Name That Crime: Abduction or Transphobia?

A woman in Arizona abducts her two children in 2003 and was arrested for the crime this week in North Carolina. Simple, right?

But what has made this a news story is that Shellie White, the children’s mother, looks like a man and has been living as a man with another woman. Accordinng to the AP story,

In a statement, the U.S. Marshals Service said White had “radically changed her appearance to that of a man.”

“She even went so far as to tell her children, aged 3 and 5 at the time, that she was their father,” the Marshals Service said. “When she was arrested, the children, now aged 6 and 8, asked why they were arresting their Daddy.”

Authorities said that White had posed as her husband and had used other male aliases while on the run.

She is 5-foot-9 and 280 pounds, wears her hair closely cropped and has a slight mustache and stubble. She blamed the facial hair on a hormone disorder. White said she had considered a sex-change operation, but decided against it because of the cost and denied it was part of any scheme to avoid police.

Radically changed, but since when? Since living the life of a fugative for the past three years? According to ABC News, White’s ex-husband is quoted as saying, “She had long hair and at the time we were together, she actually — she looked like a woman. She’s just altered her appearance, I would say probably within the last five years…”

So White is a lesbian or more accurately a trans man. Since when is that a crime? I mean, sure it was a crime back in the 1400s when Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in large part because she wore men’s clothing and asserted that it was God’s will to do so.

Seems like there is more to this story and the manhunt for White than just an illegal abduction. No doubt that was wrong, but what if White is a man? (Yes, there are men with vaginas). How many transgender men (and butch lesbians) have to fight to keep their children while also living with integrity about who they are? What happens when parents don’t fit into neat and tidy gender roles?

ABC News provides video with interviews of White, the children and the ex-husband. I’ll warn you, it made me sick to see it.

This post has 3 Comments

  1. Clint on March 29, 2006 at 1:01 am

    Why did it make you sick? I would want to know before deciding to watch it–I’m pretty sensitive.


  2. Peterson Toscano on March 29, 2006 at 1:17 am

    Clint, what disturbs me (and haunts me) about this story and the video is the way it seems setup to destroy White. They even interview the children. It is dreadful. The kids look like they’ve been totally coached.

    The whole story seems to resovle arround transphobia and not about an abduction.

  3. Bob Painter on March 29, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    I can see both sides of this story.

    While I think the media is making a transphobic case of the abduction, it is still kidnapping.

    There are legal means for the couple to separate. Yes, the courts would have probably sided with the dad when the issue of her sexuality emerged, but then it would be a total story of bigotry against a transexual and not the twisted story of a transexual kidnapper.

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