News - August 1996

Transpeople left behind on hate crimes again

Washington, DC -- President Clinton has signed the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996 passed by Congress on June 26, which reauthorizes the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. The HCSA, originally enacted in 1990, mandates FBI collection of data on hate crimes based on "race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity."

Despite the fact that the HCSA does not cover transgendered persons, GenderPAC helped a broad coalition of civil rights organizations urge Congress to reauthorize the HCSA after its original mandate expired in 1995.

In effect, HCSA will cover genderqueers if, and only if, they can demonstrate the assault on them occurred as a result of their being "perceived" as gay or lesbian. The difficulty of this can be can be gauged by the recent brutal slayings of transpeople like Brandon Teena or Deborah Forte. Even in such horrific cases, local officials have been notoriously reluctant to label them "hate crimes," while correspondingly eager to blame the victim's alleged gender "deception" as the cause.

Said Riki Anne Wilchins, GenderPAC's Executive Director, "In the face of the terrible incidence of trans murders in the past few years, including Brandon Teena (NE), Christian Paige (IL), Deborah Forte (MA), Chanel Picket (MA), Janice Ricks (OH), Harold Draper (NJ), Cameron Tanner (CA), Marsha Johnson (NY), Jessy Santiago (NY) and her sister Peggy Santiago (NY), it is simply unconscionable that people *still* haven't gotten the message that hate crimes against gender people *must* be tracked."

Declared Dana Priesing, GenderPAC's Congressional Advocacy Coordinator who had worked hard for trans-inclusion: "This is a bittersweet event for transgendered people. We're glad to see the Hate Crimes Statistics Act reauthorized and for our gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters who are once again covered by the Act. And we're pleased to have contributed to the reauthorization process."

"But Senator Mosely-Braun stated on June 27 that reauthorization of HCSA facilitates 'a better understanding of the magnitude of hate crimes nationwide.' Reauthorization won't have that effect for crimes against transfolk, because it doesn't identify or count them.

"So we're also frustrated that our coalition partners and elected representatives don't recognize it's past time to include transgendered people in HCSA. And we're outraged by the knowledge more transgendered people will be harassed, attacked and killed because of their gender identities and these crimes will go unrecorded and unrecognized for the hate crimes they are.

"That is why a keystone in GenderPAC's 1997 Congressional agenda will be to change get coverage within HCSA for all of us in the queer community."

©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.