It's an unfortunately common misconception to say that trans women are killed "because their lover 'discovered' they were a different kind of woman." This is the "trans panic" myth that is more about blaming the victim than the actual reality of what contributes to violence against trans women. In the majority of cases those men who kill trans women they're intimate partners with already knew the women were trans before hand. This is actually a common reason why they became intimately involved with trans women in the first place.
There are multiple social factors that need to be accounted for when analyzing these murders. Race, gender, class and means of survival are no less important than the victim's trans status. Discovery and disclosure of a woman's trans status after or during intimate relations is almost never the key, central factor. Trans women who have intimate relationships with men are made vulnerable to intimate partner violence in a society that denies these women options because of the combination their race, gender and economic circumstances, no less than their trans experience.
What the "trans panic" myth does is distract us from seeing the violence as part of a larger system of gender-based intimate partner violence. By focusing on the supposed "discovery" of a woman's trans history we fail to ask questions about how anti-violence interventions that exist for cis women systematically fail trans women, especially poor trans women of color who engage in survival work. We fail to interrogate the institutional factors that play the dominant role in determining just which trans women are most likely to be murdered, instead making it about some aberrant individual.
In the majority of cases when trans women of color call the police, the police will abuse them rather than help them. Trans women systematically are unable to access domestic violence support and crisis services because these services either explicitly exclude them or do not offer trans competent services. When trans women, particularly poor trans women of color, are systematically denied access to stable jobs, housing, health care and subject to intense surveillance by police and community, they are put in situations where they may be dependent of an abusive partner in order to survive. So, please, lets drop the false "discovery" myth and start taking a good hard look at how our society is set up in ways that actually perpetuate and encourage violence against certain groups of trans women.
Indy Week • 302 E. Pettigrew St., Suite 300, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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