Killing a Woman Because She’s Trans “Not a Classic Hate Crime”

by Cara on August 4, 2008

in bigotry, courts, gender, LGBTQ, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, trans, transphobia and trans misogyny, violence against women and girls

Angie Zapata was murdered in July. Allen Ray Andrade, who has admitted to beating Zapata to death, supposedly became uncontrollably “enraged” upon learning that she was transgender after a sexual encounter.  This is, of course, a common defense in such murders (known as “trans panic”), and one that apparently plays into bigoted public sensibilities that transgender individuals are unethically “fooling” people and of course no one would ever knowingly have consensual sex with them.  It’s also worth noting that Andrade claims to have only learned Zapata was transgender by sexually assaulting her, grabbing her genitals without her consent.  He then saw it as an excuse to kill her. (trigger warning)

Later on July 16, Andrade said he asked Zapata outright whether she was a man or woman. “I am all woman,” Zapata allegedly told him, according to the affidavit. He asked for proof and when she refused, Andrade told investigators, he “grabbed Zapata’s genital area and felt a penis.”

“Andrade indicated he became angered by his discovery and struck victim Zapata with his fists,” according to the affidavit. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher, he said, and struck her twice.

He told investigators he thought he “killed it,” referring to Zapata. As he prepared to flee, Andrade said, he heard Zapata “gurgling” and saw her start to sit up, then he hit her in the head again with the fire extinguisher, according to the affidavit.

The suspect admitted to taking Zapata’s PT Cruiser, which was missing from the murder scene. On July 28, a credit card in Zapata’s name was used at multiple gas stations in the greater Denver area, according to police. Andrade also admitted to taking Zapata’s purse and cell phone, which have not been recovered.

Yes, he did call the woman he murdered “it.”

The “trans panic” defense would be bullshit even if it was Andrade’s true rationale for his crime.  But looking at this series of events, it strikes me that the defense is bullshit not only for moral reasons but also for factual ones.  You don’t kill a woman in a blind rage . . . then steal all of her shit, including the incredibly stupid move of taking the car, and run up bills on her credit cards.  This is not “the heat of the moment.”  No, as Lisa Harney said, men like Andrade simply believe with good reason that they can get away with killing a transwoman.  And everyone will be more than accommodating to him in tiptoeing around his violence and hatred.  From the ABC article:

Crystal Middlestadt, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program said the group will wait for the prosecutor’s final decision before commenting.

“There is a possibility that the suspect did have bias against transgender women,” Middlestadt told ABCNews.com. “Regardless of whether those formal charges are filed, it’s important to notice that these type of crimes affect the gay, lesbian and transgender community.”

It’s possible that Andrade had a bias against transgender women?  I’d say that when a man admits to killing a woman upon learning (again — through assault) that she was trans, noting this as his motive, that pretty fucking strongly indicates a bias against transgender women.  Jesus, if you don’t want to comment, just don’t comment.

But ABC article is for the most part respectful, including strong arguments against Andrade with quotes from sources who note that failing to disclose your genitalia is not doing something wrong, that the disclosing of one’s genitalia is not something expected of cis people, and that when “I found out she had genitalia I didn’t like” is a defense for murder, we’re living in a sad fucking society.  I’d like to add that it’s even more sad, if that’s possible, when such a defense is used and accepted by many in a case where said genitalia was only discovered because the murderer committed a sexual assault.

Of course Zapata’s murder would be wrong and tragic regardless of how Andrade came to learn that she was transgender (or if the murder had nothing to do with her gender identity at all).  But the fact that what Andrade did when grabbing her crotch was sexual assault seems to be grossly overlooked by the mainstream media — including this article, the best I’ve seen on the matter. (Thankfully, bloggers have noticed.)  And that is supremely fucked up.

Other news sources are far more unethical:

Experts say it may not be easy for prosecutors to prove it was a hate crime.

“A prosecutor is going to talk about this being a knowing killing, that the defendant knew what he was doing. The defense is going to argue that it was the heat of passion, that he did it because he, the defendant, was so upset for being duped,” said 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson.

Robinson believes that while the prosecution will be seeking a conviction for second-degree murder, the defense could seek a lesser offense of heat of passion manslaughter.

“This is not a classic hate crime, where an individual is beaten to death because of their orientation. This is a case when an individual reacted irrationally and unlawfully to learning they had been fooled,” said Robinson.

“Duped.”  “Fooled.” “Not a classic hate crime.”  Why isn’t it a classic hate crime?  The argument doesn’t hold up — the defendant did kill Zapata because of her gender identity.  He sexually assaulted a woman, in the process discovered that she was transgender, and as a direct result he chose to beat her to death.  Ergo, he killed her because she was trans, and this is not hard to follow logic.  So allow me to translate.  What Robinson really means is: “This is not a classic hate crime, because this time the defendant had a good reason.”

There’s no other way to put it.  There’s no other reason to use language like “duped” and “fooled.”  There’s no other reason to use this as an argument unless you’re trying to show that there was an understandable, if “irrational” reason for the murder.  (Note that most of Robinson’s remarks are reasonable if inexcusably-phrased guesses about how the defense attorneys will behave, but the last paragraph seems to be his own opinion.)  Usually, when one is trying to convince people that a crime was not a hate crime, they’d argue that the crime was committed for reasons other than the victim’s race/sexual orientation/gender identity/etc.  This time, it is widely acknowledged that the reason was indeed Zapata’s gender identity, thus making one believe it to certainly be a hate crime (in jurisdictions where such a law is actually on the books).  But it’s “not a classic hate crime” because this kind of hate is supposed to be considered justified.

Based on the common nature of this crime/defense, and the vast swarms of people who descend whenever it occurs to talk about how wrong it is to “trick” a person by not disclosing one’s trans status, this kind of hate is indeed completely acceptable in most places, including many supposedly-progressive ones.  (Note: if someone’s thinking about trying that shit here, it ain’t gonna happen.) And it’s killing people.  All the time.

R.I.P. Angie.  And may Andrade spend the rest of his pathetic miserable existence inside of a jail cell.

[Story and links via Questioning Transphobia.]

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{ 7 comments }

1 SunlessNick August 4, 2008 at 1:14 pm

It’s also worth noting that Andrade claims to have only learned Zapata was transgender by sexually assaulting her, grabbing her genitals without her consent. He then saw it as an excuse to kill her.

Good catch. I’ve not seen that pointed out anywhere else.

The argument doesn’t hold up — the defendant did kill Zapata because of her gender identity. He sexually assaulted a woman, in the process discovered that she was transgender, and as a direct result he chose to beat her to death.

What else but hate would lead him to be angry about her trans status in the first place?

So allow me to translate. What Robinson really means is: “This is not a classic hate crime, because this time the defendant had a good reason.”

I concur with your translation. And your opinion of it.

2 GallingGalla August 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm

I’m thrilled, btw, that SAFER covered this story.

3 Lisa Harney August 4, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Good catch. I’ve not seen that pointed out anywhere else.

That’s because to most people, physically verifying a trans woman’s genitals doesn’t count as sexual assault.

I’m glad as many people who have read my post caught and quoted or paraphrased that bit about how people would see Andrade’s assault if she were a cis woman.

4 Anna August 4, 2008 at 9:50 pm

Lisa said:

That’s because to most people, physically verifying a trans woman’s genitals doesn’t count as sexual assault.

!!! WHAT? Of course it is!

I’ll just sit over here feeling ill.

5 Lisa Harney August 5, 2008 at 1:44 am

Anna, of course it is, and I am ecstatic that so many bloggers picked that up from my post, because none of the news outlets reported it like it was sexual assault.

6 Lemur August 5, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Someone over at Shakesville made the comment that disclosure is a difficult question for trans* folk, and points out the sadness of that; learning that one’s partner isn’t cis shouldn’t be any more “upsetting” than learning they aren’t, say, a natural blonde. You shouldn’t feel “duped” and “fooled” unless you don’t have any understanding of sex and gender. Or unless you’re truly that insecure.
Also, I notice the “gay panic” thing is exclusively a guy defense for beating a gay guy. I’ve never heard of a woman beating the shit out of another woman upon learning she was gay; I’ve never heard of a woman assaulting a dude when she realized he wasn’t the orientation she’d first thought. (CMIIW.)
Cara, I hope to soon come here and see a posting of how this scum got life in prison. There must be some justice left in this country.

Angie, I’m so sorry. I hope you’re somewhere better.

7 Ishtar October 8, 2008 at 7:05 am

This makes me so bloody furious! That pig, that vomit-inducing barely-human pig. I hope he rots in jail.

Angie Zapata’s body was hers and hers alone, not an object to be groped and bludgeoned by this monster. She didn’t have to disclose a damn thing to anyone because her body is her business and no one else’s!

It seems so logical that we should all respect (not just our own) other people’s bodies, dignity and privacy. Yet that seems to escape far too many monsters who think they can touch, grope, disparage, beat and rape whomever they want.

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