The Pseudoephedrine-Method of Gun Control

Pseudoephedrine Limits in the USA

The USA has laws limiting how much “over-the-counter” pseudoephedrine-containing decongestant people can buy. There are all sorts of problems with this law – non-drug-dealer grandmas being treated like drug dealers, limits that prevent families with children or disabled family members from buying enough pseudoephedrine for the whole family (in many states, you have to be 18 to purchase pseudoephedrine – and you can buy slightly more than the maximum allowable single-adult dose), and privacy concerns as people are put on national databases (run by commercial companies to exempt them from many of the privacy laws that apply to government search) to track their purchases.

The FDA hastily approved a substitute that simply doesn’t work.  While pseudoephedrine shows a clear difference from a placebo, the drug we’re supposed to be using instead of pseudoephedrine – phenylephrine – is basically indistinguishable from a sugar pill for treating congestion. That said, it’s a sugar pill with a ton of side-effects, including increasing blood pressure. As you may know, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the USA, so a non-effective pill that causes increased blood pressure simply shouldn’t be on the market.

In most places in the USA, the following laws apply (some states are stricter):

  • No more than 9.0g of pseudoephedrine (PSE) may be contained in products purchased by a single person in a 30 day period
  • No more than 3.6g of PSE contained in products may be purchased by a single person in a 24 hour period
  • Must present government-issued picture ID
  • Must consent to have information recorded and available to government and other third parties
  • Must be 18 or older

This is done for one reason: To make illegal methamphetime less available.

What does this have to do with gun control?

On Sunday, one of the worst mass shootings in recent history occurred in Florida, when a person decided to target members of the LGBT community.  At least 49 people died, and we may hear more died soon.  At least another 50 people was wounded physically in the shooting.  The psychological toll is surely much higher than that.

Of course one thing that is off-the-table to our authoritarian-minded government officials: gun control.  We can regulate the bedroom – Michigan lawmakers proposed a change to their sodomy law that would modify much of the language but keep oral and anal sex illegal – a felony offense. Yes, Michigan lawmakers don’t want to remove a law that allows for life in prison for a consensual blow job from the books (fortunately the law is considered unconstitutional by the courts, and, thus, can’t be used for much beyond harassment of consensual adults).

There is no place we see the authoritarian beliefs of our leaders more clearly than in combatting drug abuse. To protect people from themselves, we have gone to extraordinary measures and imposing restrictions on lawful users of legal products for the war on drugs. In fact, there is just one thing we’re unwilling to do: address the role of the gun in drug crime.

While we might have authoritarian leanings with drugs, guns are off-limits.  With guns, we’re told that guns are important – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – according to the Second Amendment.  If we limit handguns, semi-automatics, assault rifles, large capacity magazines, certain types of bullets, or even advocate for technology that prevents a gun-owner’s gun from being used against him by someone else, we’re told that’s a slippery slope towards taking everyone’s guns away.

Well, I have a solution.  The pseudoephedrine regulations definitely impact people’s health – something arguably more important than, say, shooting beer bottles with your new gun.

Only Criminals will have Guns

One of the most common arguments against gun control is that criminals would own guns while law-abiding folk wouldn’t.  That’s one reason I don’t advocate gun control, but bullet control.  That aside, the meth problem that continues in our country shows that making something less available doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be less available.

While the number of meth users seems to have declined since these laws have been passed (in 2012, the levels were estimated to be about 2/3rds what they were in 2006), the number of drug-related deaths continues to rise.  Not only did we not eliminate 2/3rds of the drug deaths, but we may have shifted drug users to other drugs (such as opioids).  Using the National Survey on Drug Use and Abuse, and ignoring the strange statistical spike in 2006 (roughly 350,000 estimated users in 2006 compared to 140,000 in 2005 and 160,000 in 2007 – the 2006 year’s numbers are thus highly suspect and are probably closer to 150,000 in reality), we see that heroin use was somewhat flat through 2007, when it suddenly took off.  That’s roughly the time the pseudoephedrine laws took effect.  Unfortunately, opioids appear even more deadly than meth.

So, what is different about guns?  Why won’t criminals just find another source?  There are two reasons for this:

  1. Unlike drugs, guns are not able to be manufactured and distributed in quantity from Latin America into the USA. Much of the meth now in use in the USA is from south of the border.  However, we’re the supplier of arms to Latin America.  Guns pose a much more significant challenge due to their bulk, complex and difficult manufacturing process, and the relative ease at which they can be detected, unlike highly concentrated drugs.  In fact, one of the reasons drug cartels send their drugs to the USA is to get guns in return – we likely would make a bigger dent in the drug war by dealing with guns than with drugs.
  2. There’s not a viable substitute weapon to a gun.  While a meth user might take up opioids if meth becomes hard to find, a criminal that turns to swords is a lot less of a threat to people than a criminal with a gun.

 

Guns Don’t Kill, People Do

Likewise, pseudoephedrine doesn’t kill, people who take too much meth are the ones that are dying.

Yet, because someone else might take meth, and we’ve decided that is a bad thing, worth protecting the person against, we make the precursor chemicals – which have legal and non-drug-abuse uses – difficult to procure.  We do this even when it has public health impact.

It is pretty much impossible to determine how many people in the USA die of meth overdoses – that data simply doesn’t appear to be collected or computed.  But we do know that approximately 47,000 people died in 2013 through all uses of drugs, both legal and illegal.  Many of these were surely suicide, accidental overdose, or unexpected drug interaction by non-recreational users.  When we look at drug use rates, what we can find for death rates, etc, we can expect that, at the upper end, several thousand people die from meth overdose per year in the USA.  It may be significantly less than that.

Yet we know approximately 20,000 people kill themselves with a gun and 10,000 people (same source) are victims of homicide via a gun.  Even if all 20,000 of the suicide victims would have found other mechanisms, many of the 10,000 homicide victims would be with us if guns were not available to the shooter.  Either way, that’s significantly more lives saved than we can hope to save through any war on meth, even if somehow we managed to eliminate all meth and all meth users simply gave up meth and all other illegal drugs.

If it’s important to stop drug deaths, why is it unimportant to stop gun deaths?

A Potential Solution

It’s simple: regulate bullets like decongestant.

  • 9.0 grams of gunpowder-type propellent per 30 days per adult.  Assuming a 5 grain load for a typical 9mm round, that’s 324mg of propellent per round.  Thus, an average gun owner could purchase 27 rounds per month.
  • Because buying large quantities at once is associated with danger of illicit use, no more than 3.6 grams in a 24 hour period. That is roughly 11 rounds. Of course you still can’t exceed the 27 rounds per month.
  • Purchasers must be 18
  • Purchasers must present government-issued ID
  • Purchasers must sign a statement that they will not use the rounds for undesirable purposes
  • Purchase history is stored in a private national database accessible to the federal and state government

It’s simple. I suspect this would, at the least, make mass shootings much more difficult, and impose on many legitimate gun owners the same type of one-size-fits-all approach that decongestants have now.

Or, perhaps, you could look at Australia’s model.

Disclaimer: I own guns. My first gun was given to me by my parent’s when I was in elementary school after I proved I could pass a gun safety course.  It was a Marlin Model 60 semi-automatic .22LR – one of the 18 round capacity models that is hard to find these days (due to capacity restrictions).  I’ve probably shot 50,000 rounds through that barrel, and who knows how many through the barrel of other guns. So please don’t pretend that I’m someone who has never fired a gun.

Remember Stonewall, Police Abuse, and Presumption of Guilt

NYCD Police Department Patch

NYCD Police Department Patch

In the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, in NYC, it is commonly known that the NYC gay community stood up and said, “This is not okay.” They stood up to both the police department, who used humiliating and abusive tactics, and also against the laws of the time which were designed to punish homosexuality.

What isn’t as commonly known is that this may have been less about gay rights than about trans rights. While it was true that gay men (and sometimes women) were arrested for pursuing relationships, it was just as often – if not more often – about the gender expectations, specifically clothing, worn. It was easier to arrest someone for cross-dressing.

Lesbians and FTMs wearing “male” clothing (various ordinances required a certain number of supposedly gender-appropriate clothing) or males wearing women’s clothing were in violation of the law. Of course an officer would verify your sex matched your gender expression in exactly the way you would expect a non-enlightened officer to do so.

Stonewall was frequented by drag queens and transvestites among many others. So it isn’t surprising that when the raid began in the early morning of the June 28, 1969, with these clothing verifications taking place, people got upset. While this was hardly an unusual occurrence, people had finally had enough. And the drag queens were right out in front. As were the other groups. That’s probably one of the things that made Stonewall so significant: it wasn’t just one group of people who faced abuse (such as trans people). It was many, and involved intersectionality between gender, sexual orientation, and poverty.

So, you would think the home of Stonewall would have progressed, and that other departments would have policies and procedures that take this into account. And somewhat, they do. There are policies in most major police departments that call for the fair treatment of trans victims and suspects, albeit often not as progressive as we might want to see.

Earlier this year, the NYPD was accused of profiling trans people who happened to be carrying condoms – something perfectly legal and done by many law abiding citizens every day. Yet, this was seen as proof – because the person was trans or otherwise appeared to be a member of some group the police officer believed to be associated with prostitution (blacks, for instance) – that the person was out looking for someone to pay for sex. And when it came time to stop the city’s “Stop and Frisk” program (where people are frisked based on officer intuition and bias), which disproportionally affects innocent trans people and LGBT people of color, the mayor vetoed the change.

 

Of course NYC isn’t the only place that treats LGBT, and particularly T people, badly, although NYC of all places should have the resources to not only understand the profiling issues, but to go further and lead the nation in what positive policing should look like.

But let’s look at some of the other incidents in America. In California, a police officer is accused of raping a transwoman. While on duty. From the Gay Star News article,

According to the complaint, the officer pulled up to the victim and demanded to know what she was doing. He then ordered her to lean into the driver’s side window of his police car.

When she leaned forward, the officer groped her and asked if she was ‘a nasty shemale’.

After she responded that she was transsexual, the uniformed officer allegedly lead her to a secluded area and attacked her.

A condom which was reportedly used by the attacker was kept by the victim to use as evidence, and has been handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s not just rape (and the above case was not the only recent rape of a trans person by a police officer in the US).  It’s also how we treat people locked up.  From a story on trans immigration detainees in Women’s E-News:

“I don’t think it is difficult to gauge the level of risk for transgender detainees,” said Keren Zwick, the managing attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative and Adult Detention Project. “I have never met a transgender detainee who hasn’t experienced some kind of sexual harassment, at the very minimum, or being propositioned for sex or being called names. Never once.”

Now much of this is not committed by officers, although officers certainly should be watching detainees.  But the article cited above also talks about harassment and abuse by immigration officers, including threats of solitary confinement for continuing to take medication, retaliation for reporting abuse, and even being forced to drink semen by an officer.

Something’s not right here. This is happening too often.

The statistics back this up too – in the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ report on LGBT Hate Violence in 2012, they found that trans victims of violence were 3.32 times more likely to face violence from police than non-trans (but LGB) people.  In Injustice at Every Turn, a survey of trans people, 22% of trans people reported harassment by police – that is, nearly 1 in 4 trans people say that police have harassed them. It’s more than 1 in 3 when trans people of color are surveyed.  6% reported physical assault by police and 2% reported sexual assault.  As a result, 46% said they feel uncomfortable seeking police assistance. Imagine that.

After all, who wants to be laughed at when they report a crime? Who wants to be the subject of officer chit-chat about what weird freak the officer had to deal with that way? Even more significant, different is often seen as dangerous to an officer – and the police response may be quite disproportionate to the need – multiple officers with backup, for instance, when a victim is reporting a crime (and there is no evidence of active violence). Why do the officers need backup when they don’t for other situations? Simply because the person is trans. Thus they must be dangerous – at least in some officers’ heads.

We need to expect more from our professional police.  Does your department have good policies? Will it treat trans people with respect, and take their complaints seriously? It’s worth finding out.

In Remembrance…September 2013

In September, we lost at least 5 people through murder.

I hate writing about this.

I’m not going to editorialize this time, although I could talk about how people are referred to (again) after their death, and how even LGB news services don’t always respect names and genders of dead trans people.

Instead I’m going to ask that you take a minute and reflect that the following people had their lives taken. Reflect on what we need to do to make change and to stop the violence.

The links below will go to third party news sites that don’t always respect the identity of the victim.

Sometime before September 1, 2013, in Savannah, TX, USA, Konyale Williams was killed. No additional details are known.

On September 9, 2013, in Baldwin Park, CA, USA, Melony Smith was murdered. Melony was forced to leave home at age 16 because her parents did not accept her gender identity. While living in hotels, she completed her high school education and was working to save up for further education at the time of her death.

On September 12, 2013, in Baton Rouge, LA, USA, Shaun Hartley was murdered. Hartley was to be the key witness in a murder trial.

On September 19, 2013, in Sakaew, Thailand, Kornsirinya was brutally murdered.

On September 24, 2013, in New Brunswick, NJ, USA, Eyricka Morgan was murdered in her home.

I apologize and will make corrections if I misgendered or misnamed any of the people above.  I did my best to find their preferred names and pronouns, but I can make mistakes. I do not desire to dishonor the dead.

Think on the names above, the locations where these crimes occurred, and realize that trans people are sadly not safe anywhere. Also think on those I didn’t name, but lost their lives just as tragically – those who were victims of suicide, having left the world to escape the pain. Think about what we can do to change that.

Reflections on My Hate…and that of Ole Miss

 

In 1998, when I was a student at the University of Wyoming, a gay college student – Matthew Shepard – was brutally murdered in an anti-gay hate crime.

candleMatthew did nothing to provoke the attack, as police reports and trial evidence makes clear.

At the time, I was opposed to “legalizing the gay lifestyle” and believed I was right – because “God” told me so.

I am ashamed of that part of my life.

So I’ve thought a lot about Matthew Shepard’s death. Even when I was an anti-gay college student, I could recognize that Matthew shouldn’t have died. I had a lot of things wrong in my belief, but I understood that he was human and should have lived.

Matthew was killed as a result of people who couldn’t accept a world with a gay person in it. They took matters into their own hands, causing an unimaginable amount of pain – and the death – of someone just trying to live an authentic life.

That brings me to the present: on Tuesday, the theater department at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) put on a production of The Laramie Project, a play about the community and the response to Matthew Shepard’s death. It is very well written and accurate.

Now, this play has been performed thousands of times in many different venues. What happened at Ole Miss was different.

Students not only disrespected the performance, but actually shouted anti-gay slurs at the performers (among other things), apparently encouraged by some football players.

The next few days will tell us not only about the football players and other students, but about whether or not the administration will accept this behavior or use this as a teaching moment. I thought we learned something from the Matthew Shepard murder as a society. Apparently not everyone has learned it. And for that reason, I am glad that The Laramie Project is playing at Ole Miss. It’s message clearly needs to be heard on that campus.

I will say that people can change their views. I did. I’m ashamed of what my views were when Matthew died. But people can grow and learn – if they listen. And, right now, a few Ole Miss students need to listen.

Another Bad Month

candleAugust was another bad month for trans people.

When I recount the violence I know about, remember that many crimes against trans people go unreported, don’t get media attention, or are treated as ordinary violence in media reports.  Sadly, the majority of crime against trans people falls into this unreported and ignored category.

Even so, what is reported is horrifying and shows us, again, that we need to continue to fight for trans people.  Not for marriage.  Not for employment.  Not for bathroom access.  Just for the right for trans people to exist.  Just to exist.

As always, I strive to respect who people are.  Unfortunately, the preferred gender identities, names, and pronouns of victims are not always evident from reports.  In addition, some cultures have different views among trans people of who they are – all the world doesn’t view gender as western society does.  I’ve tried to be respectful of people, and am sorry that not everything linked here goes to that same trouble.  I also know I may get it wrong, as I am forced in most cases to rely on media reports.  I welcome correction and will update this post accordingly.  I’ve also tried to be respectful in what I link, but at the same time, some of the only reporting is often horrifying or degrading.  Please keep this in mind when clicking links.

During the beginning of the month, a trans woman was brutally attacked by a group of thugs in Russia.  The attackers even video taped themselves brutally attacking the woman.  Unfortunately, we don’t know if the woman’s physical wounds have healed or not, but it is clear that the attack will have lifelong consequences.  It’s hard to imagine that not only could someone do this to someone else, but they could actually make a graphic video about it.

On Aug 18, 2013, in Ankara, Turkey, a crowd violently attacked a group of trans people, beating them with bats, gassing them, and destroying their automobiles.  When the crime was reported to police, with license plate information, the police claimed that the license plates were false.  However, the victims report that they are concerned that the apathy of police will cause these attacks to continue.

In Dhobi Ghat, India, on Aug 19, a trans person was raped.  The rapist went on to rape severely ill person (who died, in large part due to the attack according to relatives) only a few hours later, followed by participating in a gang rape against a photojournalist two days later.

One day later, on Aug 20, in Fontana, CA, USA, Dominique Newburn was murdered in a violent struggle with her attacker.  Some of her belongings were stolen, and a manhunt continues for the suspected killer.

On August 22, in New York City, a Islan Nettles was brutally attacked, dying several days later having never regained consciousness from her injuries.  The murderer was a student at a local university who was apparently so enraged upon finding out that the woman he was hitting on (and who turned him down) and her friends were trans brutally attacked Islan in front of a New York City police station, leaving her unconscious.  Islan’s friends were also attacked, although with less significant injuries.  Meanwhile, the suspected killer’s mother, seems to have found another man to try to take the blame for the murder, to spare her son jail time.  Fortunately, police are still investigating Paris Wilson, the originally suspected killer.  It should be noted that others were also likely involved in attacking the trans women.

Of course, even in all of this, several of the victims of the crimes described above faced additional injustice when they reported the crimes to apathetic police, endured misgendering, were referred to as “drunk” or “prostitutes” by police and/or media, and even when their families used the wrong pronouns or names in talking about the victims.  The attack rarely stops when the physical violence ends.

This article puts it in perspective, speaking about July:

These findings were based on statistics released by the Organization of American States and included incidents from Canada, the United States, Central America and South America. The report found that in the month of July alone, 39 people were murdered: 23 transgender people and 16 gays and lesbians.

The article goes on to talk about that, while gays face more risk of violence than straight people, trans people, particularly trans women and non-white trans people, face violence at an incredibly increased rate compared to even gay people.

This has to stop.  When you see people devaluing the humanity of another, whether it’s a crass joke, intentional misgendering, laughing at someone’s gender presentation, or gossiping behind their back, you need to speak up.  These things are not violent attacks, but they lower the social status of trans people and make them less than fully human in some people’s eyes.  And they’re asshole things to do besides.

When is a Rape not a Rape? Or Hate not Hate?

This comes up way too frequently – for instance, we all heard about “legitimate rape” (Todd Akin, a US politician, implied that women who were “legitimately” raped would, somehow, only rarely get pregnant due to some sort of ovarian rape-detector or something) in the last election cycle.

Up until 1993, spousal rape (a person raping their spouse) was not illegal everywhere in the USA.  North Carolina was the last state to change their law which, prior to the change, included this in the rape statute: “a person may not be prosecuted under this article if the victim is the person’s legal spouse at the time of the commission of the alleged rape or sexual offense, unless the parties are living separate and apart.”  Before the 1970s, spousal rape was not a crime anywhere in the USA.

In a particularly horrifying example, in 2007, a Philadelphia judge, Teresa Carr Deni, decided that it wasn’t possible to rape a prostitute, even if you held a gun to her head to force her to have sex, if she had previously agreed to have sex.  In this case, the rape victim previously agreed to have sex with the rapist for an agreed sum of money.  Now you might have moral disagreements with that, but that wasn’t what was supposed to be on trial here.  What was on trial was whether or not she was raped.  When she met the rapist to receive money and perform the sex act (protected sex), the rapist decided he wasn’t going to pay her (no sex had occurred yet) and that he would use a gun to force her to perform unprotected sex with at least 3 other people.  Clearly, this was not consensual.

The judge, Teresa Carr Deni, a Philadelphia municipal judge, decided that it wasn’t possible to rape a prostitute, essentially, since she was offering services for a fee, and that this was just a case of robbery and theft of services.  Not rape.

Despite the Pennsylvania Bar publicly condemning her, she won re-election in Philadelphia shortly after the case for another 6 years in 2007.  Fortunately she’s on her last year as a judge and will not be back in 2014.

On July 14, 2013, Diamond Williams was brutally murdered with her body dismembered and dumped in a vacant lot.  The primary suspect – with significant evidence against him – is Charles Sargent.

Diamond, sadly, even after death, has three things going against her: she was trans, may have been a sex worker, and the judge who will be presiding over Charles Sargent’s murder case.  The judge is Teresa Carr Deni.

That Diamond was reported to be a sex worker should have nothing to do with this case.  She’s not supposed to be tried as a victim in her own murder case.  It’s not less wrong to kill a sex worker, and hopefully Judge Deni has learned that.  But we’ll have to wait and see.  Diamond’s human value and worth was the same as any of ours, and the law should reflect that all of us are created equal, that we all are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.  Such as the right not to be murdered.

That she was trans may be relevant, as a hate crime.  Some media have reported that Charles Sargent killed Diamond when he found out she was trans.  If this is the case, it would seem to be clearly a crime motivated by bias against gender, which is against the law (I’ve written about hate crimes elsewhere and why treating people in this way is not an injustice but actual justice).  But of course it’s not going to be prosecuted that way.  No, it’s going to be prosecuted as random violence that could have happened to any of us.  Except, it seems, it wouldn’t have happened to any of us.

I pray and hope that justice will be served and that Diamond’s murderer will never see freedom again.  He took a person’s life, so it is reasonable that he should spend the rest of his behind bars.  I also want to say that while I never knew Diamond, I do share the grief of her family and friends and their loss.  I don’t have to have known her to know that she was special to many people and that someone was unjustly taken from all of the world.

Respect for the Dead

“Kelly Young” was born “(masculine name here)”.  That’s how ABC in Baltimore began to describe a murder victim in a story earlier this year.  Except they printed a name that wasn’t her’s.  I won’t dignify that by repeating that name.

Kelly clearly wanted to be known as Kelly.  The general rule of thumb is you respect that.  In some cases, it may be relevant to a news story, but this wasn’t one of them.  This isn’t unique to transgender people.  News stories routinely refer to celebrities by names other than “birth names” (and, indeed, other than their legal name).  Women who take the last name of a husband usually don’t have their maiden name printed if they are killed.

I’m amazed at the obsession to know two things about trans people: what their genitals look like and what their birth name was.  Let me make this simple: that’s rude, objectifying, and humiliating.

But this is routine when trans people are killed.  Their genital status often comes up when a victim is trans.  It comes up in several ways, as does their trans history – “The male victim was dressed in women’s clothes” may be in a story.  Is that relevant?  Maybe it’s relevant that the person is trans, if you are reporting on a suspected hate crime.  Or if the person was well known as a public activist or figure.  But other than that, no, it’s generally not relevant and serves no purpose other than to give people a chance to snicker at someone dead.  That’s not classy.  Certainly what their genitals look like is almost never relevant.  And, equally so with their “birth name”.

Brandon Teena's inaccurate grave marker

Brandon Teena’s inaccurate grave marker

It’s not just reporting.  I know trans people that are scared their families will put a name other than their name on their tombstone.  Imagine living your life, only to be insulted when you die.  Brandon Teena, the subject of Boys Don’t Cry, a transman was brutally raped and murdered in Nebraska.  He’s now buried in Nebraska.

His grave marker – something that should tell the world who he was – instead uses the wrong name and refers to him as “daughter, sister & friend.”

Imagine that.  You’re brutally murdered.  And even when you are dead, your family buries you under a different name and gender.  It’s hard to explain how humiliating that is.

Why do people do that (Brandon Teena is not the only one that had this done to him)?  I don’t know why Brandon’s family did this.  I do know why others do it, though.  Some families find it really hard to acknowledge that their child is trans.  So hard, in fact, that they would rather loose their relationship with their child than to have to explain to their friends, family, and church why their son is now their daughter – or visa-versa.  This acknowledgement of someone else’s life is so horrifying to people that they would rather bury their child under the wrong name and gender.  Imagine what it is like for that child to be alive, to live a life unacknowledged and unaccepted by family.

More than that, thanks to the right wing, and the common confusion between sexual orientation and gender identity, and a general anti-gay sentiment in the right wing, the mere act of calling someone by the name and pronouns they ask to be used is now sin.  You see, in the eyes of these people (Note that I believe most are, sadly, not acting out of heartfelt analysis of scripture, but rather out of blind faith in their religious leaders and personalities), if you see someone who is gay (and, thus, by extension, someone who is trans), you have to say something to show you don’t agree.  Otherwise, apparently, God will send you to hell or something.  There’s also a really twisted idea of gender roles here – women subservient and all that (I’ll write about that some other time).  Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I was a member of such a group so I do have some idea how they think.

The idea is that if you “accept” it (that is, keep your mouth shut when you object – which is obviously a far cry from true acceptance), then you’re encouraging and in a way a codependent.  If you make life suck for the trans (or gay) person, then maybe they’ll stop sinning.  There is a problem here, though: some do – they kill themselves.  And even then they get stuck in graves which further the very abuse that made them hate life.

But apparently it’s not sin to spit on a grave or worse.  Even after the person is dead, they are fair game for abuse.

What do we do about this?

Simple.  We demand accountability.  Newspapers and TV should be called out when they refer to people with the wrong gender, out a victim as trans when it’s not truly relevant to the story, and we should make sure people we know are remembered for who they were, not who someone else wanted them to be.  And we should treat people properly when they are alive, too – if someone tells you their name and gender, it’s not your job to enforce the right-wing will.  They aren’t doing this because you didn’t insult and abuse them enough.  It’s time to stop the abuse, particularly in the name of God.

RIP Kelly and Brandon.  I will acknowledge who you were.

Why Hate Crimes Aren’t About Free Speech or Thought

On July 21, a Tennessee (USA) man* was assaulted in an apparent anti-trans attack.  In addition, a hate message was spray painted on his front door and his possessions were destroyed.

(*Note: I am unsure of the victim’s gender identity, so I’m going with the reporting thus far as far as pronouns.  As always, I’ll edit this article with a note if I learn that the reporting was wrong)

An online article talks about how Tennessee lacks hate crime laws that consider gender identity of the victim.  The article seems good, although it’s missing something – the reason for hate crimes laws.

The right wing has dominated the discussion on hate crimes being “thought crime.”  Yet we already consider intent and motive when we sentence many other crimes – both intent and motive are also thought.  I’d say spray painting “Tranny Fucker” on someone’s door goes beyond merely holding a protected first amendment view.

That’s where the other side doesn’t do well.  We can’t explain why we need a hate crime law.  After all, we have a vandalism law already.  Spray painting anything on a door is illegal without permission, right?  Why would one form of speech get different treatment?

The reason is simple.  First, it’s not that someone held unpopular or hateful views that is the issue.  That’s legal under every hate crime law in the USA.  It’s legal to wave a sign that says, “God hates fags!” anywhere where a sign that says “God loves gays!” would be legal.  That’s protected first amendment speech.  It’s you’re right to be filled with hate and to spew it anywhere that other political views can be spewed.  No hate crime law makes that (or the Bible, nor even really hateful twisted preached interpretations of the Bible) illegal.  Hate crime is about actions that harm, not words that harm.

Having hate spray painted on your front door is different than random vandalism for two reasons.  First, it’s clear you were targeted as a victim, and it wasn’t just a crime of opportunity or a random prank.  Someone took the time to personalize the message.

Secondly, and more relevant to hate crime laws, the victim isn’t just the person attacked or who had their property damaged.  The victim is the entire class of people targeted by the hate.  The message spray painted on the door can be seen similar to a threat against any trans person (or, indeed, anyone who might consider themselves supportive of trans people or anyone who might be mistaken for being trans).  It’s a statement: we’re criminals and we’re going after trans people.  It’s a threat.  It puts an entire community on edge, wondering, “Will I be next?”

Criminal statutes do recognize that an action might have many different consequences, but that the more severe consequences should generally have more severe sentencing.  For instance, in this crime, the damage is listed as “less than $500.”  Apparently, in Tennessee, vandalism that causes more than $500 damage receives a different sentence.  We recognize that the more financial harm done, the more significant the crime.  Likewise, we have different fines for drug possession near a school vs. away from a school, because we consider the harm more severe if it occurs near where children are known to be.  And, if I yell, “Fire!” in a crowded room (that I know is not on fire!), which results in people becoming trampled, I’ll be held to a different penalty than if I was operating a store and hollered, “The first 10 people to come to the counter get an iPad for $100!” and people got trampled.  The first one, I was intentionally doing something dangerous, while in the second one, the victims, who may have been just as badly hurt, weren’t injured as a result of me trying to intentionally do something dangerous. They were injured because I did a dumb thing unintentionally (still possibly a crime, but not as severe of a sentence).

Hate crimes work the same way.  An assault can target a random person or one specific person.  In such a case, it may raise concerns of anyone in a geographic area, but nobody is going to think they are more at risk of being a victim than someone else.  On the other hand, if someone communicates “fags must die” (where people witness it) while beating up a gay man, that is different.  A straight person probably isn’t a lot more worried about their safety, while another gay man will be very concerned that he may be the next victim.  So, in the first case, where it’s a random attack, there’s essentially one victim.  In the second case, where it’s clearly targeted (no hate crime law makes it a worse crime to beat up someone in a protected class – it’s only a different crime if you targeted the person because of the class he’s a member of), anyone who shares that trait with the victim is also a victim.  Sure, it is a different kind and degree of victim, but it’s still a victim.

Hate crime laws recognize that different acts have different consequences to victims.  It’s not about speech.  You can continue to be a bigot if you want, so long as your bigotry doesn’t fuel your own violence.  Hate crimes are about the damage you do to others.  Sadly, we’re bad at getting that through to people like Tennessee lawmakers.

Some Real Crime

This is why I started tis blog.  I’m sick of my brothers and sisters being killed, raped, and otherwise harmed.  And, yes, they are my brothers and sisters.  And like it or not, they are your brothers and sisters, too.  I might not be LGB or T, but that doesn’t mean I’m not human.  Or they aren’t.

I want to talk about Washington DC, the seat of my country’s government.  What place represents the USA more than DC?  Well, that representation has been shameful.

Every two days since the 21st there has been at least one attack in DC on a trans* person.

Another shooting, on June 22, involving a lesbian victim, also affected the LGBT community.

DC has a shameful history with regards to being a safe place for trans* people – there have been many, many murders over the last decade, making it an incredibly dangerous place for a trans person to live (particularly for black transwomen).

The solution isn’t just more police or enforcement of hate crime statutes (in fact, more police may be part of the problem in other ways). The solution consists of things like not writing off every transwoman victim as a prostitute (or implying that somehow prostitutes deserve or encouraged attacks) in reporting. Or because someone took $40 from the victim, saying it’s a robbery when the victim was stabbed nearly a dozen times after the criminal was called a fag by his buddies. And recognizing in law that a transwoman is a woman, not a man. And vise-versa, that a transman is a man, not a woman. Not half of the gender, not “well, except for A, B, or C they can be treated like a woman” as these things only reinforce “this person isn’t really a…” It’s when reporting on the controversy of trans kids transitioning including the research on adults (97% of people who have sexual reassignment surgery are glad they did it, which is higher than for instance operations to replace a lens in a nearly blind person’s eye) and statistics about what we know happens to trans kids when they *don’t* transition (at least 50% attempt or succeed at suicide).

A lot of it starts where we live. Could a transwoman teach your kids without problems? Could she work at your business, in the job you hold, without problems? Could she share a room in your community as a boarder without a problem? Could she use the women’s room in public without problem? Would a trans candidate’s trans status be a non-issue in a local election? If not, what are you doing to fix it?