On the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio a drama is playing out which has resonances in the trans community. A person identified by news sources as a 31-year old woman, Patricia Dye of Franklin, OH, was arrested for "impersonating" a 14-year old boy named Matthew Abrams, and corrupting a 16-year old female minor. Dye is being held on a $100,000 bond on charges they allegedly had illegal sex.
Try to follow along
The events of this story as reported by the Dayton Daily News are confusing. The girl first communicated with Dye over MySpace and Facebook. The girl's aunt reports:
She changed the girl’s pass codes to Myspace, Facebook and an alumni page for Franklin High School graduates to protect her from Dye, who was portraying herself online as Abrams and under other identities.
The aunt said police showed her as many as five pictures, some portraying Dye as a man, others as a woman.On June 22, on the girl's 16th birthday, she ran away from home while her mom was in the hospital having gallbladder surgery in another town. The person the mother trusted to keep track of her daughter, Melissa Neumann, assumed the 4' 11" Abrams (aka Dye) was a 14-year old boy. Evidently, the girl traveled to Franklin, OH to a motel where Dye and his parents lived. Police claimed Dye and the girl slept together in a van and had sex. The girl was found wandering the streets of Franklin and picked up as a runaway. She has since been returned to her aunt's custody. On July 8, Dye was arrested and is currently being held in the Butler County jail women's facility.
It's a... it's a...
In the Huffington Post, police are quoted as claiming:
Dye was arrested after the underage girl she is accused of having sex with fled the hotel room that she shared with Dye, reports CBS News. Police say that the girl fled after finding out that Dye was an adult woman and not the boy that she had claimed to be.
Dye's parents give a radically different portrait of what happened. They say the girl knew Dye was biologically female the entire time. That the two never slept together in a van but stayed in the family's room at a residential hotel (where they lived) called "Collie's". That the two never slept together in the same bed, and that Dye and his mom slept in one bed and "the alleged victim slept on a blanket next to the bed in the room."
Moreover, they give a different portrait of Dye than as a male impersonator for the purposes of obtaining sex.
Both parents said Dye had fallen in with the wrong crowd. Dye’s mother said she’d taken calls from school officials in Lebanon in the 1990s about her daughter pretending to be a boy. “She always wears slacks. There’s nothing wrong with that,” the mother said. Ralph Dye said he believed his daughter was innocent of the charges.
Haven't I heard this before?
The story has obviously strong echos of the Brandon Teena case in Nebraska from the early 1990s (on which the film Boys Don't Cry was based). Brandon was a troubled youth who was also male identified. He came from a marginalized family, got into trouble in high school and repeatedly ID'd himself as male. At the age of 18 he got involved with girls much younger than himself (13 years old) and in a relationship with a 14-year old named Lana and was arrested for passing bum checks trying to buy presents for her. In the act of outing him to Lana, Teena was eventually raped and sexually assaulted by two young men who were Lana's friends. Brandon reported the rape/assault and was later murdered by the two men after the police did nothing to protect Brandon from them. The girlfriend later admitted she knew Teena was biologically female and that it didn't matter to her.
Lez-bean Deceiver *shivers*
His story was first brought to life in a story by Eric Konigsberg in Playboy magazine piece from 1995 called " Death of a Deceiver" which identifies Brandon by his birth name of Teena. Konigsberg writes, "Thus began the double life of Teena Brandon: uneasy tomboy by day, cool lady-killer by night." He is clearly ID'd as a predator of young girls (he was a late teen at the time he met Lana and was 21 when he was murdered). For the first several years of reporting this case, Brandon was almost universally identified as a butch lesbian, and his murder was taken up by a number of organizations involved in lesbian rights.
Later, a documentary called " The Brandon Teena Story (1998)" (which restored the trans aspect to Brandon's male identity) inspired the Academy Award winning film Boy's Don't Cry which firmly posited him as a trans man.
Brandon Teena (l) and Lana (r)
In both cases, Brandon and Dye were both reported as predators "impersonating" boys to obtain sex. On a CBS site for the series 48 Hours Mystery, Dye is very much presented as a predator. The story has begun to proliferate on the Internet both because of its transgender angle and because of its echos of Boys Don't Cry.
Brandon Teena as a gangster
The wheat from the chaff
Whatever the outcome of the ultimate facts of this case and whether the two even had sex, it remains a 31-year old was having an Internet relationship with 15-year old while pretending to be 14-years old. There is a predatory aspect to that and not something I (as the parent of a teenager myself) take lightly. It's also clear this girl was having problems at home and used her connection with Dye to run away—whether that also involved a sexual relationship or not, she wanted out. In all likelihood, Dye was not "impersonating" being a male but is some flavor of trans and that aspect is being pointedly ignored by media who continue to gender Dye as female (as they did with Brandon Teena). Although the police curiously described them as boyfriend/girlfriend while continuing to use female pronouns for Dye.
The old saw of "trans people pretending to be someone they're not to fool innocent 'normal' people" is being dragged out yet again. As coverage of this case continues (and it seems likely it will appear on CBS's 48 Hours) expect to see more commentary about how trans people need to be "honest" about who they really are and that violence is to be expected for "deceptive behavior." How unscrupulous people will use gender transition as a way to mask their criminal acts. Moreover, the word "transgender" will continue to be a media synonym for "underclass" and "creepy."