in the face of horrific violence is part of a pattern of transmisogyny in the San Antonio police department. In February, officer Steve Nash raped a trans woman, and a similar incident happened in 2005 in the same department. Monica of TransGriot described the assault:
In San Antonio, one of the four cities profiled in the September 2005 report, veteran police officer Dave Gutierrez was convicted and sentenced on January 19 to 24 years and four months in prison for raping and assaulting then 21 year old transwoman Starlight Bernal during a June 10, 2005 traffic stop.
The most major coverage of the assault on this 24-year-old was also heavily flavored by cissexism. The title refers to her not as a woman or trans woman, but as a "woman who used to be a man". Furthermore, the man didn't "assault" or "beat" his victim; he "snap[ped]". Snapping at someone infers an overreaction to provocation. There was no provocation - she was just who she is. This was not an overreaction - he's a bigot who committed an act of hateful violence.

Furthermore, the first line of the report is about the man "was in for quite a surprise" - it does not mention the violence he committed. A surprise is a funny misunderstanding. He reacted to a human being's existence as a woman with severe violence - not, "oh my goodness, what a misunderstanding!" These linguistic choices shift the focus from the violent act to the woman's trans status and minimize her attacker's abhorrent actions.

To KENS 5, it's not about violence being perpetrated on an innocent woman - it's about how to make it relateable, and even funny. They're using the harmful trope of trans women as deceivers. Their language does not intent to inform their viewers of a vicious act of violence, but to satisfy their own sense of her as an other, and to comfort cis viewers that yeah, she's weird and icky. Even though a woman was beaten, that's not the focal point, that's not the shocking thing. As always with media coverage of trans women, the most important thing is what's in her pants, and how weird their trans status is, and how sorry they should feel for her poor attacker who was just pushed too far after his big surprise.


Update: Cara covered this in a little more depth at The Curvature.

1 comment:

  1. I read this article this morning, and I too hated how it was phrased. He didn't "snap", he perpetrated an transphobic act of violence!

    The article reported that the discovery of the trans woman's gender identity may have led to the beating. No, the man's DECISION TO ATTACK ANOTHER PERSON led to the beating. Good God, what a tone deaf, insensitive reporter.

    Finally, why aren't San Antonio police calling this a hate crime? A man attacked a transgender person for being transgender. If that's not a hate crime, what is?


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