Hate crimes are defined in New York penal code
, but generally imply that the victim was selected or the crime was intentionally committed on account of a person’s “race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.” In 2009, this definition was expanded
to include a “victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity.” Most states still fail to explicitly protect sexual orientation or gender identity at all.
Viorst’s comments prove how much the justice system must learn about gender identity to properly defend us. Hate does not always require words to manifest. As transgender women, we are at risk simply when our physical builds, voices, or facial hair can reveal our pasts. Not unlike the color of our skin, something that should not matter much at all can instantly decide our life or death.
We continue to lose transgender women, especially transgender women of color. Their cases are seldom charged as hate crimes. Many victims are further denied acknowledgement even in death, as they were in life. Police reports often highlight the person’s birth name, and unsupportive families bury them as afflicted sons.
The violence will end when we teach our sons that loving a trans woman is loving a woman. Legislation may not serve as enough of a deterrent, but it can be improved. We must formalize crimes against trans individuals as hate crimes nationwide.
We must remember our transgender sister Islan, whom I never got to meet. She was every bit a woman and had so much yet to enjoy — perhaps even marriage and motherhood. She was a budding fashion designer, and a natural talent, so they say. The world has lost out.
Simpson, a transgender advocate, marathoner, and unabashed nerd, appeared in Refinery29’s Trans America series. She frequently comments on trans issues and was recently featured as a guest with Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, as well as on WNYW Fox 5's
Good Day New York. You can follow her on Twitter at @hannsimp.