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My recent article at Pretty Queer focuses on leadership, politics and support for trans women within the trans community:
I want to preface the comments I’m about to make by acknowledging that our trans community (communitIES is really what I should say) is reeling from some events over the last couple of months. I think many of us are heartbroken, as we should be, over a series of murders of young trans women of color across the U.S. in the last month followed by the recent development that CeCe McDonald had few better legal options than to plead to 2nd degree manslaughter with a recommended 41-month sentence.
To make matters worse, the aftermath of the murders mentioned above recall the usual patterns of police dismissal and blatant disrespect from the media for the victims of racism and trans-misogyny. It is in this context that I think a lot of us feel, in addition to grief and frustration, plenty of doubt and uncertainty about where to head next. The solutions are not always clear, and I think we must avoid the trap of looking for easy answers.
In the aftermath of CeCe’s plea bargain, PrettyQueer’s Tom Léger conducted an interview with Dean Spade, a well-known trans activist and Assistant Professor of Law at a Seattle law school. I’ll note from the outset that criticisms of Dean have been surfacing in recent years; the criticisms primarily focus on his relationship (both professionally speaking and as an activist) with trans women.
For the rest, check out the full article at Pretty Queer here.
On June 5th, 2011, CeCe McDonald and a fellow group of young queers of color were walking to the grocery story in a local neighborhood in Southern Minneapolis when the passed the Schooner Tavern. CeCe is a young black trans woman who has already survived numerous hardships in her life. Hence when a 47 year-old white man, Dean Schmitz (who was later found to have a swastika tattoo on his body), and two other white bar patroms began hurling racist and transphobic insults at their group, CeCe didn’t back down; she stood up to the bar patrons and confronted their ignorance and hatred.
In response, one of the white bar patrons smashed her glass against CeCe’s face, punctuating her cheek and lacerating her salivary gland. A fight ensued between the two groups, and in the end, Dean Schmitz was dead. And although multiple people were involved in the melee, when the police arrived CeCe was the only one charged.
Unfortunately, injustice does not end even there, as from this point the system took over in the enforcement of racism and trans-misogyny: from jail, in the late hours of the night, CeCe was coerced by detectives into signing a false confession, which she then recanted as soon as she was able. From that point, CeCe was then held in solitary confinement (which is a quite common abuse against trans women prisoners) supposedly for her own “protection,” but against her own wishes.
From this point, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman charged CeCe with two counts of second degree murder. He has since refused to drop those charges, despite the fact that he has dropped charges in other cases this year under similar circumstances.
Fortunately, there has been an outpouring of support for CeCe, both from her local community and from many activists and allies across North America; she has also kept her own spirits high in the face of injustice. And a petition has been raised demanding that Michael Freeman drop all charges against CeCe (please sign the petition here).
Make no mistake, what CeCe is is being condemned for here is defending herself from bodily harm as a trans woman of color.
In other words, a group of people wanted to make clear that they view her physical body as inferior to their own white, cisnormative bodies, and when CeCe verbally resisted that violent designation, those people then resorted to physical violence to enforce hateful, white supremacist views. And further, when CeCe stepped up to defend herself from physical assault, the system stepped in to reinforce racism and trans-misogyny.
Again, here is the petition.