22 April 2010

Rally for St. Vincent's, Vigil for Amanda. Where Do You Stand?

Is this when I turn into an activist?

What's a girl to do?

On Saturday at 1: 00 pm, there will be a rally for St. Vincent's Hospial.    Then, at four, there will be a vigil for Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, who was murdered in Ridgewood, Queens.

If you're anywhere near either, I'm urging you to join in.  The rally will be held at 25th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan and everyone will proceed to the hospital.  The vigil will assemble in front of the apartment building where she lived, which is near the Fresh Pond Road station of the M line.

On 14 April, Rasheen Everett was arrested in Las Vegas and returned to New York, where he's been charged with killing her.  When the story of Amanda's murder first broke, a lot of people assumed that it was a date gone bad:  He thought he was meeting a "real" woman but found out she was a pre-op tranny.  The police say that it wasn't the case; it was, they believe, a dispute over money.  Perhaps that is the case:  After all, according to witnesses, he left her apartment seventeen hours after arriving and took two full bags (the contents of which included her cell phone) with him.  

However, I can't recall the last time a robbery-murder victim was strangled and then stabbed.  I also can't think of a case in which a thief who, after killing his victim, doused the body in bleach.  And when was the last time you heard of someone settling a financial score by destroying the debtor's Marilyn Monroe memorabilia?

Those rhetorical questions asked, I will say that if Rasheen Everett is indeed Amanda's killer, it will distinguish her case:  In 2005, when I was writing an article about the issue for Women's eNews about the mistreatment transgender women incur from police officers, I found out that, according to Interpol, 92 percent of all killings of transgender people are never solved.  Too many of those cases were simply not pursued with the same zeal investigators bring to their probes of other murders--or are simply not investigated at all.  Too many inside and outside the criminal justice and law enforcement professions believe, on some level, what I read in some of the comments I saw on online news  reports of Amanda's death:  She had it coming to her.  

Well, I just happen to believe that there is no way one human being can justify killing another.  (Paul Fussell, who taught a course I took when I was at Rutgers, voiced exactly that belief.  And he won a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered while fighting in France during World War II.)   But, if you must kill someone, I say do what you need to do to get the job done, and no more.  Why does someone have to strangle someone, then stab her?  Or--as in another case I've read about--beat the person to death, dismember her and leave the body parts in dumpsters? 

A killer does those things only when his or her motive is hate, pure and simple.     A thief who becomes a killer in the course of the crime simply kills; he or she doesn't resort to overkill.  Ditto for someone who murders from just about any other motive, let alone in the heat of the moment.  

I was reminded of just how great the potential is for any sort of hate-motivated violence when I read the comments some people left in response to news accounts of Amanda's murder.  (Thankfully, I didn't receive any such comments on this blog.)  The milder ones said she "had it coming to her."  Others contained the sort of jokes that adolescent boys in middle-aged men's bodies make.  And a few others said that, in essence, we deserve to be killed, or whatever other violence or cruelty we experience.

What's interesting--and even more chilling--is that none of the comments had any of the warped religiosity that ostensibly motivates so much anti-gay and -lesbian bigotry and violence.  None of them contained any "God Hates Fags"-type comments; they were all expressions of personal rage or echoes of someone else's hatred.  

One thing that has surprised me (and given me a sort of hope) is that none of the animus or pure and simple meanness to which I've been subjected has come from religious people.   In fact, I have been treated with respect, and even kindness, by people who have strong  religious beliefs.  Millie is active with her church; my mother attends Mass every Sunday and holiday and says she prays that I'll be safe and well.  My cousin says he doesn't "agree" with what I've done because of his religious beliefs, but he wants to be a friend to me--and, of course, I've taken him up on the offer.  And Bruce, who's been a friend for more than twenty-five years, is committed to his Zen practice.

I've also met other people who echo, in one way or another, what my cousin has said.  One woman who is about a decade or so older than I am (or so I would guess) and was a student at LaGuardia Community College when I taught there said, "My religion says that what you're doing is wrong.  But it also says God loves everyone.  And you're a really good person."  

I never thought I'd hear myself say, "Thank God for religion."  But I've found that at least some religious people are willing to entertain the possibility that I am not out to "convert" them, corrupt their children or destroy God's creation.  (Truth be told, doing those things is too much work!)  Or, they simply believe that if God made me as I am and put me on this Earth, He must have had a reason.

On the other hand, I've found that people who simply hate aren't reachable through human interaction or reason.   At least, I haven't found a way to change their minds.  Some of those people, like the ones who left the comments I saw, are "yahoos" or simply cases of arrested development.  But others--and these are the ones that disturb, scare and anger me most of all--are so-called educated people who profess to wanting a more egalitarian world as long as they don't have to deal with it personally.  Perhaps they see me as a threat, for whatever reasons, to whatever position they hold, or perceive themselves as holding, in the world in which live--or simply to whatever image they have of themselves.  In fact, one former longtime friend said, "I know the problem is with me.  But I just can't have you in my life."

In previous posts, I've said that sometimes I feel that other people have changed even more than I have, and that I see more change coming.  Somehow I expect that I'll see examples of one or both if I go to the rally and the vigil. But that, of course, is not the reason I would participate in either one.