Once Again, Erasing the Role of Transphobia in Hate Crimes

Back in December I wrote a blog entry Remembering Jorge While Forgetting What Binds Us, a commentary how some gay activists ignored, misrepresented or actively denied gender variance in the horrific murder of Jorge Steven López in Puerto Rico.  About the case and the reaction from some gay activists, I wrote,

Questions and controversy have abounded as to what Jorge was wearing the night of his murder. Some reports claim the suspected murderer told authorities that Jorge was dressed as a woman. These questions will hopefully be answered during the investigation and trial where we hope Jorge, his family and the queer community in Puerto Rico will see justice done. Respected activists like Pedro Julio Serrano, who has spoken out passionately in the past about transgender inclusion, have gone out of their way to spell out that Jorge was not transgender.  I understand that Jorge did not self-identify as transgender, so it would be inappropriate to assign that identity to him, but I believe that his murder, in part, was the result of transphobia. If at the time of his murder he presented in a gender non-conforming manner (dressed in drag, wearing a wig, etc), than this may well be both yet another horrific transphobic crime and a gay bashing.

Today my friend Abby, a transgender woman living in Arizona reports that Pedro Serrano is once again speaking erasing the role of transphobia in the case. Over at her blog she writes the following:

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Manager for The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is again doing his best to erase the role of transphobia in the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado in Puerto Rico last fall.  Pedro had this to say in today’s article in EdgeBoston on the run-up to the trial of Jorge’s murderer:

“Jorge Steven’s murder was an eye-opener for a lot of folks on the island and many people who either didn’t think or want to believe that homophobia is pretty much alive and affecting so many people in Puerto Rico,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. “I have never seen such a wide array of support and tangible solidarity in Puerto Rico.”

(All emphasis in the quotes from the article are mine.)  Of course, that didn’t stop Pedro or others from invoking the “T” when it serves their purposes:

“The Jorge Steven López Mercado case has allowed LGBT activists and organizations to shed light to a long-time problem of violent crimes for LGBT individuals in Puerto Rico and the overall United States,” said Jorge Cestou, the Chicago-based co-chair of Unid@s, a national Latino LGBT rights organization.

* * *

Illinois state Rep. María “Toni” Berrios [D-Chicago,] who also traveled to the island with the delegation, conceded she remains unsure whether anything has actually changed in Puerto Rico since the teenager’s death. She added, however, it galvanized LGBT Puerto Ricans.  “Jorge Steven López Mercado’s murder brought together all of the LGBT groups and has made them work even closer together to try to combat hate crimes towards their community,” said Berrios.

* * *

[Ada Conde Vidal, president of the Fundación de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Foundation,)] was instrumental in the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the territory’s hate crimes law in 2002, but  authorities have rarely implemented it.

* * *

[New York City Councilmember Melissa] Mark-Viverito, who was born in San Juan, told EDGE there remains “qu[i]te a lot of work to be done” in Puerto Rico, but Serrano stressed López’s murder changed the conversation about LGBT rights on the island.  “It’s no more a debate of whether there is homophobia,” he said. “Now the debate is how we are going to stop it; how are we going to end it. People are more aware of the importance of respecting everyone; regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It seems that the idea that gay men may be feminine in some way is so distasteful that, while it’s OK to acknowledge that gay men exist in Puerto Rico, the idea that they may not be as “macho” as every other man must be avoided at all costs.  That, of course, does not stop anyone involved from claiming support from the “T” portion of the LGBT community or showing how inclusive they are by mentioning “gender identity” protections in Puerto Rican law. What blatant hypocrisy!

And, yes, it really pisses me off.


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