Two years ago I won a trip to go to Washington DC with a group of kids from rural areas around Texas. When I walked into the hotel where all the kids were meeting for the first time, there she stood, leaning to the side, hands on her hips, so statue-esc. Her purple sparkly pants shinned bright next to the Wrangler jeans and cowboy hats everyone else was wearing.
I met her before she started her medical transition. During that week in Washington DC she and I forged a friendship that has lasted ever since and her activism inspired me to start my own path to be an ally. I’ll never forget her walking into her congressman’s office… She had a long list of pro- LGBTQ legislature that her congressman had not voted for. She was not apologetic for one second and I think she absolutely horrified our chaperones... Sadly they didn't let her ask any of her questions.
She would move to California and blossom into a powerful activist for the LGBTQ community.
Last week I received a phone call that shook me to my core. Mia had been sexually assaulted, beaten, and robbed on a way to a friend’s house. They were supposed to go dancing that night, one of her favorite pastimes. This never happens to someone you know... I was heartbroken for her.
This heartbreak soon turned to anger when I heard that Stephanie’s case may not be treated as a hate crime. The details of the case are still a little fuzzy, but from what I understand, this was the exact definition of a hate crime. I soon began digging through some research about hate crimes and stumbled upon some very disappointing news.
According to Equality Texas (www.equalitytexas.org), the Mathew Sheppard and James Byrd Hate Crime Act was enacted in 2009 to provide tougher punishment for offenders of hate crimes, including sexual identity. This law was enacted after decades of hard work from activist. However, according to Equality Texas, offenders are only given tougher punishment “if the prosecution is able to prove without a doubt that the offense was indeed committed as a result of one of these biases or prejudices.” This is extremely hard to do and therefore very few hate crimes have been taken to the courts since the act was signed into law.
Also, the James Byrd Hate Crime Act doesn’t require “equal punishment for gender expression/ identity crimes.” On a state to state basis, each state may include this. California does protect their citizens based on gender identity, but who’da thunk our beloved bluebonnet state doesn’t provide such laws?
Equality Texas has a poll that says that “67% of all Texas voters support passing hate crime legislation for transgender citizens.” Soooooooooooooooo why are we still not protecting ourselves from these types of hate crimes? Why isn’t my friend being protected from criminals that hate her because she doesn’t fit into their heteronormative, misogynistic, sexist, world?
For now, all I can do for my friend is to be there for her, support her, and keep trying to educate people about LGBTQ issues. She’s in all of our thoughts... If you want or are able to, she has given me permission to attach a link to her blog. Here she has listed a variety of ways to help her go through this tough time.
Our professor for Peers for Pride Shane Halley provided me with the fallowing websites, all which were useful, yet still saddening.
http://www.equalitytexas.org/ (I found this website VERY informative on all equality issues. It even has detailed information on bills going in front of the Texas House and Senate THIS session.)
Also, a friend drew the picture I attached for Mia. I find it so inspiring..