03 May 2014

Their Trouble With Harry

The other day,  I posted a video of an interview in which Janet Mock turns the tables on Alicia Menendez.  It shows how, too often, we are trivialized by those who see us only in terms of our surgeries, treatments and "the moment".

(Is it any wonder that many of us have body image issues?)

Well, obsession with the fact that we're trans--or whether or not we fit into someone's idea of what a trans person is--also leads others to be trivialized, in life and in death.

Almost nobody has heard of Annie Burkett.  Although she was the victim of one of the most brutal murders committed in Australia, people heard little about her even in the days immediately after her death.  Instead, the focus turned on her killer.

Or, rather, the Australian press paid attention to the fact that the killer, born in Italy and named Eugenia Falleni, lived in Australia as a man named Harry Crawford, and so became Annie Burkett's husband.

You can read more about it here.

To be fair, one reason why the gender identity of the killer was so sensationalized was that, in the 1920's, members of the Australian press--like most other people, including those in the medical professions--lacked a context for thinking about, let alone a vocabulary for describing, gender variance.

Police cited Crawford/Falleni's "deception" of living as a man as proof of an immoral character, one capable of such a horrible murder.  Unfortunately, too many people today would see it the same way.  They do not realize that people like Crawford don't commit crimes because they are transgendered; rather, they are trans people who happen to commit crimes.  And the victim is forgotten while the victimizer is trivialized.

Crawford/ Falleni was condemned to die for the crime.  But the sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment.  After serving eleven years, Crawford/Falleni was released on the condition that he lived the rest of his life as a woman.

Of course, this story begs the question of the circumstances under which Ms. Burkett married Mr. Crawford.  If she didn't know about his identity when she met him, she must have found out in fairly short order.  And, if she knew, it begs another question:  Could their marriage have been a cover for a lesbian relationship, which surely would have brought them more opprobrium than it would today.

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