Trans-panic is a bogus defense

2 06 2009

Last Wednesday, May 27th 2009, a trans woman named Kelvin Denton was shot in Memphis, Tennessee.  She was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the face, by a man named Terron Taylor, after he discovered that she was trans and felt that he was “misled” about Denton’s gender.  Taylor was arrested last Friday and is “being held on a $500,000 bond on two charges: attempted second degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony.”  Meanwhile, Denton is in critical condition in a hospital.

Denton is the fifth trans-woman who was shot in Memphis, Tennessee, since 2006.   Previous trans women who were victims of violent attacks in Memphis include Leeneshia Edwards (December 2008), Duanna Johnson (November 2008), Ebony Whitaker (July 2008) and Tiffany Berry (February 2006).

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is urging Shelby County authorities to “prosecute Taylor aggressively and not permit the use of the trans-panic defense”.  Trans-panic is a bullshit defense that is just a way for perpetrators to place responsibility off themselves and instead direct it to trans victims of violence who “tricked” them and “freaked them out”.

For starters, in many cases of violence against the trans community, the perpetrators are involved, and have been involved, with the victims for quite some time.  Trans men and trans women know the potential risks and dangers of people they get involved with not knowing their trans status.  Therefore they do not try to “trick” their partners and make them “freak out” and then murder them.  Furthermore the murdered victims of trans violence are dead, so whose side of the story do we hear?  Obviously not theirs.

But because the trans community is an already marginalized community and transphobia is persistent, people may fall for the trans-panic defense and view it as a valid defense.   Which it is clearly not.


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