Another one of our siblings was violently taken away from us last night.
On Aug. 4, Cindy Jones Torres’ body was discovered with multiple stab wounds inside her own salon. A trans woman, her murder is believed to be a transphobic hate crime.
Many LGBTQ+ orgs have raised their voices to condemn the killing. The youth network Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY), who described Cindy as “a recent addition to the long list of injustice and violence against transgender Filipinos,” said: “An attack on one of us is an attack to all of us. In a society that propagates hate and violence against a marginalized community, anyone can be a victim.”
Meanwhile, Bahaghari reiterated its call to pass the SOGIE bill. “With the series of hate crimes and abuses committed against the LGBT+ community especially during the lockdown, Bahaghari demands Duterte’s administration to ascend to the crisis by passing the SOGIE Equality Bill, which the president has left to languish in his 5 years in power. Let us not allow another member of our community to die from the culture of hatred and exclusion that our leaders refuse to counteract.”
Why the PH needs hate crime laws
This is key: Even though attacks on queer people continue (earlier this year, trans man Ebeng Mayor was brutally raped and murdered in a similarly transphobic attack), we still don’t have safeguards against this. We need hate crime laws. As Cebu-based trans rights org Transman Equality and Awareness Movement (TEAM) relayed to us over Ebeng’s murder, “A hate crime law would make such motivations an aggravating circumstance, raising the culpability of an act leading to harsher penalties such as increased jail time.”
While authorities believe that the real motivation behind her murder was the suspect’s large debt to her, the suspect reportedly claimed that it was because she had tried to sexually assault him. This both invokes the transphobic “predatory trans woman” image, as well as another troubling transphobic defense. As Bahaghari puts it, “The suspect has now been arrested, but raised the ‘trans panic defense.’”
The trans panic defense is “a legal strategy that [uses] a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression [as the one to blame] for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder,” writes the U.S.-based queer law group LGBT Bar. This presupposes that finding out somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity is enough cause to kill them. It’s still in use today—most notably in the Philippines, it was used in Scott Pemberton’s defense over the murder of trans woman Jennifer Laude.
So this can be used as a legal defense when we still don’t have laws against hate crimes in the country. How is that fair? How can we continue to accept transphobia on such a wide scale?
We can’t keep letting this happen. That trans folk are getting killed is already bad enough, but letting their murderers blame it on them (as in the case of Pemberton and, now, Cindy’s murderer) is horrifying.