Thursday, January 1, 2009

Another Trans Woman Shot

cross-posted from my personal journal

I'm assuming most of y'all have heard about Leeneshia Edwards. If not, well, there's the link.

Two thoughts came when I was reading about this and the subsequent blogosphere aftermath:
  1. Not this shit again.

  2. Srsly, people are missing the bigger picture here, even though it should be fucking obvious

This is the third time in six months, and those are just the reported crimes. I don't want to even think about the untold numbers of more 'minor' assaults (i.e., ones that don't have to be reported by law) that have occurred.

That said, the hysteria about how Memphis is such a dangerous city for trans people (or even LGB and T people) is just that. People are missing the bigger picture here. Yes, it was because they were trans, but the class issues are also a larger part of the picture, and that is something that most people simply are not getting. All three women were African-American, trans, and had at least a history of sex work. Obviously, they did not deserve what happened to them because they were sex workers, but one cannot deny that the vulnerability of working in an (unfairly, if you ask me) illegal profession that is a modern-day scarlet letter put them at even more risk. They did it for survival.

It's a form of economic slavery because they had/have no access to the very institutions one needs for that much-vaunted upward mobility, or even just a life in livable affordable housing and employment that pays a living wage. Employment is an institution that not only serves to give people the means by which they can get the things that are needed for survival, it's also a means of participating in and literally being a valued part of society. After all, even the guy who makes $5.15/hr flipping burgers is considered more 'worthy' than the woman who has literally applied for hundreds of jobs only to be told that those are 'family-friendly' places, that 'their kind' isn't hired there, or just never given the courtesy of a call back. Being shut out of even the most menial employment is about as clear a sign as any that one is not worth anything in this society. And that is one thing that the (mostly white) trans women who look down upon the sex workers as being unworthy of basic medical care, employment, or even the label of human being has in common with the local authorities in the city of Memphis. And yet they are largely the same ones claiming that Memphis is Officially Unsafe for Trans People™. As a trans person, I do not feel like my life is in imminent danger if I don't pack up and drive far, far away. And I work late nights in southwest Memphis (out past Hickory Hill, which I drive through in the early evening and past midnight and sometimes even 2 a.m.) and have never been accosted. It could happen, but given that I'm a hell of a lot more privileged than the women who have been victims of these hate crimes, it's unlikely. I have a roof over my head, a job, a support system that enabled me to find housing after I got kicked out, a car, and I eat whenever I want to. I can afford medical transition (surgery excepted, but I'm working on it) and I can see a doctor whenever I need to.

The city of Memphis has a whole hell of a lot of things wrong when it comes to the treatment of LGB and T people who find themselves homeless, broke, and unemployed. Hell, there are a lot of things wrong with the way homeless, broke, and unemployed people in general are treated. At the very least, we need an accepting shelter, in truth we need a secular and progressive system of assisting the homeless, nearly-homeless, and those who were forced by bullying, familial rejection, or whatever else to terminate their educations early. As the only major metro area within 200 miles, it is an absolute travesty that even the most basic services aren't offered.

And if I could ask that douchewipe Barney Frank one thing (this is before I get dragged away by Secret Service or whoever protects Congressmen for spitting in his eye), I'd ask him if enough of us have been killed, maimed, raped, and otherwise traumatized for him to deign to include trans people in ENDA instead of removing those protections and then encouraging people to support the Baldwin Amendment to the bill.

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