By Riki Anne Wilchins, Executive Director, GenderPAC
It is at once sobering and heartening to see straight news media finally giving gay hate crimes the serious attention and space they deserve. Even the New York Times has weighed in with repeated editorials on the vicious murders of Matthew Shepard and now Billy Jack Gaither. The gay press, of course, is filled with these stories; the HRC webpage opens with Billy Gaither's terrible murder.
I used to explain to college audiences and Congress-members alike that every four or five months another fairly straightforward, unambiguous gender hate crime occurs. Awful as that figure is, I didn't know how good we had it.
Rita Hester in Boston, Chanel Chandler in California, Steve Dwayne Garcia and Jane Doe in Houston, Lauryn Paige in Austin, Fitzroy Green in New York, Vianna Faye Williams in Jersey City, and Tasha Dunn in Tampa... We are now averaging one gender-murder every month. Simply put, in the last half-year, this country has turned into a meat-grinder.
Where are the voices crying out against the murders of these people? Is it that the violence done to Rita Hester or the sadistic torture and murder of Lauryn Paige are less horrific? Is it that the hatred which impelled the killer of Tasha Dunn to, in the words of the police, beat her to her last breath any less virulent and profound?
Or is it that when a hate crime occurs based on race, or religion, and now, at last, on sexual orientation, reasonable people can reasonably hope that voices will be raised in protest? But are six murders, or sixty murders, that occur based on gender rendered mute and invisible because certain kinds of bodies and certain kinds of hate don't matter as much? Within the queer community and certainly within the straight press, we are disposable people.
How many of us will need to die violently, alone, and in terrible pain before our press, our leaders, and our organizations speak out? Perhaps they never will speak out, and some of us will continue to pay for being gender-different with our lives.
It is ironic that GenderPAC's National Survey of TransViolence reveals that the most common epithet used when we are bashed is "faggot." Transpeople are targeted because of the perception that we are gay. And gays are often picked out because they are "visibly queer," that is, because they are gender-different.
But the fine-line distinctions we draw to populate and protect the divisions among us--between orientation and gender or between gay and queer or between you and me--are lost upon those who stalk and prey upon us. We are all at risk, even if only some of us count.