A few days ago, Katie Couric interviewed transgender model Carmen Carrera, andOrange is the New Black star Laverne Cox. For whatever reason, Couric chose to veer suddenly into questioning Carrera about how her “private parts” are “different now” and if she’s had that surgery yet. Carmen shushed her immediately, and reminded Couric that’s a very private issue. In the next segment with Laverne, Couric went right back to asking Ms. Cox about the genitalia question.
Laverne’s answer was flawless.
"The preoccupation with transition with surgery objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we’re targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the [LGBT] community. … [B]y focusing on bodies, we don’t focus on the lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination."
Other commentators have noted that the bodies of transgender people are somehow public domain. Though Laverne alluded to it, not only are our bodies expected to be public domain, but so are our histories. The results of this unrealistic expectation are horrific.
In Australia, police took a man into custody. While there, the police (illegally) informed him that his girlfriend was a post-operative transsexual. After being released from police custody, he went home, found his girlfriend sleeping, and woke her up by repeatedly bludgeoning her with a glass ash tray until it tore her lips off. After she lost consciousness, he took her to the attic balcony and threw her over the rail onto the concrete two floors below.
The police who leaked this information got community service as punishment.
In Scotland, a transgender man has been convicted of rape and placed on the sex offender list for not disclosing to his girlfriend that he was transgender before engaging in consensual sexual activity.
I have seen it expressed that any transgender person who does not tell their partner that they have transitioned is guilty of rape, and that violence against the transgender person is merely an act of justifiable self-defense. The way this man stuck his hands down the pantsof a transgender woman without her consent and then beat her when he found out her birth gender. One commenter on this assault summed up how transgender people are expected to know their place:
"Since heterosexual males generally are not looking for a person of the same physical sex as them, shouldn’t this transgender person have informed the man that she is in reality a male? "Anita" Green is the problem here, not the poor guy who got duped."
When 18-year-old Angie Zapata’s boyfriend found out she was transgender by forcibly groping her, he bludgeoned her to death with a fire extinguisher. A commenter on theDenver Post summed up society’s feelings in one sentence: “This transgender brought it on himself…”
Not only are our bodies not our own, neither are the history of your genitals or your genetics. For whatever reason, this seems to only apply to transgender people.
Is there societal acceptance of someone who beats a woman when he finds out she’s a quarter Jewish? Are men required to tell if they’re circumcised? Women have to announce if they’re had a clitoral hood piercing? Is it self-defense if you murder your boyfriend because you found out he’s not a gold star gay like you? How about throwing your girlfriend off a balcony when you find out she identified as bisexual before she identified as a lesbian?
From Gwen Araujo, to Brandon Teena, to Angie Zapata, to Cemia Dove, our lack of ownership of our bodies has meant being forcibly stripped, groped, raped, strangled, stabbed burned, and bludgeoned. It means that transgender panic defenses live on in court, and sometimes even win. After Brandon McInerney shot Larry King twice in the back of the head in the middle of a crowded classroom, the jury deadlocked on the case. Some even sympathized with the murderer. “[Brandon] was just solving a problem,” one juror said.
Since Couric’s interview, much has been written about how transgender people seem to have no expectation of privacy. Laverne alluded to the violence that the transgender community faces. Couric’s expectation that transgender people have little right to physical privacy is an expression of the cause.
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