Allen Andrade was last night found guilty of both first degree murder and bias motivation (hate crime) in his killing of the 18 year old Angie Zapata last summer. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
The prosecution successfully convinced the jury that Andrade’s hatred of transgendered and gay people (Andrade’s transphobia meaning he read Angie as a gay man) lead him to murder her in an unprovoked attack of shocking brutality.
While nothing can even begin to compensate for Angie’s death, it is a least a little heartening that the jury did not buy into the crude and offensive tactics employed by Andrade’s defence lawyers. As Jess highlighted earlier in the week, the defence used a classic “trans panic” line of argument to prove that Angie had wilfully deceived Andrade into believing that she was a woman and that on finding out that she had a penis, he was sent into such a fit of rage that he could not stop himself beating her head in with his fists and a fire extinguisher. Aside from the fact that this so-called “crime of passion” defence is always nothing more than an unacceptable excuse for violence predicated on hatred and intolerance, the defence’s line of argument here was based on two disgustingly transphobic assumptions:
1) That Angie was “really a man”
2) That discovering someone is transgendered is enough to cause any reasonable person to recoil in horror and commit an act of violence, in this case murder.
Repeatedly referring to Angie using male pronouns and her male birth name, the defence attempted to build up a body of evidence to show that this person they claimed was a man had deceived Andrade and the world into believing that “he” was a woman. Witnesses were asked to testify that they had seen Angie wearing women’s clothes, that she never left the house without make-up, and so on. Apparently this should have been enough to convince the jury that Andrade had a legitimate reason to behave as he did on discovering that Angie’s birth sex was male, meaning he should have been given a lesser sentence.
Happily, the jury rejected that line in just two hours’ deliberation. Andrade’s murderous and hateful behaviour can only be read as in anyway understandable, his actions as being in any way the result of provocation, if one believes that Angie was a man, if one refuses to recognise that transgendered people exist. And then only if you’re a complete homophobic scumbag that believes one has a right to expect certain sexual characteristics in others and the right to kick off in the most violent way imaginable when those expectations are not met.
Angie wasn’t a man. In the words of her family:
She was brave, she had guts, she had courage, and she was beautiful, fun and loving. She was our little sister. […] It is clear: Angie was our sister, an aunt and a daughter. Life was sometimes difficult for her, and we learned along with her to understand she was born a girl with a body that was wrong for her. Above all else, she was honest. It took such courage to be who she was. She was strong, there was no reason to believe my sister was anything but strong and honest with everyone.
I just hope that the coverage of her murder and the recognition that this was a crime motivated by a hatred of transgendered people – not a crime of “passion”, not provocation, not deception, not a real-life version of the bullshit ‘oh my god look she’s got a penis, she’s really a man and I was about to have sex with her’ trope that is often the only way trans women are represented in popular culture – will go some way towards challenging the transphobia ingrained in almost all cissexual people, and that, in the words of brownfemipower on twitter last night, this guilty verdict will ‘be a start of a *movement*’ committed to bringing an end to transphobic violence and hatred wherever it rears its ugly head.