20 January 2013

When You Can Get Away With Murder

Kudos to Kelly Busey of Planet Transgender (one of my "must read" blogs) for posting this story about Fernanda Carrico da Silva, a transvestite who was murdered in Brazil.  

Even though police officers witnessed her killing, no suspect has been captured.

I was able, from my knowledge of Spanish, French and Italian, to understand (more or less) the article in the original Portuguese.  However, I don't think you need to know any of those languages to get the message of its fourth paragraph, which I will render here:

When a parent of a heterosexual family dies, people notice.  When a rich man dies, people rally around him.  For the death of a gay person who has money or is "high society," people weep and gnash their teeth to decry homophobia.

But when a transvestite, a hustler dies, it is no more important than the death of a cockroach.

People sometimes wonder why such things happen in Brazil, a country with the most celebrated transgender or "womanless" beauty pageants. I've never been to Brazil, but I have talked with a few Brazilians.  From what they tell me, Brazilians have a well-earned reputation for partying and celebrating sexuality precisely because it is still, mostly, a conservative Catholic country. Extravagant shows of cross-dressing, ostentatious displays of sexuality and the seeming celebration of the beauty of trans women is, along with the fetishization of drag, confined to a few tightly-defined areas and time frames, such as certain beaches and during Carnival.  From what my Brazilian acquaintances tell me, expressions of sexuality and gender identity that differ from societal norms are not welcome outside those places and times.  

What makes this situation even more precarious for male-to-female transvestites or transsexuals are the prevailing attitudes toward violence men commit against women.  To put it bluntly, men literally get away with murdering women.  In fact, until 1991, it was not even considered a crime when a man killed his wife.  To this day, men who kill their wives still escape prison time or worse by claiming that the wives were unfaithful.  

When such violence is tolerated, you can be sure that people are allowed to do--and get away with--worse against trans women or transvestites.  

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