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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Murders Happen Here, There, and Everywhere

Yesterday, I picked up one of the local, free papers and read, "The Politics of Pronouns" subtitled (subheaded?) "News coverage of murders unsettling for some in the transgender community." Teri Benally's murder is tragic and reading about the coverage is unsettling. According to the article, the local daily, The Albuquerque Journal, and two TV stations, KOB and KRQE, screwed up. I write screwed up meaning they weren't thinking or they're not conscious. Bad either way. They used "cross-dresser" or "murdered man dressed as a a woman" to refer to Teri Benally. The article informed me that there had been another murder of a transgendered woman here in Albuquerque in June. Both victims were Navajo.

I hadn't heard about either murder before I left for or while I was in Taos. I wanted to know what happened to lead up to the murders and why. I looked in the article for the date of Benally's murder or when it had first appeared in the media and the same for Kelly Watson. I didn't find that information anywhere.

I thought of another murder of a trans woman. Less than six months after moving here, I read about Albuquerque's first murder of 2008. The loss of Patricia Murphy's life was horrible and The Albuquerque Tribune article was not much better. The headline was “First Albuquerque homicide of 2008 marked by gender confusion.” (I don't have a copy of the Trib article. I refer to a letter to the editor that I wrote at the time and some online info that I found.) I didn't understand who was confused. The victim? The murderer? The reporter? Editor?

I did learn many things from that article, including Dana Madsen shot Patricia Murphy and then Madesn called the police and claimed responsibility. I wondererd why the headline wasn't, “Murderer Confesses”? Isn’t one of journalism’s aims to be concise? Or, “Murderer Kills Then Calls Cops”? Some murders remain unsolved for years, but this one was done and over with. Isn’t it news to share and soon when the ones who commit the crimes get caught or, in this case, turn themselves in?

Gender confusion. Who was confused? Who was trying to confuse? Does confusion matter in this case? One human being kills another human being. That’s murder. No confusion, right?

Besides the fact that Madsen took Murphy's life, what disturbed me about this headline and article was the implication that Madsen was justified to kill because of his confusion, gender confusion, his confusion at Murphy's gender. Murphy was known in the local drag community.

The article says that Madsen thought Murphy had a knife so he shot her.

Neither the reporter nor the editor killed. They only wrote the article and / or the headline. I was concerned because I feared that another person might kill or beat up or brutalize another person and blame “gender confusion.” Watson and Benally were killed. We're still dealing with murderer's hatred and media's--at best--ignorance .

Then there are the allegations or facts that Benally and Watson arranged to meet people online. Or were prostitutes. Which reminds me of the women whose bodies were found on the West Mesa. Many of the women were rumored or known to be drug users and/or prostitutes. Almost all of them were Colored--Native, Xicana, and Black.

I remember Gwen Araujo from back home--okay, Newark not SF but close. I helped arrange for her mother to speak to high school students at two different schools two different years. I can see Araujo's beautifully made up face from newspapers large and small. I remember Brandon Teena. I saw "Boys Don't Cry" and I cried. I remember Matthew Shepard. I atill read about productions of The Laramie Project happening all over this country. There was a production during one of Araujo's defendants' trials. And I remember FC Martinez. I heard her mother speak on Native America Calling a few weeks ago. I was going to the post office. I didn't hear the entire interview. That was the first media attention that I'm conscious of. I know that I must have heard of her death from the media--probably the gay media--because I don't know anyone who knew her.

I remember other women known or thought to be prostitutes who have been killed. Remember those women in Chechnya. From Arizona Daily Star, March 1, 2009

“The bullnecked president of Chechnya emerged from afternoon prayers at the mosque and with chilling composure explained why seven young women who had been shot in the head deserved to die.

Ramzan Kadyran said the women, whose bodies were found dumped by the roadside, had ‘loose morals’ and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings…

Kadyrov describes women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children. He encourages men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women and girls are now required to wear head scarves in all schools, universities, and government offices…

He said the women were planning to go abroad to work as prostitutes, but their relatives found out about it and killed them.”

Trans. Prostitute. Colored. Queer. Woman. I could go on, but I'll stop for now.

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