14 July 2009

Limited Personal Comments on Day 2 of the Lateisha Green trial

I’m going to be fairly limited in what I post about the trial for a number of reasons.  First, I don’t want to overshadow the public statements of Lateisha Green’s friends and family by replaying the minutae of the trial.  Along those lines, there are a number of non-profit, activist groups who are putting out responsible, carefully-worded and important statements about events surrounding the trial.  Second, I don’t quite feel right about retelling all of the details of the evening of November 14, 2008 to the broader world.  Frankly, I don’t enjoy hearing most of the details.  I’m fairly sure that all parties touched by the events aren’t particularly thrilled about reliving that night, much less about having the details retold over-and-over on the internet.  I would rather leave it to those more intimately tied to the murder of Lateisha Green and the subsequent criminal proceedings to post any such details, were they to deem it appropriate.

Before I make my limited observations, I’d also like to comment about my presence at the trial.  I wrestled with whether or not to attend the trial, and whether or not to blog about it.  I’ve been attending the proceedings because I take the murder of Lateisha Green personally.  I’ve dealt with adversity in my life as a trans person—far less adversity than many (if not most) transsexual people deal with, yet far more than is acceptable.  I’m familiar with the sobering stories of many trans friends, acquaintances and strangers.  Listening to accounts by Green’s family, I am struck by how much love and support she was surrounded with, and how full of life she must have been.  Based on what I’ve heard, it seems to me that in many ways Lateisha Green had a support network that many trans people would be envious of—the sort of support than all human beings deserve.  Yet this was not enough to protect Lateisha from harassment and violence.  I cannot tell you how much this saddens me.  I am attending the trial because I’m hoping that the addition of one more person in the gallery will be a small gesture of support to Lateisha’s friends and family during this difficult time, and because my publically taking notice of the trial sends a message to the community that one more person takes violence (violence writ large, violence against trans people, and violence against a trans person, Lateisha Green) seriously.  I also want to verify that the criminal justice system not only takes the tragic taking of Lateisha Green seriously, but also that those involved do justice to Lateisha by respecting her identity.

Here are comments on three things:

The use of names and pronouns

Throughout testimony for the prosecution that I witnessed (prior to 3:30 p.m.), authorities (multiple police officers, an EMT, and a medical examiner) referred to Ms. Green by her birth name, and used male pronouns in reference to her.  The prosecution and defense did likewise.

I’m not sure what I’d expect, given that Ms. Green’s birth name was also her legal name.  I never met Ms. Green and am loathe to ascribe her with an identity based on my experiences, although given statements from her family that she had been living as Teish for 4 years, and their consistent use of female pronouns in reference to her, this use of names and pronouns troubles me.  I don’t want to speculate about the degree to which the usage of names and pronouns is due to cissexual perspectives on gender, or the degree to which the hate crimes designation is a consideration in how the prosecution has treated Ms. Green’s identity.


When asked by the defense whether he noticed anything about Lateisha Green in respect to her sexuality, a police officer refered to her as a man dressed “flamboyantly” and as ‘a man dressed as a woman.’  During cross-examination, the defense discussed the specific clothing Ms. Green was wearing when the officer was observing her medical treatment, and stated that the clothing was not “flamboyant.”

While discussing the external portion of the autopsy, the chief county medical examiner gave a description of Lateisha Green’s underwear, followed by the observation that the sizing of said underwear was consistent with a woman’s undergarment.  The defense objected to this statement, which led to a conference at the bench, after which the prosecution and witness moved on to other subjects.

I’m not going to deconstruct all of this, but again, I personally find all of the above statements troubling.  In my opinion, popular depictions of trans women frequently pay undue attention to details of clothing, particularly undergarments.  The term "flamboyant", and phrase 'man dressed as a woman' are, in my opinion, very loaded.  Presumably, much of this testimony and the back-and-forth about it is related to the hate crimes charge.

A point about an EMT

One of the police officers on the scene testified that an EMT who was treating Ms. Green hesitated after cutting away her shirt revealed a bra.  The officer testified that he told the EMT to keep going, and that Ms. Green was a man.

It’s important to note that the hesitation that the witness mentioned was inconsequential in terms of the medical treatment that Ms. Green received.  There was no discussion of or elaboration on the length of the presumably momentary hesitation.  Again, in light of other testimony during the trial, I see this hesitation as inconsequential with respect to the trial, and Ms. Green's death.  However, as a transsexual woman living in Syracuse, I find this testimony deeply troubling.  I see obvious parallels (and differences) with the death of Tyra Hunter.  Again, I don’t want to make mountains out of molehills, but I’d also prefer to believe that one’s gender identity and expression does not impact the quality of emergency medical care that one receives.

There were lots of other developments today, but I’m assuming that TDLEF or others will touch on them.  I’m not in a mood to discuss all of the minutiae of the trial, and I also don’t want to discuss things that I’m not prepared to discuss in an unemotional manner.


  1. Kate, I've cross-posted your essay at the "Justice for Teish" FB site. Beautifully written and some of what we aren't getting from GLAAD or TLDEF (don't get me started). If it's okay with you, could you please send me a note (you can mail me at my Facebook page... Gina Morvay) if you write another piece, I'd like to put them up on the site. Thanks.


  2. Hi Kate, thanks so much for sharing this. I really appreciate having access to these kinds of details about the way the case is being tried. It's a lot to think about. I'm personally a little confused about why it made any difference to the trail whether or not Teish was wearing women's underwear... but that does make me think about the media coverage after the murder, which said that she was not dressed in women's clothing at the time of the murder. How telling that the reporters covering the story took the fact that wasn't wearing "flamboyant" or highly feminine clothing at the time to mean that she wasn't "dressed as a woman."
    Also, as a fellow Syracuse resident, I found what you shared about the EMT really disturbing. I'd also like to believe that my gender identity wouldn't affect the quality of medical care I received in an emergency situation, but I suppose that is pretty naive of me. It's a lot to think about, thanks for sharing.