Archive for the 'misogyny' Category

This is not a trans woman

November 22, 2009

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Yahoo!’s Open Lapdance Day

October 22, 2009

Yahoo! Developer's Network logoIn the early 1990s, I bought my first computer, a ‘previously owned’ Atari 1040STE. As the heart of a modest home studio, it provided hours of both entertainment and education and was the start of a romance with digital technology which continues to this day.

Through subsequent upgrades to various PCs, Linux boxen and Apple Macs; much tinkering with systems (hardware and software) and a little dabbling with Perl, I realised that I had some aptitude for computers so when CAD systems started to appear in my day job, I gravitated towards them without thinking. From there it was a short step being the only person in the office who could get them working again when they went wrong. I eventually ended up spending more time on computers than at a drawing board (I used to be an architectural assistant) and eventually ended up working full-time in I.T. support, a job which I’ve been doing now for over seven years.

That amount of exposure to the industry makes it impossible to ignore not only the rampant ageism, but also the blatant sexism which exists in many of the male-dominated tech enclaves which still exist even today. Programming, in particular, has a reputation for attracting poorly socialised and introverted young men in search of the elusive badge of honour associated with the label computer geek. Although these days there are far more women coders, the entrenched sexism ensures an inexcusably small proportion of tech workers generally are women, and although well-hidden misogyny is often still only just below the surface ready to burst forth, like a weed through a concrete path, at the slightest opportunity.

Last week, the Developer’s Network of one of the big technology companies, Yahoo!, held its annual Open Hack Day in Taiwan; a weekend-long supposed celebration of ingenuity and creativity including tech talks and presentations on global technologies, hardware/software hacking events and, of course, the chance for hanging out and working on those neglected socialising skills. Unfortunately, the social activity is where it all went wrong.

Yahoo! hired what it called Hack Girls to entertain the massed ranks of teched-up geeks and hackers – which they did by dancing for attendees and giving lapdances for male participants at the event. It’s hard to know whose bright idea that was but no thought was given as to how this display might make the women in the audience feel. I don’t really want to get into a discussion here of the cases for and against lapdancing – I’m more concerned that a global tech corporation is so alienated from its female workforce that it should think it acceptable to add to women’s marginalisation and sexualisation; should think it okay to devalue those who, through their work, make such an important contribution to its own reputation (and profits). And although Yahoo! have since issued a very unconvincing apology, the message that comes through loud and clear is that the event was intended for men only.

The parallel with the debate around trans exclusion from cis women’s spaces is glaringly obvious: in each case, it’s all about consent.

Consent is essential to creating safe(r) spaces. By consent I mean when two (or more) people decide together to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way with each other. Whether it’s physical, or verbal, or social, or sexual or anything else, is almost beside the point in this context.

Consent is the presence of a “yes”, and not the absence of a “no”. Consent is a clearly asked question followed by a clearly stated “yes”. And the consent of women was clearly as lacking at the YDN Hack Day as it is in a trans related context; for example, the consent of trans women is lacking at a Reclaim The Night march.

lapdancers at Yahoo! Open Hack Day event

(Image via Simon Willison’€™s Weblog)

Qatar: TS/TG people – human beings or behavioural deviants?

April 27, 2009

Qatari flagCompared with certain other Arab states – Saudi Arabia, for example – Qatar might appear to have relatively liberal laws, even though it’s still not as liberal as some other Persian Gulf countries. However, since the mid-1990s, Qatar has been undergoing a period of liberalisation and modernisation which brought many positive changes. For example, Qatar became the first Arab country of the Persian Gulf to extend suffrage to women. Nevertheless, the country still lags behind the UAE or Bahrain in terms of more westernised laws and though plans are being made for more development, the government is cautious. (Via Wikipedia)

Regrettably, with regard to TS/TG people, in some areas this caution seems to manifest itself in a rather old-fashioned but nonetheless toxic form of transphobia, as can been seen from a recent report in the Gulf Times (link here):

[…] Dr Saif al-Hajari, the deputy chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, described the emerging trend of “manly women” and “womanly men” as a “foreign trend” which, he said, had invaded the Qatari and Gulf communities as part of the “globalisation winds”.

Interestingly, the terms ‘manly women’ and ‘womanly men’ could have come straight from the pages of a reparative therapist’s manual and they are almost common currency amongst those transphobic cis women radical feminists who, believing that gender is absolutely a social construct, insist that trans people can only be deluded dupes and pawns of the patriarchy for undergoing medical transition when all we really need is a good talking-to, and perhaps a nice cup of tea.

And, at the same time as Dr Saif al-Hajari talks of the ‘globalisation winds’ that have ‘invaded’ the country, the Qatar Foundation’s own website (link here) makes much of its mission to prepare the people of Qatar and the region to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.

There’s more than a hint of small-c conservatism about Dr Saif al-Hajari’s words, which seem curiously at odds with the wider trend towards a more liberalised society. And the rest of his comments don’t inspire confidence that he thinks TS/TG people should be treated fairly and with respect:

“This is an issue which can harm all our social and religious values.”

I would suggest that a society whose social and religious values can be threatened – in an unspecified way – by a tiny minority of people who self-identify in a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, is a society which has far deeper fissures in its foundations than anything that could be caused by the existence of TS/TG people.

“It needs some sort of bravery to address it.”

Oh please, Doctor: just listen to yourself. Perhaps if you did some work on the subject, you would realise that the real bravery is exhibited by those TS/TG people who live in another gender role, in a country where kneejerk transphobic reactions – like yours – are not only tolerated, but given airtime on national television.

“I have never imagined that one day I can see such behavioural deviations in our streets, schools or universities.”

This is simply a rather embarrassing display of an irrational fear of any gender presentation that exists outside a rigidly defined, artificial – and, frankly, archaic – binary. ‘Behavioural deviations’, indeed. Such things are defined by human beings and can easily be redefined to include, as to exclude. From where I sit, the phrase ‘behavioural deviations’ comes very close to hate speech, and is all the more cause for concern when it emanates from a country with a long and proud history of interacting with a multitude of races, peoples, languages and religions.

Not content with out-and-out transphobic hate speech, Dr Saif al-Hajari then proceeds to introduce xenophobia and paranoia into his arguments:

“These cases of behavioural deviations we have are not working alone. They co-ordinate with similar groups on regional and international levels,” he added.

The implication seems to be that there is some sort of international conspiracy to influence otherwise fine, upstanding, morally correct citizens into becoming some sort of threat to the established order by means of questioning their gender identity and presentation. Even a moment’s research would expose this assertion for the laughable fallacy that it represents. We transition to survive; not to overthrow governments.

To a question whether foreign education institutes established in Qatar are responsible for the spread of the phenomenon, Dr al-Hajari said that Qatar Foundation, which is the umbrella of foreign universities in Qatar, should set up a mechanism to protect young people in such universities from “invading behaviours”.

“We need to educate the administrative and teaching staff of these [foreign education institutes] on the special traits of our society.”

Hmm. Socio-cultural rehabilitation, anyone?

We are expected to accept the phrase ‘the special traits of our society’ without question. I’d be very interested to know how Dr Saif al-Hajari defines those ‘special traits’, and where he obtains his authority to make such definitions.

As for “invading behaviours” – has Dr Saif al-Hajari never heard of mukhannathun? There have been TS/TG people across the Arabian Peninsula – across the entire world – for as long as there have been humans. This is not a new phenomenon, a ‘trend’ to be reversed or a conspiracy to be repressed: it is an established and internationally recognised condition with a considerable body of medical evidence to support its existence.

“Some foreign schools and universities hire staff hailing from communities that do not see any problem in what we think of as deviations. This is a problem that should be dealt with.”

Again, it is unclear precisely why Dr al-Hajari believes that TS/TG people are a ‘problem’ to be ‘dealt with’.

It must surely be a matter of concern for anyone with even a passing interest in equality and human rights that such a forward-looking country should apparently tolerate such regressive and repressive views being expressed by so senior a person as the deputy chair of one of Qatar’s best known private, chartered, non-profit organisations. Dr al-Hajari, it is time to leave behind these proposals for the inhuman treatment of gender variant people – you may not understand us, but you can at least accept us as the fellow and equal human beings we are, in all our glorious diversity.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

December 7, 2008

CHEM TrustTwo related articles in The Independent this weekend making a good point (the effects of chemical pollutants in the environment on sex/gender) in a bad way (sexism, misogyny, you name it). I’m not sure which is the most offensive, but Decline of the real man is no joke may just have the edge with such neo-tabloid journalism – with just a hint of hysteria – as this:

Do we really want a world where everyone is from Venus and no one is from Mars? Where Frenchmen no longer have any différence to vivre? A land where the man of the house is more Mrs Doubtfire than Mr Atlas? Where pubs no longer echo to loud-mouthed arguing over the merits of back fours and deep-lying strikers, but where, instead, hair-netted old men clack their knitting needles over glasses of lukewarm sherry? Boating accidents where the cry goes up: “Hermaphrodites and children first!” Editions of Top Gear fronted by Jemima Clarkson?

…So much FAIL in one short paragraph…

And from the other article, It’s official: Men really are the weaker sex, there are gems like The male gender is in danger… and – complete with scare quotes – …”gender-bending”…

It would be so easy to rip to shreds what seems like nothing more than junk journalism, but really, what would be the point? Well, apart from a certain sense of grim satisfaction in demolishing – yet again – a string of wrong-headed gender stereotypes. Although, given my particular interest in the ways that gender is used to oppress those who don’t conform, I really can’t let the use of the term ‘hermaphrodites’ go unchallenged. As a friend of mine says: “Flowers are hermaphrodite, humans are intersex”.

On a personal level, if I accept that one of the main functions of existence is to perpetuate the species, then as an infertile trans woman who is attracted to other women, it’s a matter of supreme indifference to me whether or not the male sex is becoming extinct, but in the context of the wider issue of what we – humankind – are doing to our environment, our planet, I admit that such a comment may well seem more than a little short-sighted. So-o-o…

…*breathes*…

Okay, if I can retract my claws and refocus, both articles are, in fact, pointing out a comprehensive report, Effects of Pollutants on the Reproductive Health of Male Vertebrate Wildlife – Males Under Threat, published today by CHEM Trust, which suggests that the huge number of commonly-used chemicals in the environment is feminising males of every class of vertebrates, from fish to mammals, including people.

In this light, both newspaper articles do actually contain some useful facts – which makes their dressing up in heavy-handed and offensive gender stereoytypes even more mystifying, as well as plain unnecessary.

The 3-page press release (direct link to PDF file) announcing the report includes the following thought-provoking findings:

In mammals, genital disruption in males has been widely reported, including: intersex features (such as egg tissue in the testes of the male); small phallus; small testes; undescended testes; abnormal testes; or ambiguous genitals.

[…]

The males of egg-laying species including fish, amphibians, birds, and reptiles have also been feminised by exposure to sex hormone disrupting chemicals and have been found to be abnormally making egg yolk protein, normally made by females.

[…]

There are various ways that man-made hormone disrupting chemicals can undermine the sexual health of male wildlife. For example, chemicals which block the male hormone androgen, the so-called anti-androgenic chemicals, can cause un-descended testes and can feminise males. Similarly, some sex hormone disrupting chemicals can mimic oestrogen, the female hormone, and also feminise males.

Many man-made chemicals can block androgen action, and these include several pesticides and some phthalates, used in consumer products to make plastics flexible. Worryingly, a study of effluents from UK sewage works has found that around three quarters of these discharges have considerable anti-androgenic activity, and investigations are underway to identify the chemicals to blame.

Given that humans are just one part of a huge and complex eco-system, it makes me wonder whether similar adverse effects are to be seen in the human population. I don’t think one needs to be a scientist or an academic to figure out the answer to that one; but I do think there’s another equally important question which hasn’t been asked here, and I can only hope that a sister report will soon be forthcoming, titled Effects of Pollutants on the Reproductive Health of Female Vertebrate Wildlife – Females Under Threat.

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The report Effects of Pollutants on the Reproductive Health of Male Vertebrate Wildlife – Males Under Threat is available for download from CHEM Trust (link here) or here:

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ETA: Talk about the fundamental interconnectedness of all things – if nothing else, this piece in the Sunday Times should give an insight into the likely extent of the problem. Nothing’s been proven either way, but I do wonder where these PCBs have come from – are they, too, environmental pollutants? If they’ve come from the food chain, how did they get there?

Deadly contaminant found in Irish pork

CONSUMERS were warned last night to check the origin of all pork products after high levels of toxins were found in pigs slaughtered in Ireland.

[…]

The Irish authorities found that pork products on several farms had levels of dioxin poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) between 80 and 200 times more than the recognised safe limit.

A Transsexual Perspective on the Feminist Debate

December 5, 2008

Facebook trans logoThe mass debate (oh joy, schoolyard humour) between Susan Stryker and Julie Bindel – which I previously flagged up in this post – is to be webcast at http://www.streaming.mmu.ac.uk/law/webcast/ today at 2pm (UK time), for anyone interested.

This has been a public service announcement (and not an advert)

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Nostalgia Corner: Back in the summer I tried to follow my niece’s graduation webcast from Manchester Uni.

The quality was rubbish.

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Previous, related posts on this blog:

Because a suicidal trans woman is worthless

December 3, 2008

Because a suicidal trans woman is worthlessI recently posted about the trial of a doctor for the apparent assault and rape of a suicidal trans woman in Melbourne. (Links here and here). I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if the doctor got away with only a smack on the wrist for being a naughty boy.

So I’m saddened but not surprised to learn from the Sydney Morning Herald that Dr Sulieman Hamid has avoided jail: the court gave him a suspended sentence only. And although he’s “currently suspended from practising as a doctor in Victoria”, there’s no mention of whether he’s allowed to practise elsewhere.

I’m just going to post the whole report; the leniency shown a man whose brain is in his penis leaves me too sickened and disgusted to be calm and rational about it. My trans sister goes to him for help and he performs “an indecent act” – we call it ‘rape’ on my planet, btw – she spends 18 months of her life seeking only legal justice – and he walks away from the court with nothing more than a suspended sentence?

Just what do trans women have to do, to get any kind of justice? Because it seems to me that wherever you are in the world, if you’re trans then society has already decided that you’re not worthy of even the most basic human rights.

Doctor touched transsexual, avoids jail

A Melbourne doctor has escaped jail time for indecently touching a suicidal transsexual patient.

Dr Sulieman Hamid, 53, touched the mentally-ill patient’s breasts and neck while treating her for a slashed wrist in a cubicle at Sunshine Hospital’s emergency department in June last year.

The patient, who cannot be named, had propositioned the doctor, asking him for sex.

The next day Hamid went to the patient’s house and had sex with her.

Hamid was charged with raping the patient but a Victorian County Court jury found the sex did not constitute rape.

The jury found Hamid guilty of performing an indecent act on a cognitively impaired person by touching her at the hospital.

Judge Michael McInerney said Hamid abused the trust of a vulnerable patient who had a personality disorder.

He said it was a “serious” crime for a doctor in an emergency department to indecently touch a mentally-ill patient he was treating.

“She was, at this time, in a florid phase of some impairment,” Judge McInerney said.

“An experienced doctor, as you are Dr Hamid, should have been aware of this and should have resisted her.”

He said there was “grave community concern” about sexual offences of this type.

Judge McInerney noted the doctor came to Australia from Eritrea in Africa to seek “a better life” and was admitted into medical practice here in 2003.

But because of a strong accent, the doctor found himself working in country areas or on night shifts in Melbourne, the court was told.

Judge McInerney said Hamid felt his behaviour had shamed his family.

He accepted that Hamid’s career was in doubt and that he was currently suspended from practising as a doctor in Victoria.

Judge McInerney jailed Hamid for two years, wholly suspending the sentence for three years.

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Previous posts on this subject:

Who’s worthless, exactly?

November 19, 2008

Because we're worthlessA couple of weeks ago I blogged about the apparent assault and rape of a suicidal trans woman in Melbourne (link here).

The Herald Sun has now reported on the latest development in the trial as follows:

A DOCTOR has been found guilty of performing an indecent act on a suicidal transsexual patient.

Sulieman Hamid, 53, of Melbourne, touched the cognitively-impaired patient on her breasts and lips while he treated her for a slashed wrist in a cubicle at the Sunshine Hospital emergency department in June 2007.

The court was earlier told the patient propositioned the doctor while he was treating her.

A jury in the Victorian County Court today found that the touching did not constitute the more serious charge of indecent assault.

Remember the victim’s previous statement? “He started touching my neck, my breasts, my lips, (with) his fingers.”

So now we know officially – that’s not indecent assault.

FFS.

It also found him not guilty of raping the woman at her home the following day.

Again, remember the previous report?

The patient said she […] slept until she was woken by a phone call from the doctor who asked if she was alone.

She let the doctor come to her house because she wanted medicine from him, she said.

After talking for a brief time in her bedroom the doctor started touching her, the patient said.

The doctor then allegedly digitally raped her.

No rape, no indecent assault.

FFS. Again.

Hamid, who faces a maximum of five years’ prison, was released on bail for a pre-sentence hearing on Friday.

Outside court, Hamid’s lawyer Nick Papas said his client would almost certainly never practise again.

“It is clear he has been suspended in terms of medical practice,” Mr Papas said.

“I expect that even had he been acquitted totally he would be stopped from practising.

“The man is going to lose his career, he knows that.”

Poor man. It makes your heart bleed.

Meanwhile, another of my sisters has, it seems, been violently attacked – and then spent nearly a year and a half of her life going through a legal ordeal in pursuit of some kind of justice – and what does she get? The knowledge that her alleged attacker is now expected to be stopped from practising as a doctor. Not even a mention of a custodial sentence.

“You’re a very naughty man. Take this smack on the wrist, go away and don’t do it again.”

FFS…

Legal system – what frickin legal system?

If you call that justice…

Duanna Johnson’s Funeral–DONATIONS NEEDED

November 13, 2008

Via Lisa:

Duanna Johnson’s Funeral–DONATIONS NEEDED
Apologies for the caps, but this is urgent.

The balance for Duanna Johnson’s funeral is $1195 and the funeral home is requiring Mrs. Skinner (Duanna’s mother) to pay it by tomorrow (11/14). The cost is a hardship, so we are asking anyone who can to donate. Please send any donations to:
N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home
12 S Parkway W
Memphis, TN 38109

If you want any clarification from NJ Ford, here is their contact number: (901) 948-7755.

Please forward this to as many people as you can!! Thanks!

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ETA, 14 November: I’ve received an update from Casey – it’s in the comments, but just to confirm:

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition has set up a Paypal account to help defray the costs of Duanna’s funeral and burial in order to more safely secure donations. Their website (ttgpac.com) explains how the money will be distributed.

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ETA, 15 November: Further update from Casey:

It is no longer crucial to donate money. So far TTPC has collected $5100.51. If you still want to donate, have at it, but keep in mind that any excess collected will be given to Duanna’s mother to cover any incidental expenses (travel, floral arrangements, etc.).

Thanks to everyone who donated for their support and kindness!

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Previous, related posts on this blog:

  1. Duanna Johnson shot dead (November 11, 2008)
  2. If at first you don’t succeed…? (July 28, 2008)
  3. Race, gender identity, the justice system and the beating of Duanna Johnson (June 27, 2008)
  4. Transphobic violence: the video (June 20, 2008)

Bread and circuses, tea and cake…

November 13, 2008

The Manchester Metropolitan University School of law
The Manchester Institute for Social and Spatial Transformations

A Feminist Perspective on the Transsexual Debate

Friday 5th December 2pm-5pm, The School of Law, Manchester Metropolitan University, M16 6HB – just off Oxford Rd.

Julie Bindel, Guardian Journalist, nominee for the Stonewall Journalist of the Year 2008, author of “Women Overcoming Violence and Abuse”, and “The Map of My Life: The Story of Emma Humphreys”

Dr. Susan Stryker, Women’s Studies, the University of Illinois, Visiting Professor, Harvard University, Author of “The Trans Studies Reader”, and “Transgender History”

Chair: Prof. Stephen Whittle, MMU School of Law, author of “Respect and Equality: Transsexual and Transgender Rights” and “The Trans Studies Reader”.

Public Attendance Cost: £12 or £5 on benefits (evidence of benefits must be produce at door).

Free for MMU Staff and Students, ticketless entrance: your staff or student card must be shown at the door.

People who are not MMU staff or students must apply for tickets. Without a ticket you will be refused entrance to this event.

To apply for tickets:

Email: send Full details , indicating the number of tickets, to David Hulme, d.hulme@mmu.ac.uk. Please send a separate cheque for the correct amount by postal mail to Dave at the address below. Admittance will not be allowed without payment.

Postal Mail: send Full details , indicating the number & type of tickets, with a cheque for payment to: David Hulme, The School of Law Office
Sandra Burslem Building, Manchester Metropolitan University
Lower Ormond St, Manchester M15 6HB.

For details of the venue look for Building no.19 on the map at: http://www.mmu.ac.uk/travel/maps/mmu_maps_allsaints_aytoun.pdf

Pink Floyd – Us And Them

Us and Them
And after all we’re only ordinary men
Me, and you
God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do
“Forward!”, he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
The General sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side

Black and Blue
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up and Down
And in the end it’s only round and round and round
Haven’t you heard? It’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried
“Listen, son”, said the man with the gun
“There’s room for you inside”

Down and Out
It can’t be helped but there’s a lot of it about
With, without
And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
Out of the way, it’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind
For want of the price of tea and a slice
The old man died…

(YouTube link)

Duanna Johnson shot dead

November 11, 2008

Duanna JohnsonVia Lisa (also myeyewitnessnews.com) I hear that Duanna Johnson was shot to death on Sunday night.

Ms Johnson, I recall, was the subject of a horrific and brutal incident earlier in the summer, where she was beaten by police Officer Bridges McRae, who hit Ms Johnson in the face several times with his handcuffs (wrapped around his knuckles). During the attack, Ms Johnson was held down by the shoulders by another police man, Officer J. Swain. The whole thing was captured on a CCTV camera in the booking area of the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center, Memphis, Tennessee, where Ms Johnson had been taken after being arrested for prostitution – a charge which was subsequently dropped.

According to detectives, when officers arrived at the scene, they found the body lying in the street. Police say a witness heard gunfire and then saw three people running away from the scene. Investigators do not have any suspects at this time.

[…]

[Lawyer Murray Wells] says Johnson was trying to leave Memphis and go back to her hometown of Chicago. According to Murray, Jonson was just about homeless trying to live in Memphis. He says the apartment where Jonson was living did not have power. Murray says he was helping Johnson buy a bus ticket to Chicago.

[…]

Johnson was suing the city for $1.3 million.

I do find myself wondering where Officer McRae was on Sunday night; I’m sure he has a rock-solid alibi and was nowhere near the scene of Ms Johnson’s brutal murder.

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ETA, 13 November: Renee Martin has also blogged about this over at Global Comment, and has received this response in the comments:

THADDEUS MATTHEWS Says:
November 13th, 2008 at 9:30 am

I am a local radio talk show host in memphis who has been following this case. I received a call early Monday morning on my cell about 5;45 I didn’t answer the phone but a message was left where a person was whispering stating that Duanna Johnson was dead and that Memphis police were going to state that 3 black men shot her.

What I find strange is that the person knew the ID before Duanna’s name was released. It is my belief that Duanna was the victim of a hit by police. The are that Duanna was killed was on the street where she lived where she would not have been working since all in the area knew what her real gender happen to be.

something is wrong with this case which homicide is not working hard to solve.

Assuming this is not a troll, and is genuine, then it needs national attention, and soon.

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Previous, related posts on this blog:

  1. If at first you don’t succeed…? (July 28, 2008)
  2. Race, gender identity, the justice system and the beating of Duanna Johnson (June 27, 2008)
  3. Transphobic violence: the video (June 20, 2008)