No issue of sexual deception
Gwen Araujo was just who she was
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Don’t talk to me about deception.
Gwen Araujo, a beautiful young transgender woman, was brutally beaten to death the fall of 2002. In the trial of three men accused of murder in her slaying, defense attorneys Tony Serra and Michael Thorman are using the “transgender/gay panic” defense. Their argument essentially is that Gwen deserved to be killed because she deceived, and thus stole the heterosexuality of the men she had sex with.
No one deserves to be killed for deception.
But in Gwen’s case, there was no deception. Gwen was just being herself. In a world in which we are all told we have to be more feminine or more masculine — Gwen was wise enough to know herself and brave enough to be herself. That is beautiful. She should be our role model.
Instead, transgender people are seen as deceivers. The word “deception” comes up often in our lives.
I will share one of my experiences with deception. I am a female-to-male transgender person. One day, I flirted with someone I assumed to be a gay man, got his number and later went over to his place. He opened the door, and we kissed. A couple of minutes later, I came out to him as transgender. I did it casually. I do not make a big deal out of it, because to me it is not a big deal.
It was a big deal to him. He immediately stopped being interested and told me that I had deceived him. He said: “I thought you were just a cute gay guy.” He said that I should have told him that I am transgender and what my genitalia look like before he invited me to his place.
I was not hurt, aside from my feelings. I was lucky.
What I did not say to him then, but wished I had:
“You deceived me. All this time I thought you were just a cute transgender guy. You really should have told me you are a nontransgender person. I cannot believe that you did not tell what your genitalia look like. I cannot go through with this. I would have never come over to your place had I known.
“Yes, you are right. I did not wear a T-shirt with a picture of my genitalia emblazoned on it. But, honey, neither did you. If we, as humans, decide that proper dating etiquette requires us all to disclose the exact shape and size of our genitalia before we get someone’s number, then, sure, maybe I will go along with that.
“You deceived me. You should have told me that you are transphobic. You should have told me that your head is chock full of stereotypes of what it means to be a ‘real man’ and a ‘real woman.’ You should have told me that when you look at someone, you immediately make an assumption about the size and shape of that person’s genitalia, and that you get really upset if your assumption is off.”
Why do some folks feel that transgender people need to disclose their history and their genitalia, and nontransgender people do not? When you first meet someone and they are clothed, you never know exactly what that person looks like. And when you first meet someone, you never know that person’s full history.
Why do only some people have to describe themselves in detail — and others do not? Why are some nondisclosures seen as actions and others utterly invisible? Actions. Gwen Araujo was being herself, openly and honestly. No, she did not wear a sign on her forehead that said “I am transgender, this is what my genitalia look like.” But her killers didn’t wear a sign on their foreheads saying, “We might look like nice high school boys, but really, we are transphobic and are planning to kill you.” That would have been a helpful disclosure.
Transgender people do not deceive. We are who we are.
Dylan Vade, co-director of the Transgender Law Center, is a lawyer and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy. Sondra Solovay, director of Beyond Bias, contributed to the article.
Expert backs ‘panic’ defense
Sex with transgender teen might prompt partners to ‘flip out’
Kelly St. John, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
An immature, heterosexual young man who learns that a woman he was sexually intimate with is biologically male is likely to “panic” and overreact with violence,
a psychologist told a Hayward jury Monday in the trial of three men accused of killing transgender teen Gwen Araujo.
“It would flip them out,” said Andrew Pojman, a Walnut Creek psychologist who teaches at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. “They’d have a strong sense of panic and uproar and wanting to fix it. It would be very upsetting.”
Monday’s testimony was the most direct yet to address what transgender advocates have decried as a biased “trans-panic” defense in the case — that Araujo’s slaying was not murder but manslaughter, a crime of passion fueled by the young men’s shock and anger at having been “duped” into having sex with a transgender youth.
Pojman, an expert in adolescent group psychotherapy, said that such a violent reaction — fueled by anger, shame and alcohol — would be intensified if such a
discovery were made by an “unhealthy” group of young male friends.
“It would be a double dose. There would be a sense of betrayal that the person was not who they said they were,” he said. “You have the shame of the individual
plus the shame of having my buddies know that I did this.”
Michael Magidson, 24, of Fremont and Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24 and from Newark, are charged with murder and a hate crime in the killing Araujo.
The 17-year-old Araujo, who was born Edward Araujo but lived as a young woman, allegedly was beaten and strangled after the men learned she was biologically male at a party on Oct. 3, 2002.
A fourth man, Jaron Nabors, was charged with murder but pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution in exchange for an 11-year sentence. Nabors, who had led police to Araujo’s grave in the El Dorado National Forest, described a brutal attack in which Araujo was choked, punched, kneed in the face, hit on the head with a can and a skillet and strangled.
According to Nabors, Merel and Magidson both had sex with Araujo.
Michael Thorman, the attorney representing Magidson, asked Pojman to respond to a series of “hypothetical” situations mirroring the crime as Nabors had outlined
it in his testimony. Pojman did not interview any of the defendants and was paid about $2,000 to prepare and give his testimony.
Pojman said the kind of young man who was described to him — a 22-year- old drug and alcohol user who was unemployed, lived with his parents, had no school or career plans and no serious dating relationship — was someone who was “stuck” and immature in his emotional reactions.
In contrast, “a male who is more mature has figured out to how to manage their feelings” and would know that to “go for a walk or even to hit the wall could
be a more appropriate response” than murder, he said. Pojman said group dynamics would play a role in the slaying. “What happens in group dynamics is they keep spurring each other on,” Pojman said. “The group keeps it going, keeps it moving.”
Araujo’s family and transgender advocates have denounced arguments that Araujo’s slaying was a crime committed in the “heat of passion.” They argue that
such a defense blames the victim and that homicide is never a justifiable response to the discovery someone is transgender. “Regardless of what we feel about whether (Araujo) should have disclosed (her transgender status) or not,
you can’t justify this as manslaughter,” said Chris Daley, co-director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center. “An appropriate response is
‘I’m not into this, get out of my house’ or ‘I don’t want to speak with you again’.”
While a judge refused to allow one of the defendants charged with killing Matthew Sheppard to present a “gay panic” defense during his trial, others in recent
decades have succeeded in convincing juries that a gay man’s pass could trigger an uncontrollable rage from a heterosexual man.
Seven years ago, a Boston jury acquitted William Palmer of murder in the death of Chanelle Pickett, a transgender woman who was biologically male, despite
testimony that Pickett was beaten and choked to death.
Palmer was convicted of assault and battery and received a two-year sentence.
“Defenses like this really allow defendants to have a license to kill people that they perceive to be transgender,” said Tina D’Elia, hate crimes project
manager at Community United Against Violence, a San Francisco organization that works to end violence against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals.
“There is bigotry within that type of defense,” D’Elia said. “It is making a statement that if a transgender person wants to sleep with you or touch you, you have the right to react with violence, gratuitous violence.”
Testimony in the Araujo trial is expected to conclude today, and closing arguments have been scheduled to begin next Tuesday. Also today, Araujo’s mother — Sylvia Guerrero — is expected to appear in a Fremont courthouse to petition the California Superior Court to legally change Araujo’s name from Edward Araujo Jr. to Gwen Amber Rose Araujo.
Mom to fulfill vow to transgender teen
NAME CHANGE SOUGHT FOR SLAIN NEWARK STUDENT
By Yomi S. Wronge
The mother of a transgender 17-year-old who was slain after acquaintances discovered she was anatomically male says she will petition a Fremont court today to have the deceased girl’s name legally changed. If she is successful, the child born to her as Eddie Araujo Jr. will officially — albeit posthumously — become Gwen Amber Rose Araujo.
“I always promised Gwen that I would petition the courts to have her name changed, and I want to fulfill my promise” said Sylvia Guerrero of Newark.
Her court petition comes as three men are on trial for allegedly killing Gwen in the early morning of Oct 4, 2002, after learning she had male genitalia. At least
two of the men had a sexual relationship with the girl, whom they knew as a 19-year-old named Lida. Michael Magidson, Jose Merel and Jason Cazares face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. A fourth man, Jaron Nabors, has already pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for his testimony against the other three. He will be sentenced to 11 years in state prison. Jurors are expected to reach a verdict on the fate of his friends by mid-June.
Guerrero’s lawyer, Chris Daley of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, said he knows of no other reported case in which a transgender person’s name has been changed after death. Still, he thinks the petition will be granted.
“A similar example would be if someone has been adopted into the family and they haven’t gotten around to having the name changed, and the child dies, the
court would grant the name change,” Daley said. “There’s no reason to believe this case would be any different.”
Members of Gwen’s family have become advocates for transgender rights, speaking out against bias toward those who are born one gender but have an innate identity as the other.
“I wish in her lifetime I had called her Gwen more,” Guerrero said Monday. “I didn’t realize how much it would have meant to her.”
Gwen is the name the victim chose at age 14, after her favorite singer, Gwen Stefani of the music group No Doubt. Amber Rose is the name Guerrero said she picked when she was pregnant, because she believed she was having a girl.
The mother of four said the name change is not solely about honoring her daughter’s memory, but also to force the news media and others to refer to her as Gwen. Guerrero said she wants to end the practice of news organizations identifying her child as “Eddie `Gwen’ Araujo.”
“When I think of Eddie, I think of a beautiful little boy who I had to say goodbye to a long time ago,” Guerrero said. “I mourned Eddie at 14.” She lost Gwen at 17.
No issue of sexual deception