Fact Check: In 47 States, “Trans Panic” is an actual legal defense for a Man who murders a transgender woman after sex. The “Trans Panic” indicates that the man who committed murder experienced immediate regret for fear of being labeled gay, or fear that is sexual encounter might be disclosed, incurring public shame, humiliation among his peers and ostracizing from his family or religious affiliation. In response to the sudden onset of that shame, men have stabbed their Transgender lovers- hundreds of times. They have dismembered them, burned them, strangled them and fled the scene. Frequently, when these men are brought before a court of Justice to plea their case, they invoke the “Trans Panic” defense- which is similar to the temporary insanity plea. They claim they weren’t in their right mind, they blacked out, they have no recollection of the events that led to the murder of their partner, and in a complete abandonment of justice, these killers are often given modest sentences that, by comparison to any other individual tried for murder, amounts to little more consequence than a slap on the wrist.
Three states have banned the “Trans Panic” defense- as well as the very similar “Gay Panic” defense, which has also been invoked in state courtrooms to justify the acts of murdering gay men. Most recently, in the state of Texas where “Panic” plea is still a viable means of defense, James Miller, 69, receive 10 years probation for killing his neighbor, 32-year-old Daniel Spencer after he alleged that Spencer, a gay man, attempted to kiss him after being invited into Miller’s home. Miller was sentenced to 10 years probation, much in thanks to the “Gay panic” plea and the Judge’s bias sympathy.
The problem here is a much larger social issue that often goes unaddressed. Perhaps because it makes people uncomfortable to talk about with the frankness necessary to make it a vital national dialog. While we, as a community, mostly accept gay men and women, bisexuality, trans men and women, gender fluid folks, asexuality, queer, questioning, and a multitude of other minorities who have been ‘othered’ by man-made constructs of imposed social norms, men who date- or would date a transgender woman are stricken with a crippling fear of doing so openly due to the potential repercussions.
Our manufactured ideologies of what constitutes or qualifies one to be a “Man” has led many down a tragic path of self-hatred, excessively aggressive or dominant behaviors, emotional detachments and outwardly expressed transphobic rhetoric. We call this toxic masculinity. The damage has afflicted men for centuries and perilously inhibited their natural development, but also prevented them from embracing their sexual identity, or openly, comfortably expressing their natural preferences for what it may cost them. This is why most men, when asked if they would date a transgender woman, erupt in disgust and immediately protest, defensively asserting their heterosexuality.
That shame persists to this day. Rappers Bobby V and Scrapper were recorded by an attendee of a party where they were in the company of transgender women. The video was broadcast on websites and social media referring to the up and coming artists as “F*ggots” and mocking them. Although the videos depicted no sexual activity or even acts of affection between the artists and their guests, their career suffered irreparable damage. In a similar care, R&B artist Chingy who claims a transgender actress falsely implied that they had a sexual relationship in 2015 admitted that the accusation ruined his career also. Once the rumor gained traction, Chingy stated that record deals and endorsement offers had been rescinded, despite his maintaining that the woman in question had lied.
The world of male celebrities has seen many men become entangled in controversy when it came to their relationships or interests in Transgender women. One extremely famous A-list actor in Hollywood has maintained discreet relationships with multiple transgender women over the course of the last two decades, even caught with a transgender prostitute which he claimed he was only “offering a ride” too as a kind gesture, reassuring media outlets who inquired that he “Had no idea she was a Transgender woman.” In reality, he has not only been romantically involved with multiple transwomen, he’s also asked them to sign non-disclosure agreements or, in some cases, accept large sums of money in return for their silence given the fact that he was not only a high profile movie star, but also a married father of 9 young children. Despite his attraction to transgender women, they were never socially appropriate by Hollywood standards to ever be seen on his arm. He didn’t want to be viewed as gay, have his masculinity challenged, or pull focus from his career achievements to his sexual proclivities- and we all know that is exactly what would happen.
Men who openly date transgender women experience an incredible amount of abuse and media scrutiny, mostly to sensationalize the stories and elicit laughter at their expense. Ex-NFL star Hank Baskett was one of those men who, while married to playboy playmate and reality star Kendra Wilkinson, was outed as having an alleged extramarital affair with a transgender model he solicited on Instagram. Despite the model sharing their text conversations and audio recordings of telephone calls shared between the two, both Wilkinson and Baskett, parents of 2 young children, demonized the trans woman, dubbing her a liar and fame whore. They concocted a story that Baskett had only visited the transgender model to acquire drugs… because it’s better to elicit sympathy as a drug addicted father than be accused of having an attraction to a transgender woman. As the two are now divorcing, Wilkinsin came out to accuse him, once and for all of actually engaging in the affair she previously disputed ever happened.
Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Michael Phelps has a similar story, where he was arrested with his transgender partner for driving under the influence. After it came out that his partner that evening was transgender, the media latched onto that like a blood-sucking tick and lampooned the athlete- who never responded, but instead, almost immediately, abandoned his relationship with his transgender girlfriend- effectively ghosting her-and married an ex-Miss California Nicole Johnson, only to soon afterward welcome their first child. It felt like less a love story and more an atonement for having embarrassed his family, his team and tainted his legacy as role model for young athletes. He pretended it never happened and to this day, have never offered a confirmation or denial, but refused to speak about it altogether.
There is no question that transgender women have mostly been treated as sexual fodder for straight men. A dark, dirty secret reserved for shadowy encounters or fleeting fantasy-fulfillment rather than relationship material existing in the open, without concern of retaliatory, salacious gossip and grotesque fixation on their sex life. We, as a community, would be negligent to turn the other cheek as these men who risk persecution and blatant, unapologetic prejudice for not meeting the standard of a cisgender-centric industry regress deeper and deeper into the closet while we, as trans people, actively seek equality for ourselves.
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