Why Don't We Hear More About Attacks on 'Flamboyant' Transgender Women?

Illustration for article titled Why Don't We Hear More About Attacks on 'Flamboyant' Transgender Women?

Is the mainstream media — and society as a whole — ignoring violence against transgender women who aren't as interested in "blending in" as other members of the mainstream LGBTQ community? Jay Michaelson thinks so, and argues in The Daily Beast that the problem isn't a result of discrimination as much of how our national "evolution" has moved so quickly that we're still not exactly sure how to think about what it means to be transgender.


Last June, 22-year-old Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald, who was in the process of transitioning from male to female, stabbed and ultimately killed a harasser who attacked her in front of a Minneapolis bar. Her actions were clearly in self-defense, but earlier this week, she was sentenced to 41 months in prison for manslaughter — which she will likely have to spend in a men's prison. She's just one of a number of transgender people who have been attacked over the past year, most of whom are also people of color, like Brandy Martell of Oakland, who was shot in the genitals and then in the chest, and Paige Clay, who was found murdered in a Chicago park. Only one recent case — that of Chrissy Lee Polis, who was assaulted by two young women in a Baltimore-area McDonald's last April — received attention, because a video of her attack went viral, making it harder to ignore.

Why don't we hear more about violence against transgender women? Michaelson thinks it's because we're focused on more relatable issues like the same-sex-marriage debate and the Tyler Clementi/Dharun Ravi case; practically everyone knows one of what Michaelson calls the "good gays" who "simply want to go to the same country club as their straight friends," but less people feel comfortable around members of the trans community who want to stand out. The Chicago victim for example, was a ball scene star who once said, "If you are quiet as a mouse, no one will hear you." Michaelson writes:

Are gay people to be welcomed because they are just like straight people, and therefore OK? Or should they be included because we all recognize that people are different from one another, and have a right to determine for themselves how to live their lives?


It's hard to believe that McDonald would go to jail if she were a "normal" (and white) gay or lesbian person like Dan Savage, or Ellen DeGeneres, or me. We'd understand that she was entitled to defend herself, and that she did not invite this violence by being flamboyant, gender-nonconforming, or black.

The media easily feeds into this; consider this quote from a recent New York Times story on a transgender woman of color who died in a suspicious fire last month. The first sentence reads:

She was 25 and curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment, her neighbors and the authorities said.

Ah. Funny how it so often all comes back to the gold ol' "she was asking for it" defense, isn't it? The Times apologized, saying that "we should have shown more care in our choice of words," but at what point does carelessness and/or ambivalence become irresponsible?

Media Ignores Rash of Assaults on Transgender Women [The Daily Beast]

Image via artgraphics /Shutterstock.



I'd never seen it written "trans*man" or "trans*woman" before. Can someone educate me on this? I have several friends who are either FTM or MTF, and I am constantly trying to learn more about the correct language and identifiers so as not to offend anyone. I've been involved in the LGBT community for years but I've only recently begun to be familiar with the "T" part of that.