Sanesha Stewart is dead and I have only tears and frustration for her

A man named Steve McMillian apparently stabbed Sanesha Stewart to death on Saturday morning. Who was she? She lived in the Bronx. She was tall and femme and well-liked by her neighbors. She was a client at the law project where I volunteer, but I never met her myself. Some of my colleagues helped her get her name legally changed more than a year ago. None of the above mattered at all to the news media, which handled this tragedy with the appropriate combination of sensitivity, respect for the victim, and a very cold eye for the man who the police dragged from her apartment, covered in her blood.

Oh no… wait one second and back up. There was no respect and no cold eye, none at all. I must be imagining some completely different universe where young trans women of color aren’t automatically treated like human trash. Where we all live, business as usual is to make a lot of comments about what the murder victim dressed like and looked like, reveal what her name was before she changed it, automatically assume she’s getting paid for sex, and to make excuses for the alleged killer.

And please note: “Cops: Ex-con slays Bronx transsexual ‘hooker'” is not the original headline of this NY Daily News article. The original one was “Fooled john stabbed Bronx tranny,” until pressure from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation got them to change it. They are still suggesting that people take action by writing to the editors–follow that link for more details.

The Daily News also published a follow-up story in which Sanesha’s downstairs neighbor insists that she wasn’t getting paid for sex; the Daily News doesn’t offer any proof for their earlier assertion that Sanesha Stewart was a “hooker,” other than “police sources.” And as many trans people in New York City will tell you, the NYPD assumes that almost any young, Black or Latina trans woman walking around on the street, or going into an apartment building with a guy, is getting paid for sex work. Profiling is constant; women have been arrested around here simply for having a gathering in someone’s apartment, apparently it’s too suspicious. I mean why would any normal person want to hang out with one of THEM, right?

I don’t know if Sanesha Stewart was doing sex work or not, and I don’t think it really matters, other than the fact that the usual assumptions are being made. I don’t know what else to say. This kind of thing always leaves me at a loss for words, there’s not much to do but sit, and cry, and wonder how long it will be until the next murder. Until the next young, poor or working class, Black or Latina trans woman is murdered just for being trans, and then mocked by so-called journalists before her body cools.

Worst of all is the fact that even the newer article ends with a hint of what will undoubtedly be part of the next chapter of this story: the “tranny panic” defense.

Ramel C., 37, said McMillan had a girlfriend. He said his life-long friend must have been shocked to discover he was with a man.

“I’m not saying that’s a reason to kill anyone,” he said. “But I’m sure he was in some type of turmoil or shock.”

(Right, because no guy with a girlfriend has ever slept with or dated a trans woman.)

Read this, and then go look at some of the comments on those stories and the other news sources that megan_julca rounded up. The “trans panic” defense was used in the trials following the murder of Gwen Araujo, and those murderers got reduced sentences. We still live in a place and time where people think it’s “perfectly understandable” that someone would flip out and want to kill a trans woman just because they find out she’s trans. And those are the people who claim not to condone violent criminal reactions! Others are happy to step right up and say (at least on the anonymous Internet) that they’d react the same way and do the same thing. Trans people take the blame; trans people should be the ones walking around with prominent badges of shame, so all the “normal” people don’t make the wrong assumption. The question nobody ever seems to ask is, why would you automatically assume that the person you’re on a date with isn’t trans?

I mean, would you want someone to make that kind of assumption about you and your body — and have that kind of failed expectation when it turns out you’re not trans? Let’s say, for the non-trans folks in the audience, that you go on a date, and your date for some reason makes an assumption about your body, or the gender category you were assigned to at birth. Later on they find out they’re wrong: you’re not a trans person! What the hell?! So misleading. Are they justified in feeling like they want to beat the crap out of you? Should they get a lesser sentence if they kill you? Or how about if they just threw up everywhere like in The Crying Game. Of course, “common sense” would never say yes to any of these questions — and the only excuse that can be given is that non-trans people are “normal” but trans people are “weird.” The freaks pay the price and are the ones who must make sure nobody’s interacting with them who doesn’t absolutely want to.

I’ve got nothing else but tears and disgust. But I’ll quote from what some other people had to say.

Lisa Harney talks about the different treatment of trans women and I have to quote a lot of this because it’s good:

Imagine the response if a cis woman’s murder were filled with detailed discussion of her appearance and how it obviously contributed to her murder, as if her murderer’s reactions were instinctive and perhaps understandable? Imagine if a cis woman’s murder was presented as she deceived a man into thinking she was more attractive than she really was, and upon discovering that it was all makeup, plastic surgery, and a corset, he savagely stabbed her to death? What if she’d legally changed her name – would the press be sure to dig up her birthname for added sensationalism? Referred to her legal name as a “nickname?” What would be the response if news stories so thoroughly delegitimized and sensationalized a white cis woman’s identity while reporting her murder?

belledame seethes about the inherent homophobia+transphobia of the “panic” excuse, and a bunch of other stuff besides:

Because there’s nothing worse than finding out you are sexually attracted to, hell, even had fond feelings about, is there? a person whose gender and/or sex is not the gender and/or sex you are SUPPOSED to be attracted to, according to God or your parents or the lads or the Sisterhood or the feverish little rabbit running your brain. Who doesn’t understand -that-? the raw revulsion, the terror, the PANIC leading even unto VIOLENCE that such momentary existential cage-rattlings provides. It’s only human.

And last but certainly never least, little light memorializes as only a true poet can. I almost don’t want to quote her — like all of her posts, it’s an elegant and spiritual work of art that needs to be appreciated in full. But this part haunts me into repeating it:

We all might die alone. But some of us have to be ground and ground and ground down into the ground so the rest of us can feel a little better about our own chances at avoiding it. We have to make them more alone, even in death. We have to take away their names and their dignity. We have to take away even the chance that they might be mourned as real human beings who are gone and never coming back, who are missed by loved ones somewhere, who meant something. A murder is incomplete, and we cannot stand ending on an unresolved chord. We all have to join together and finish it, so the eyes of the murdered cannot accuse us in our sleep.

In the past, I have been known to complain that far too little attention has been paid to the fact that there are multiple oppressions at work here. We talk about these as murders of trans people, recall them again on the Trans Day of Remembrance. But it’s not just any transgender people who are being murdered: over and over, the most vulnerable members of the population are the ones who are extinguished. People who are living on the margins, women who have had to do what they can to get by, women targeted by racism and poverty on top of transphobia. That’s who’s getting killed at nearly ten times the average rate of the American population, according to one estimate.

But little light’s words remind me that this is also about all of us. Even without a guiding intent behind the wave of blood, the repeated and constant murders of young trans women, year in and year out, wreaks psychological terror on innumerable trans people. Why? Because they are murdered for being trans. For not fulfilling the “correct” expectations. And that’s something we should all care about. When you are undressed — by your lover or an X-ray machine, in front of a customer or a doctor, on a stage or in a bedroom or a police precinct — do you meet the expectations of those who gaze at you? Should it matter so much if you do, if you don’t? What would happen if you didn’t?

Does anyone ever deserve her fate?

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68 comments for “Sanesha Stewart is dead and I have only tears and frustration for her

  1. February 12, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    and of course, if women and/or LGBTQ folk were ever to attack straight dudes in the same manner for, you know, being a cunt-tease? or not being what we thought they were? or *koff* made -unwanted propositions-? we wouldn’t be able to walk for the bodies.

  2. February 12, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Sympathy wishes for Sanesha and her family.

  3. louise
    February 12, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    The comments- GAH. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

    My sister’s death made front page headlines in her large city’s papers for 3 days and the comments numbered over 100- it was hell.

    All the family can do is wait for the next terrible tragedy to hit the news so her story gets shoved to back burner status. And with the murder/trial/sensational aspects, it’s gonna take awhile.

    RIP, Sanesha…

  4. February 12, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    belledame, you’re so right.

    holly, thanks for this post. This just makes me sick and I can imagine having a connection with the victim just makes it that much harder to deal with.

    It seems like transsexuals have to deal with being at the epicenter of a convergence of so many fears, prejudices and hatred. All of our society’s irrationality about sex, the need to put people in neat little categories, the extreme investment in a binary definition of gender and sex converge with entitlement of so-called “normal” people, fear of the unknown, the other, homophobia, sexism – all of these things seem to contribute to transphobia.

  5. February 12, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Yes, transsexual people catch a lot of really extreme prejudice.

  6. February 12, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    With deep respect for Sanesha, it never fails to profoundly disappoint me how collectively willing we are to debase a human being, especially in death.

  7. February 12, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    I’m just speechless. What a horrible tragedy.

  8. Astraea
    February 12, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    If that was a correction of my comment, I apologize.

  9. February 12, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    This is a painful, heart-wrenching post, Holly. I wish I had something substantive to add, but I think you said it all — sometimes, tears and frustration are all there is.

  10. Falyne
    February 12, 2008 at 10:23 pm


    Oh, and reading comments on an article like this? Not a good idea. Not a good idea at all. I hate humans, some days….

  11. katlyn
    February 12, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    It’s just horrible how so many murders of transgender people go unnoticed, and the few that get recognition just end up being completely insulting.

    And how dare anyone try to take the “tranny panic” defense. I’m pretty sure any murderer could somehow come up with a panic defense to make excuses for their actions, yet this seems to be the one time people think it’s acceptable.

    Well, it’s fucking NOT.

  12. February 12, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Think of a 3 year old who is standing next to a broken item. Ask them who did it and you’ll hear, “nobody”.

  13. EG
    February 12, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Yeah, but that’s a three-year-old, and as the adult in the situation, you shouldn’t be asking such a dumb question anyway. I mean, what do you expect her to say?

    Adult murderers are in nowhere near the same league or mind-set.

  14. February 12, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    that’s what that is though. three year old moral/emotional development in an adult body and sometimes even intellect.

  15. EG
    February 12, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    I don’t think it is. We don’t like it, but the overwhelming majority of horrific acts of violence like these are committed by adults; children who do such things to living beings they can overpower (smaller children, small animals) are very, very rare. The kind of moral/emotional development that results in violent misogynist transphobic murder and then justifies it is something we find in adults. Kids’ll say “nobody did it” or “I don’t know”; they almost never say some version of “it was right that I did it” or “the vase wanted me to break it” or “the vase made me angry.” This kind of justification is adult territory.

  16. RenegadeEvolution
    February 12, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    There is no other word for this than VILE. And yeah, some of those comments? Urgh. Humans sure know how to suck. And of course the typical media frenzy…she was trans! she was a WoC! She might have been a hooker!

    SHE’S DEAD you assholes. Some prick murdered her! THAT is the news. He is the one who should be getting all the gory headlines.

  17. February 13, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Where does a 3-year-old mentality enter into it? The trans panic defense isn’t like saying “I don’t know what happened,” it’s trying to excuse murderous behavior on the grounds that you’re horrified by your own sexual attractions, and can’t deal with the fact that yes, there are trans people in the world. The immoral reasoning behind trans panic is quite detailed and adult — trans panickers will talk about how they were the ones who were violated in the situation, even as they give partial excuses for beating up or stabbing people. They feel they have a right to assume that everyone is a non-trans person whose pants contain exactly no more and no less than what they’d guess; anyone who doesn’t fit these criteria has a moral responsibility to broadcast that fact, or fists will start flying. Any time this subject comes up, you can be sure that there will be dozens of comments to this effect — at the very least.

  18. February 13, 2008 at 12:43 am

    what kind of world would have us accused of engaging in deception for simply being ourselves? and people wonder why i hold an affinity for pink pistols. i, for one, will not go quietly into the night.

  19. February 13, 2008 at 12:59 am

    The murder of Sanesha Stewart is more than an individual atrocity and personal desecration, it is a crime of collective malice and cowardice. Her homicide and subsequent debasement by the The Daily News indicate the abhorrent ignorance embraced by many of the general public, and the joy with which it is cherished.

    Casting aside even nominal standards of decency and empathy, the killer becomes kindred in the eyes of onlookers; a pitiable victim ensnared by the web of fraud, overcome by a revulsion to act in an understandable fashion. Mindless fear and a craven aversion to those beyond their feeble ken lead the mob to gawk and snicker while mumbling incoherently about “retribution”; righteous outrage is reserved only for “real” people.

    In asserting the right to kill, Sanesha’s slayer lays claim to the most incorrigible vice; an ignorance that supposes it knows everything. The hubris in proclaiming to know the “true” identity of another, and thus invoking the right to exact the ultimate penalty from anyone transgressing such an immutable state bespeaks a blindness fetid with profanity.

    Yet, such excremental views are spread across the tabloid press, and consumed with relish by those spineless individuals who cower at the thought of personal realization. Embracing such filth, besmeared by the putrefaction of moral responsibility, they seek to stifle the stench by burying the desecrated beneath mounds of derision and defamation; as if belittling the corpse would render the crime less heinous.

    The exultations of the great unwashed may today drown out cries for justice; it will not always be so. Blindness, even one so cherished, leads into a ditch; leaving the road available for clear sighted to travel with goodness and love.

  20. February 13, 2008 at 1:15 am

    “what kind of world would have us accused of engaging in deception for simply being ourselves?”

    This is a wonderful comment. It stopped me in my tracks. I think you’ve just summed up a whole bunch of gender/trans issues!

  21. RSkye
    February 13, 2008 at 1:16 am

    “Sure, you can grow up to be anything you want! As long as it conforms to society’s ideals, of course…”

    I’m starting the think that by the time I’m old enough to make a change, it’ll be too late.

  22. Gina
    February 13, 2008 at 2:32 am

    That article is unbelievable–like everyone said, they treat this like tabloid fodder:” “So there was this guy who liked to play dress-up–he even wore *huge* high heels, the works!–and everyone thought it was *so* cute, until one night…” What disgusting tripe. That someone could write like this about a murder victim…there are no words. How awful for the family.

  23. February 13, 2008 at 7:34 am

    It pisses me off that people think that transgendered people do this for FUN, like every day is Halloween. There is a HUGE difference between a “drag queen” and a truly transgendered person, the vast majority of whom just want to live normal lives and be at peace. People don’t realize that in order to undergo sex reassignment surgery one has to undergo a long period of psychoanalysis, although it’s true that many transgendered people don’t undergo surgery, particularly female-to-male, due to the physical issues that can come up. But just to go out there and try to live one’s life as the gender they should be takes more courage that I bet most of us have, and it’s a shame that so many people die because of it. My thoughts are with Sanesha and her family.

  24. February 13, 2008 at 10:40 am

    There is a HUGE difference between a “drag queen” and a truly transgendered person,

    I’ve said things like this myself before, but I’m not convinced it’s true: sometimes the only difference is how far they’ve gone along the road of discovering themselves. And then there’s the implication that it would be OK if a drag queen was murdered and this sort of crud said about them – which I’m not saying you mean, but it sort of lurks in the background when you start drawing these kinds of distinction.

  25. February 13, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Not only that, but there’s simply no clear line and there never has been. There are many women who live their lives as women, have transitioned medically in one way or another, but who also perform in drag shows as drag queens. There are other drag performers who only perform a certain gender on stage, and never anywhere else. And there are a lot of people in between.

    This is a sidetrack from Sanesha Stewart’s story, since I have no idea if she was involved in New York’s ball community or other drag events… this stuff can be discussed in another thread that’s not about a dead woman.

    I’d suggest one general guideline, though. If you want to draw a distinction between people with a daily life experience of being trans (or being a certain gender) and performers who are only doing wearing that gender momentarily for entertainment purposes… draw that line without using a shortcut like “drag queen,” which is incorrect, a little dismissive, and cuts right across a lot of people’s lives.

  26. February 13, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I’ve got tears in my eyes. Rest in peace, Sanesha.

  27. February 13, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I put “drag queen” in quote marks for precisely that reason, but I don’t want this very important issue clouded by arguments over semantics and political correctness. I had a very close friend who was transgendered and committed suicide over it so this hits very close to home for me.

  28. David
    February 13, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I would hope it’s not okay to kill drag queens either….

  29. meggygurl
    February 13, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Oh god… I read the comments for the article. My eyes, they burn.

    People really… make me sick. Like, deep inside, I just feel dirty from reading the comments.

    How can anyone really believe that someone deserves to die just because of the gender they feel most comfortable in?

  30. Trixie23
    February 13, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    I don’t know why I continue to be stunned at the heartlessness of humans.
    Much sympathy for Sanesha’s family, and also for your loss Louise.

  31. February 13, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    The question nobody ever seems to ask is, why would you automatically assume that the person you’re on a date with isn’t trans?

    The answer is horribly easy: because you’re a transphobic bigot who doesn’t find out how bigoted you are until you meet a transperson. The “I’m not prejudiced” crowd is filled with people who’ve never had their assumptions about personhood and human existence challenged. The moment they’re confronted with an oppressed person is the moment when the bigot inside spews out.

    May Sanesha rest in peace.

  32. louise
    February 13, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you, Trixie. Time helps somewhat.

    I do wish that people would consider, before they comment in the media on stories like this, that a real person lost her life senselessly. She died painfully and terrified; how can that be excused in any way, in any light? She was murdered; her life was stolen from her. She was so young and should have had so many more years to enjoy her life. This is just a tragedy.

  33. Dana
    February 13, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Oh god… That is just unbelievably disgusting. I feel like crying.

    This doesn’t seem at all relevant but it is in my head: a client at work borrowed our phone to call the bank about an out of order ATM. She got off the phone and said “I got a bloody Asian.” I just stared at her, awkward as hell and not sure what to say to that. She then said how stupid they were for not knowing the street and suburb… When the call centre is probably in Auckland.

    It’s relevant to me because it sometimes really hurts having people’s prejudices exposed to me because they presume I’ll be OK with it. Calling a male dog licking another dog’s penis “gay” in a derisive tone is not OK. Complaining about those bloody Asian drivers is not OK. Totally buying into the idea that a transsexual was a hooker… And that both labels minimise their violent murder is just beyond fucked up. Yes I’m white, educated and have a decent amount of money. That doesn’t mean I want to hear exactly how uncomfortable those “other” people make you

  34. February 13, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Another one of my sisters is dead, and I don’t know what to say. The hate and the rage seem to spill on us, and the urge to vent and strike back seems overpowering. I felt it when I was fired from a high paying aircraft job just last week after I was harassed for being trans

    I feel it now, as yet another sister is victemized in life, then slandered and reviled in death.

  35. February 14, 2008 at 5:02 am

    admittedly, until holly did her 101 thread, i knew very little about trans people…since then i have been trying to learn more. i have read this post three times, and have tears in my eyes now. reading that article was painful…in my limited experience, even i know that it is respectful to refer to a trans person by their preferred pronoun, by their preferred name…this doesn’t even begin to cover the that these heartless ass hats are talking about an actual person! someone’s family, someone’s loved one. the complete lack of respect for the deceased appalls me. i am working hard to change my perspective of assumed “normalcy”…and i admit i haven’t gotten there yet…but i recognize that this is my problem…not the problem of a trans man or woman…they are not ours to blame for our shallow and narrow views…

    my heart goes out to sanesha’s family, and may she rest in peace…i desperately hope that the disrespect and horrors you must be going through will be over quickly…so that you may continue to mourn her in peace.

    holly, thank-you for sharing your feelings on this tragedy. i hate hate hate that lessons for some of us come from horrors like this. it is not our place to learn here from this…but i hope for a day when we stop worrying about if a person is or is not trans or cis, and just start caring that we are w/ a person.

    when i can think of something sensitive and intelligent to say, i may write more. i don’t want to inadvertently say something insensitive at a tragic time like this.

    peace and blessings to the family…

  36. Adele
    February 14, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I said it before and I’ll say it again:

    These guys who kill trans women are sociopaths. I’m generally convinced that the vast majority of the guys who use the “trans panic” defense would have killed somebody else “living on the margins” (to quote Holly) regardless of their gender. These are the kind of guys who light homeless people on fire for kicks, who tortured animals in their youth, and who rape children too young to understand what’s going on.

    The trans panic defense is a manipulative bogus justification that these sickos use to cover their ass, elicit sympathy, or get a lighter sentence when something like this comes to a court of law — if it makes it that far, which in far too many cases it doesn’t (RIP Erica Keels). More often than not, the case in actuality is not “…but I didn’t know she was trans!”; in fact, it’s more like, “I knew she was trans, and that’s why I knew I could get away with it.”

  37. Rosehiptea
    February 14, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    The trans panic defense is a manipulative bogus justification that these sickos use to cover their ass, elicit sympathy, or get a lighter sentence when something like this comes to a court of law — if it makes it that far, which in far too many cases it doesn’t (RIP Erica Keels). More often than not, the case in actuality is not “…but I didn’t know she was trans!”; in fact, it’s more like, “I knew she was trans, and that’s why I knew I could get away with it.”

    I totally agree. And judging from one of the links megan_julca rounded up, it’s very likely that he did in fact that he knew she was trans.

    Not that there can even be any excuse, but in this case it looks like he’s literally lying anyway, which doesn’t surprise me.

  38. February 14, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Adele is wise.

  39. Abby
    February 14, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I can’t tell you how heartwarming it is for me, as a trans woman, to read this post and all of your comments and see so many non-trans people that understand that all any of us, including trans people, wants is just a little love and respect. Thanks for doing your part in affirming my right to exist.

  40. Josie Moon
    February 14, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Thank you Holly for telling this story the way it should be told.
    Thank you for being a real Loving, Caring Human Being. Stop the Violence! Killing someone because they are Transexual, Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual needs to be a Hate Crime! Our government feigns caring about Human Rights! It is time for our government to protect ALL of it’s citizens!

  41. Sev
    February 15, 2008 at 12:56 am

    I am so sick of my sisters being killed and shown no respect. I am so sick of cis gendered people walking all over us because they are ignorant and afraid of things that are different.

    I live in New Orleans, LA. and this city is downright MEAN. Crime left and right, racism, hatred all sorts of terrible things. Living here my whole life, it is hard to let go of it, but since I have come out as a transgendered person I feel like I always have to watch my back. People wonder why I am high tension sometimes…. jesus, here is the reason right here.

    I am so sick of people just tossing around “tranny” and “he/she” like it is ok, I am sick of my sisters dying, I am sick of the discrimination, I am sick of not being able to afford HRT even though I am attending a fine university, am intelligent, and am kind, but the fact that I am trans bars me from opportunity. I am sick of my family writing me off, I am sick of all of this shit.

    To all my sisters out there, keep it strong, keep it true, don’t hide who you truly are, that is letting them win.

    And if somebody tests you, BUST BACK!!

    “By any means necessary”


  42. Noah
    February 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I don’t know if Sanesha Stewart was doing sex work or not, and I don’t think it really matters
    Because they are murdered for being trans.

    I think it does matter greatly if Stewart was doing sex work. I don’t think it’s fair to say that she was murdered for being trans. I’m not sure how that jibes with your analysis in the paragraph just before you stated that. As a white FTM, I’m basically never going to be murdered because I’m trans. Is “transness” really the issue here? Even the most prominent one?

    As Mirha-Soleil Ross wrote in Sex Change Social Change commenting on the Trans Day of Remembrance website:
    “But if you take a moment to look at the long list of victims, you will clearly see that most of them were prostitutes. Now it might or might not have had something to do with their deaths, but that is certainly something that most of them had in common. My point is that we do not necessarily know why these individuals were murdered. It could have been because of hatred and prejudice against sex workers, because of racist or misogynist attitudes, because of a drug deal gone bad, or simply because that particular trans person was a fucking asshole who stepped on too many toes. Or most likely, it was a combination of the above factors. But it was definitely not, in most cases, simply due to “transphobia.” … The Transgender Day of Remembrance, with its sister project, the Remembering Our Dead Web site, is a big, bold, and sickening political fraud. It sure makes for a powerful street performance: candles, tears, hugs, and snuggles over cardboard pictures of butchered members of a marginalized minority produces emotionally charged images. But it functions, both theatrically and politically, to benefit a privileged subsection of the trans community.”

  43. February 19, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I wouldn’t be too sure you’ll never find yourself in a situation where you might experience physical violence because of your trans status, Noah. That said, you’re right that it’s a combination of factors — but one of those factors, simply put, is that she was trans. There’s also no evidence so far that Stewart was being paid by the acquaintance of hers who stabbed her.

    Transness IS an issue in these intersections because it’s very, very related to why some people get kicked out of home early, why some people get kicked out of school, why some people find it very hard to get a job without being discriminated against or outed, why some people resort to “survival crimes” in order to make ensds meet. Sanesha Stewart was not just a sex worker who “happened” to be trans. There is no such thing. Plus, the excuse given by her alleged murder was that he killed her because he found out she was trans. Whether that’s true or whether it’s that he was afraid their connection would be exposed or whether it’s just an excuse he knew he could get away with, that makes the fact that she was trans very, very prominent indeed. We don’t necessarily know why she was murderd, as Mihra-Soleil Ross says. But we do know all of the above — that it had something to do with her being trans.

    As for the rest of her point, I agree completely. There is an enormous privilege differential between the people who memorialize and put on the show, and the people who are killed, and I think that needs to be talked about more, and with more nuance than just “they were prostitutes, and they got killed.” Like I said above:

    In the past, I have been known to complain that far too little attention has been paid to the fact that there are multiple oppressions at work here. We talk about these as murders of trans people, recall them again on the Trans Day of Remembrance. But it’s not just any transgender people who are being murdered: over and over, the most vulnerable members of the population are the ones who are extinguished. People who are living on the margins, women who have had to do what they can to get by, women targeted by racism and poverty on top of transphobia. That’s who’s getting killed at nearly ten times the average rate of the American population, according to one estimate.

  44. February 20, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Ugh @ Noah’s comment.

    Delusional token trannies brainwashed by transphobes (secondhand from a self-hating trans woman in this case) into thinking that being trans is all sunshine and kittens and shit make me sick.

    White trans people who’ve never been sex workers do, in fact, very often minimize racism, classism, and misogyny involved in the murders of the trans women of color who were sex workers who are posted on the TDOR website.

    But then so too can a white trans man minimize transphobia involved in these murders when by, in this case, his own admission very likely won’t come any closer to being murdered like this than through the pages of the oh-so-radical book he’s been reading– because, as he’s said, trans women of color are more frequently targeted for these crimes. So who is he to speak for trans women of color as a white trans man and say that his experiences somehow prove there is no such thing as transphobia?

    I mean I could try to argue that misogyny doesn’t exist because it’s somewhat unlikely that upper-middle-class white women aren’t likely to be murdered for being women, but it would still be a fucking stupid argument.

    Both Noah’s and Mirha-Soleil Ross’s logic behind their dismissal of transphobia is fuzzy at best and idiotic at worst, and they miss the point that it could have been for any of those reasons–racism, classism, transphobia, misogyny, homophobia–and that most likely many or all of them were involved in their murders.

  45. February 20, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Our deepest condolences to the Sister;s family and grieving friends

    Thank you so much for this sizzling look at the many forms of oppressions faced by our Trans Sisters and Brothers !

    In Unity & Respect
    mesha Monge-Irizarry, director
    Idriss Stelley Foundation

  46. TamTam
    March 1, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    It’s sad that a life is lost so tragically. It’s sad that a life is going to be lost or at least a life spent in prison for a long time if not for life.
    Temporary insanity?Hmmm that might be the reaction for many a straight men who are looking to have sex with a woman whether they are buying it or not. He more than likely flipped his wig when he discovered that Talib Stewart, a transgender living as a woman was really a man. To deceive someone to that degree is COWARDLY. If this is how you are living, there is no need to deceive anyone. If you are honest, and that bait does not work, that person will move on and you can catch someone else who wants to be with a man. It’s a horrible thing but there are many men who want to be with men, there is no need to deceive people about who and what you are.

  47. March 1, 2008 at 3:48 pm


    You really ought to read the follow-up post for two reasons. For one, Sanesha Stewart is her actual name, by law and by usage — whatever standard you want to apply. For another, subsequent reporting on the case has uncovered the fact that the killer had known her from some time, and the story about being deceived was probably a fabrication — as it has been in other cases like this one. All included in the post above. The whole “deception leading to murder” idea is most often not much more than a myth.

  48. March 31, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    That was…astonishingly civil, Holly.

    TamTam, I will simply say that you state in a single paragraph both that it’s an understandable reaction for a man to kill a trans person upon finding out that they’re trans, and that “there is no need” for anyone to ever hide their trans status.
    You also hold the murder victim to be “cowardly,” but spare no harsh words for the coward who not only murdered her, but was cowardly enough to lie about his motivations and say he’d just met her and was shocked about her trans status, rather than being honest about his own motivations and prior association with her, so he’d be less accountable for his actions.

    But then, your comment is generally extraordinarily offensive. I’m not sure I feel like dignifying it with any further response.

  49. April 8, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Ugh. These stories… day after day. I’m not saying it’s depressing, because that implies somehow that it can be avoided, or should, for the sake of feeling better. I have to know. I have to remember her name and I have to talk about her. The world won’t change if I just go on my merry way, hands held fiercely to my ears.

    I will, however, take exception with the inordinate focus of this and other blogs on men who become and/or live as women. Women who become men are also targets of discrimination and violence, but I feel as though they are completely invisible in these discussions. You literally say, over and over, “trans women” as though trans men don’t exist or suffer as well. I wish you wouldn’t do that.

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