Fifth trans woman shot in Memphis since 2006

June 2, 2009

Flag-of-MemphisNews reports are coming in of the shooting last Wednesday (May 27, 2009) of a trans woman, Kelvin Denton, in Memphis. She was shot twice (in the neck and face) by her attacker, Terron Taylor, after Mr Taylor decided that he did not approve of Ms Denton’s genital topography.

At the time of writing, Ms Denton is in critical condition in hospital while Mr Taylor, who was arrested Friday, is being held on a $500,000 bond on two charges: attempted second degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony.

Mr Taylor told police he carried out the attack because he felt he had been “misled” about Ms Denton’s gender – surely a clear indication that that Mr Taylor will be trying to use the trans panic defense to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. However, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition have urged Shelby County authorities to “prosecute Taylor aggressively and not permit the use of the trans-panic defense”.

I’ve found sketchy reports of the shooting in The Memphis Flyer, My Eye Witness News, Memphis Commercial Appeal and My Fox Memphis – but one thing they all have in common is the persistent misgendering of the victim.

This is the fifth violent attack on trans women in Memphis since 2006; previous victims include Leeneshia Edwards (December 2008), Duanna Johnson (November 2008), Ebony Whitaker (July 2008), Tiffany Berry (February 2006).

It seems the global war against trans women continues with undiminished ferocity.

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ETA, June 6: I’ve read posts elsewhere in the blogosphere which query whether Ms Denton is a trans woman at all – nobody seems to have come up with any alternative suggestions and I feel I should point out the sources that make me think Ms Denton is indeed trans.

For starters, the Memphis Flyer specifically describes her as “a transgender woman”.

At the same time, all the news reports I linked wheel out the tired old trope about Mr Taylor having been “mislead”. My Fox Memphis also uses the classic cis apologist line about Ms Denton “misrepresenting herself as a woman”. History has shown us numerous times – most recently in the Angie Zapata murder trial – that this is the backbone of the infamous trans panic argument so beloved by defense lawyers, and I believe I’ve only ever seen it used in connection with trans women.

So yeah. My reading of it all is that Ms Denton is a trans woman and I can’t help thinking that we might be a lot clearer on the details if the media could only have resisted the urge to obfuscate through misgendering.

So much for objective journalism…

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Note: There are two useful pieces discussing the trans panic defense in more depth:

  • This link via Holly in comments at Feministe and,
  • This link (Banning the trans panic defense) by Dr Jillian T. Weiss at The Bilerico Project

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

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Previous related posts:

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ETA, 10 June: Thanks to Memphis Trans Guy for the following updates in comments to my cross-post over at QT, as follows:

Dunno if you’ve gotten more info, but this is what I just received from Marisa Richmond, President of TTPC:

I have learned that Terron Taylor will appear in General Session Court, Division 9, on Monday, June 15, on Docket 09120477. The charge is Criminal Attempt – Second Degree Murder.

If the transgender community can make a public showing there, it would be great.

(link here)

Oh, and I found out yesterday that Terron Taylor has confessed and his lawyer will use the trans panic defense.

I wonder if he’ll plead guilty to a lesser charge or if he’ll even see the inside of a jail for this crime. The DA, Bill Gibbons, has a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to prosecuting those who prey on trans women.

If anyone here wants to make their voice heard and let Bill Gibbons know that people are watching this closely, his number is (901) 545-5900.

(link here)

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