17 July 2009
16 July 2009
15 July 2009
14 July 2009
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.
12 July 2009
I'm in an optimistic mood this weekend, and much of it is because of two community events. In my experience, online community can bring people together, but to me, it can also make me feel isolating. I'm not sure what the rules are forming online communities, but they seem much more structured than offline ones. Online communities are often founded on common values. Offline, I often find myself in communities that are determined by proximity. Anyhow, here are two uplifting community responses to anti-LGBT bigotry in Syracuse.
Over last weekend, someone defaced a local art gallery by writing "There is no such thing as a proud queer" on a window. This isn't the first time I've seen bigoted graffiti in my neighborhood, nor the first the gallery was vandalized. In any case, Rose Viviano, the woman who runs the gallery, decided to mount a community response. Amit Taneja and Laura Hannahs organized a website for queer Central New Yorkers and their allies to send in pictures. On Friday, the gallery held a community gathering, where volunteers hung copies of the pictures sent in to the blog.
10 July 2009
09 July 2009
Something about the response to Lateisha Green’s murder troubles me, though. I live in Syracuse. My friends and neighbors live in Syracuse. I feel the need to point out that crimes like Lateisha’s murder don’t happen in a vacuum. Furthermore, while violence against trans and gender non-conforming people is one of “my” issues, something I take very personally, I also care about all of my friends and neighbors, be they cisgender or transgender. When I see people from around the country speaking up about one of my neighbors’ lives being treated as disposable due to her identity, while remaining unaware or ignoring the rest of my city, I feel uneasy. I live here, and this city’s issues are my issues. How can I expect my neighbors to fight for my rights, when people like me seem hesitant to fight for my neighbors’ rights?
Don’t get me wrong—anti-LGBT bigotry is an important fight for all of us. Community leaders in the near-Westside neighborhood where Green lived (including Green’s mother) are working to provide LGBT youth of color with a space safe from all the hostility and violence they often face. Just this week, my neighborhood is participating in a constructive response to anti-queer vandalism (for a look at what some folks are willing to say anonymously to get a rise out of people, check out the comment thread on the newspaper coverage of the incident).
However, it’s also important to address the perceived disposability of other parts of the community. Upstate New York is not disposable. Syracuse is not disposable, nor are other urban areas. The poor are not disposable. People of color are not disposable. People with disabilities are not disposable. Young people are not disposable. This shouldn’t be news to readers, yet on many levels, power structures treat the above groups (and many other) like garbage. This needs to change. A focus on the issues of LGBT people is important, but it’s not enough to fix our communities nor is it all that is required to give many trans people the quality of life that they, like all people, deserve.
Why am I so upset? Well, here’s part of what I see in my city: I see rampant violence within groups of young men. I recall rerouting a recent trip out due to a massive brawl in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day. The issue here isn’t that I was inconvenienced. However, things seem to have gotten far too out of hand when violence is creating a traffic hazard, in addition to less frivolous concerns, such as the loss of a life earlier this week. A neighbor of mine who is about to be redeployed to Iraq complained that our neighborhood was more dangerous than Baghdad, and confessed his hesitancy to leave his loved one behind. I sense a heavy dose of hyperbole. Still, it is troubling when you hear someone emptying a magazine across the street from the playground where you take your child. While I’m not behind the drug war, I’m not at all torn about having to kick drug paraphernalia out of the reach of my daughter when we’re on walks, or about the strung out junkie who broke into a neighbors’ locked apartment and began rifling through her couch while she slept, only to be chased off by her mother. It’s painful to watch a city that at times seems on the verge of an outright race war, with epitats of all types clouding all parts of the city; the sidewalk, the grocery store, the playground, the post office. Regardless of your race, you simply can’t escape the threat of racially motivated harassment if you spend any time here. Of course, you can’t always escape violence, either; earlier this year a 14-year old sniper shot and killed a man as he got in his car to start the second shift.
There’s no single reason why so many of us experience such futility and violence. The economy certainly hasn’t helped. The latest recession has cost greater Syracuse some of its last manufacturing jobs, with Syracuse China and New Process Gear moving jobs out of the country, and Crucible Materials preparing to fold in the face of a disastrous market for American steel. As an Eastern outpost of the rust belt, this is simply an extension of a decades-long decline, marked by previous blows such as Carrier corporation’s foreign outsourcing. Speaking of the lack of media coverage that the media has given Green’s murder, economic considerations led Syracuse’s CBS affiliate (arguably the most community oriented station in town) to close its newsroom and effectively merge with our NBC affiliate, costing us jobs, and limiting the number of corporate perspectives of current events.
In addition to the economy, Syracuse is faced with the same crises as many other cities. We can measure the distain in which the powers that be hold us in slashed school budgets funded by unfair mechanisms, the environmental degradation of poor neighborhoods of color (and yes, segregation is an issue), in underfunded and borderline useless mass transit systems and the general lack of effective health and human service programs for many folks not privileged enough to live outside of the city’s South side (or the North side, or the East side).
What’s being done to allow all of the chance of upward mobility, or at least to be treated with dignity while we live in poverty? Thanks in large part to Gerrymandering, a city Republican and two conservative Democrats from outside Onondaga county are supposed to be representing us in the State Senate. Of course, if you’re playing along at home, you know that the Senate is (or until this evening was) in deadlock, as members of both parties court a tax cheat who openly flaunts campaign finance laws and a man indicted on two felony counts for beating his girlfriend. This whole schism largely seems to have been paid for by the former richest man in New York State, who recently moved his official residence to Florida in order to avoid paying his fair share of taxes. Of course, it’s not entirely clear that his tax dollars would have gone to help the majority of Syracuse residents, considering the incredible corruption in New York State government. While hundreds of millions of dollars of tax breaks went to help a developer build a “green” shopping mall (that may never be completed) finding the means to create *actual* jobs that pay a living wage has been elusive.
You could write a book (and people have) about what’s behind the violence within the poorer pockets of this (or any other) city, particularly among young men. Certainly, there are problematic issues with outdated, violent visions of respect and masculinity, and it takes strong families to keep children on the right path. However, it’s all too easy to blame violence on laziness or otherwise imperfect families, and doing so misses a massive part of the story. We as a society systematically disrespect the poor and people of color. The power structure in this country helps ensnare people in poverty. While violence is never excusable, much of our country seems to leave young men with very few outlets with which to make a living, or which to gain status within a community. This is complicated stuff, and discussions of it are fraught with peril—particularly discussion that involve a diverse audience. However, if we don’t all engage in a critical analysis of our actions and force ourselves to engage in dialogue on the tough issues, we’re merely enabling a culture where lots of human lives, LGBT or otherwise are treated as disposable. To me, the tragedy of Latiesha Green’s murder lies not only in the taking away of a human life for no good reason, but with my fellow white LGBT’s repeated unwillingness to consider the countless other lives snuffed out in Green’s neighborhood, or the rest of my city, or all of urban America, for no good reason. This stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
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