Transmisogyny, cis people, violence and the murder of Krissy Bates
Krissy Bates was found murdered in her apartment last week, in all likelihood by someone she knew and feared. She’d appealed to her landlord to fix a broken window so that she’d be safer, but the landlord told her that she’d have to pay for the repair herself.
The media coverage, where it exists, has been sordid--from stories that mis-gender her to the City Pages’ ghoulish blotter coverage of her sex work and her last voicemail. Once again, the death of a unique, valuable person can be turned into a media spectacle because that person is a trans woman.
I’m not trans. I’m not trans, so if I say stupid things, please correct me. I’m not trans, and I’m addressing this to cis-gendered people, those of us for whom our gender assigned at birth, our bodies and our personal identity match up.
There are trans women in my life for whom I care deeply. I want to live with them in safety among people who respect and love them. This story--and the many others like it every year--makes me very angry.
I am angry that violence against trans people--especially trans women--is treated as something inevitable rather than the result of privilege, homophobia, hatred of gender non-conformity and transmisogyny.
I am angry that the majority of my trans woman friends have, like Krissy Bates, been sexually assaulted, and that the few resources available to cis women survivors are often inaccessible to them.
I am angry that landlords like Krissy Bates’s, Cedar Management, profit from the vulnerability of trans people--that they exploit low-income people and marginalized people, that they know they don’t need to create safe living spaces for their tenants because their tenants don’t have a lot of choices.
I am angry that transphobia can push trans and gender non-conforming people into poverty when cis people deny them jobs, educational opportunities and decent medical care. The poverty rate (PDF) for trans folks is double that of cis people. Twenty six percent of trans people surveyed in 2007 had lost a job because of transphobia; when broken out by race, more than thirty percent of African-American and multiracial trans folks had lost a job.
I am angry that many trans people loose the support of their families and friends when they come out, so their support network gets thinner and leaves them more vulnerable.
I am angry that clinics and social services are so often transphobic--if the women’s shelter doesn’t believe that you’re “really” a woman and the men’s shelter is dangerous, where do you go? Does your doctor care about treating trans bodies?
I am angry that sex work is treated as a titillating detail in these terrible stories, with a strong suggestion that sex workers should expect violence. I am angry for every friend I’ve ever had who’s stripped or done phone sex or porn, because they do not court or deserve violence. I am angry that for some trans people, sex work is the only work available. I am angry that women like Krissy Bates have nowhere to go for help when they do face violence because sex workers are treated as disposable people.
I am angry that we cis people let ourselves get bought off--how we accept a gender hierarchy that hurts us and that hurts trans people worse. I am angry that we accept a society which punishes people who don’t gender-conform. I am angry that we suppress the parts of ourselves that aren’t perfectly straight and perfectly cis in exchange for cis privilege. I’m angry that we are willing to accept laws, documents, clinics and spaces that benefit us, that protect us, and that exclude or ignore trans people.
I am angry that there is so much more I could put on this list.
I am angry at myself.
Cis women--and I was raised, at least, a cis woman--hold onto our gender privileges by pretending that what happens to trans women has nothing to do with us. We need to be allies to trans women. We need to listen to trans women. We need to say loudly that violence against trans people is part of the same system as violence against cis women, and that violence against trans women is misogynist violence. We need to force the clinics and social services in our communities to support trans people, not alienate and marginalize them. We need to recognize that there are sex workers in our communities, cis- and trans, and we need to stand with them.
It’s easy to write words. I can sit here and write all day, patting myself on the back for being so damn enlightened. I don’t want to stop with words. I don’t want us to stop with words.
There is a vigil for Krissy Bates on Friday the 21st, beginning at 6pm at the MCTC Library (General Mills Room), 1501 Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis. But listen, cis folks, we can’t just attend and forget. We have to stop being complicit. We have to do something else.