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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Literary Stereotyping: A Response to Karel


When one writes for an LGBT publication such as "The Blade," it is tempting to assume that the publisher, editor and columnists are well informed, accepting and supporting of the greater LGBT Community. In Charles Karel Bouley II's December column ("Karel's Komments, Death in Newark") that assumption was proven to be incorrect - frighteningly so.

In fairness, Bouley apparently set forth in an honorable fashion to object to the brutal October murder of Gwen Araujo in Newark when her anatomical sex was discovered to be male. However, along the way he managed to offend the transgender community by referring to Gwen with male pronouns, by insinuating that gender identity is a choice, by mislabeling Gwen as a transvestite, by an incorrect assessment of transgender acceptance, by stating that schools would not hire otherwise qualified transsexual teachers, and by opposing hate crime sentencing enhancements. These errors are particularly frightening because Bouley is a radio personality with occasional national audiences.

This publication is guided by the "Associated Press Stylebook" that provides guidance in any number of areas ranging from punctuation to adjective and pronoun usage. With reference to transsexuals, it says to "use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics (by hormone therapy, body modification, or surgery) of the opposite sex and present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly." Gwen Araujo clearly identified as female and lived publicly in that presentation.

Bouley's reference to Gwen with masculine pronouns, his reference to "the girl's really a guy," and characterizing her as a "man in a dress" deeply offended Gwen's memory and the greater transgender community. These statements represent stereotyping at its worst and highlight the fact that some within the gay and lesbian community judge and negatively characterize transgenders. I'm offended by Bouley's statements and utterly amazed that the publisher and editor allowed his views to be disseminated on these pages.

I was surprised that Bouley objected to the hate crime enhancements that have been attached to the charges against the alleged murders. He sets forth the same argument that Dr. Laura Schlessinger used, being that hate crime enhancements are a special right afforded gays, lesbians and transgenders. "Somehow" he says, "these boys killing Gwen for being a transvestite is more horrific and carries more of a sentence than if they had beaten and strangled him [sic] for some other reason. Poppycock," he says.

On November 20, the international transgender community held commemoration services for our dead. This has turned out to be the deadliest year on record for transgenders, with 2002 having a 30 percent increase in anti-transgender murders over all previous years.

Statistically, transgenders are 16 times more likely to be murdered than the general population and three times more likely than African American males, the next closest group. Transsexuals, the statistics demonstrate, are more likely to be murdered than they are to be married.

Poppycock, Mr. Bouley? Bullshit!

There is substantial historical basis for such enhancements; the "murder is murder" rationale is insufficient. Special Circumstances, the Felony Murder Rule, Murder for Financial Gain, and Murder of a Law Enforcement Official are all instances where society has decided that the murder is more heinous and more deserving of greater punishment. California has determined that the murder of somebody because of their race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation is particularly heinous, given that such an act robs people of civil and human rights to equal treatment under the constitution.

Contrary to Bouley's recommendations, prosecution to the full extent of the law will include the hate crime enhancements. Would I be correct in assuming that he would also oppose hate crime enhancements for those circumstances when the killer selects a homosexual for extermination?

"Well, that's what he got for living like that," he wrote. Where on God's green earth did he come up with such thoughts? Does he cast such broad judgments to those who are infected with HIV?

"How many schools would employ known transvestites or transsexuals, even if qualified? Parents would scream . . ." California's AB 2222 expands the definition of disability under the Fair Employment and Housing Administration to include transgenders. AB 537, codified as Section 200 of the California Education Code, the Student Safety and Violence Protection Act, extends protections to teachers as well. There are many transsexual teachers in the K-12 system, including at least 16 in Orange County.

How many schools would employ known transsexuals? Many, Mr. Bouley. Many.

I suspect that where he missed the boat is in assuming that transgenders are hated and reviled in the United States. There have been a number of polls, both local and national, sponsored in whole or in part by the Human Rights Campaign. A North Carolina poll found that transgenders have greater public support in the workplace than homosexuals.

A national poll released in September, indexed on acceptance factors to identify cohort acceptance found that all groups supported transgenders in the workplace and already assumed that transgenders were protected under hate crime laws. Further, they supported K-12 transsexual teachers, although the degree of support diminished at the lower grades.

As Bouley pointed out, "There's plenty of guilt to go around." Please, let's be certain that our own ignorance and, if present, our own prejudices do not contribute to that guilt.

Related Stories:

December, 2002 - KAREL's COMMENTS: A Death in Newark

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