06 July 2011

Why Casey Anthony's Acquittal Matters To Transgenders

Not many people, it seems, are happy that Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her daughter.  I am not quite happy about it, either.  Well, to be precise, I'm not happy that a little girl died and the truth about her death may never be known.  However, I am one of an apparently small minority who believes the jurors did the right thing in not charging Casey Anthony with the murder of her daughter Caylee.

One juror has said, in essence, that if you are going to sentence someone to die, you had better be certain that person is guilty of the crime for which you're condemning him or her.  This, I think, is especially true in Florida, where the trial took place:  Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia are the only US states to have executed more prisoners than Florida.  This juror admitted that no one thought Casey Anthony was any sort of model citizen or mother:  I don't know very many people who'd want their daughters to grow up to be like her.  And I certainly don't, in any way, regard her as a role model for myself. 

However, being an unsavory character and generally difficult to like (I have little trouble believing the prosecution's depiction of her as "shallow" and "egotistical.") doesn't, in itself, constitute guilt.  Only evidence can, or at least should, do that, especially under the system of law that, thankfully, we still have in spite of some prosecutors', judges' and politicians' efforts to destroy it.  While I'm willing to concede that the evidence might indicate that Ms. Anthony was a terrible mother and a not terribly responsible human being, that alone does not mean she is a child-killer, although my "gut" feeling is that if she didn't drown or suffocate or in some other way kill Caylee, she was probably responsible for her death through neglect, if nothing else.  

Cops make arrests based on "gut" feelings all the time.  Sometime those instincts turn out to be accurate.  Whether they're right or wrong, though, juries aren't supposed to determine guilt or innocence based on them.  Instead, jurors are supposed to make such decisions based on evidence.  And, as the juror who was interviewed said, the evidence was inconclusive.

I think that LGBT people, and transgenders in particular, should be thankful for this decision and the system that allowed it.  Too often, we are seen as guilty for one thing or another--usually some sexual offense--because of the images people have of us.  What's even worse is that many of us have not done anything to merit the stereotyping and suspicion to which we are subjected.  And, worse yet, there are some people who are willing to paint or simply use unflattering portraits of us--whether or not they're based on our behavior or characters--in their attempts to destroy us.  I know:  It's happened to me.  All it takes is for one student who didn't like his or her grade, one person to whom one of us says "no," or one person who experiences any other kind of unfortunate and unexplainable event, and one of us can find him or herself fired from a job, evicted from our homes or even arrested or killed simply by painting unsavory pictures of us that others are all too willing to believe. 

It doesn't matter that I don't drink or smoke, almost never party and have always been monogamous.  It only takes one angry, vindictive person to use the stereotypes about trans people to "try" and "convict" me with people who have as much power over my life as those jurors and the judge had over the fate of Casey Anthony.