Saturday, February 27, 2010

Headline: 'Transsexual Man' does not mean FTM!

Did you know "transsexual man" actually means someone who, very likely, wants boobs and not someone who wants to rid themselves of their mammary glands? Well, it's true. If you look at most media having to do with murders and sexual assaults in the trans community, the victim is virtually always "a transsexual man." The curious part is, said "man" will be living and presenting as a woman and is attacked in the way women are usually attacked. This fascinating contradiction has sadly raised its ugly head once again in San Antonio on February 25, 2010, where a police officer, Craig Nash, has been charged with handcuffing and repeatedly sexually assaulting a "transsexual man" he had arrested for prostitution. No, as usual, there is no indication as to whether the victim actually was a prostitute or the officer just assumed she was. As stated by reporter Kristina De Leon of station WOAI News (and repeated verbatim by virtually every other news outlet in San Antonio):
‛‛The complainant, who authorities say is a prostitute, told police that Nash handcuffed him in the back of a marked patrol car before taking the him to an unknown location and forcing him to engage in multiple sexual acts, the affidavit states. Nash reportedly was wearing his police uniform at the time.”

Presto chango—Gender Swappo!
I went ahead and contacted several of the newsrooms which initially reported the story and they confirmed, yes, the victim was a "man dressed as a woman" (aka a transgender woman). But it doesn't stop there, because now, as it's often happened in past, many LGBT media outlets will start to mis-identify the victim as being an FTM based on the "transsexual man" reference. The first instance I've already found with this case is "Project Q" in Atlanta, who picked up the story and 'clarified' how the unnamed victim is an FTM. Yes, in the name of being accurate, the literal identity of the victim is twisted again into that of a trans man. This switch-a-roo has happened in a number of cases in the past several years. LGBT blogs and media sees "transsexual man" and instantly translates that into a FTM victim.

I also recently saw this in the case of a hearing-impaired trans woman who had gone to Trinidad, Co to have a SRS consult with Marci Bowers, but ended up being attacked and sexually assaulted by a stranger who had followed her from another town. The victim in the incident was initially reported by a Pueblo newspaper as being a "transgender man." Within hours of the story appearing on the Internet, several LGBT blogs covered the attack of a transman being attacked in Trinidad. The Trinidad police (who were very closed lipped about the story, perhaps not wanting it to influence a key business in the town) were unforthcoming about details. Several days later it was confirmed by the Trinidad Chief of Police that the victim was, indeed, a transwoman.

Which proves...
This reached bizarre proportions several months ago when I was on a blog discussing the issue how, in fact, there have been virtually no media reports of FTMs being sexually assaulted since the Brandon Teena case (which, of course, doesn't mean that such assaults haven't occurred, just that they haven't been reported by media). The person I was discussing the issue with brought up two other cases of recent sexual assault against FTMs reported in Queer media. After a little checking, I realized she was actually referring to two cases of transwomen being raped but it being misreported as a "transsexual or transgender man." Again, well-intentioned media sources did the translation to FTM without even thinking about a possible initial dis-gendering.

Just to clarify for those reading this... when you read about a "transsexual man" being sexually assaulted/murdered somewhere in the United States, first assume that victim is, in fact, a transwoman. Check the original sources and, certainly try to actually verify the gender identity/expression of the victim.

One other question I must ask, though, is why LGBT/Queer media sources are so lazy about this issue and why so many repeated mistakes like this have occurred? I do believe that some of it is a fatigue about transwoman being attacked and wanting to assign some of that to other groups for political reasons. In cases like the Lopez Mercado murder in Puerto Rico, where the victim was presenting as female at the time of the murder, it was widely reported as the murder of a gay man, not the murder of someone clearly presenting as a woman. Yet the gay media and many activist organizations seemed to have a huge vested interest in presenting that incident as a crime against gay males and not gender variant people.

We want what we want when we want it-
Similarly, I've observed a large number of Queer activists, transmasculine people and a few FTMs who've twisted some of the statistics having to do with the Transgender Day of Remembrance to make it sound as if transmen are also regular targets of these murders. I've heard several "readings of the victim's names" where Brandon Teena (and, in fairness, Gwen Araujo) was suddenly invoked along with the current year's list of dead trans women. Why? Because they'd heard about those cases and hadn't heard about the many trans women in Turkey and Central America who are murdered every year? Because the usual yearly list of murdered young African-American transwomen didn't meet their requirements?

In search of the FTM victim
Just because murders and violence against FTMs aren't reported (and it's not surprising trans men might have a lot of issues about reporting sexual assaults against them to the police) doesn't mean they aren't happening. I suspect they are, I just can't verify that because it hasn't been included in statistics nor covered in the media. Bare in mind a lot of the reason for the initial interest in the Brandon Teena case was because he was (and unfortunately still is in some circles) identified as a butch woman. There was one reported murder of a trans man in 2009, but it was by the trans man's longtime partner—not by a casual acquaintance or stranger. Another murder of a trans man in Chile 5 years ago was perpetrated by the victim's father. One of the few reported acts of violence against a trans man in the past year was committed by a group of women (and one male friend) at a Washington DC gay club during a 'Dyke Night' which the trans men had attended. Much of the Queer press was curiously quiet about this incident and some of the community tensions it may have represented.

White victims needed
Something similar could also be said for white trans women appropriating the murders of trans women of color to prove their own oppression. Yes, there are some white victims, like Andrea Waddell in England, and there can be little question her murder was covered by a wider range of media outlets (and more respectfully) because she was white and college-educated. In a bizarre twist, a fabricated murder of a young, white transwoman (who was supposedly a regular on the Laura's Playground transform website) was immediately flash-disseminated, reported, and lamented while real murders against transwomen of color went ignored or under-reported.

My heart goes out to the currently unnamed victim in San Antonio who had the fortitude to report the rape shortly after she was released by her policeman rapist. She did this knowing the possible repercussions by the police department (as may have happened in the Duanna Johnson execution in Memphis). That, very likely, the media would strip her of her womanhood and, perhaps, even blame her because she'd be ID'd as a hooker. I have little patience for Queer/LGBT media outlets which re-gender people both out of not checking their sources and because they're looking for the "right" victim to further their cause. There are no right or wrong victims... just those whose lives and personhood were unfairly taken from them.

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