Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

And, unusually, two trans-related posts on successive days

As far as I know, I never met Kellie Telesford. People that I know slightly knew her slightly - the trans community in London is now big enough that we don't automatically run into each other sooner or later. Plus, of course, there is the fact that she was black, lived in South London, worked as a hairdresser, whereas I live in East London, am white, and am a middle-class intellectual in my late 50s.

Yet part of the point about belonging to a minority is that you do feel responsible for your brothers and sisters, even for the ones you never met and would never have heard of. Until they were murdered.

The other night, someone asked me, at a meeting, how I justified making a fuss about Toiletgate when trans people were being killed rather than merely denied access to lavatories. It's a fair point, though a wrong-headed one, and is based on a number of false assumptions.

One of these is the assumption that campaigning is a zero-sum game, and that arguing for respect in one area distracts attention from demands for respect in another. On a purely factual basis, I and others raised the question of the disrespectful references to Kellie's death in certain local newspapers at the GLA LGBT forum back in the spring. More importantly, it's a zero tolerance thing - you make a fuss whenever it is useful to make a fuss because that is the only way that we ever persuade people that oppressing us in any way is not just wrong, but a bad idea.

And yes, because I have educational privilege, and have made some sort of career for myself as a writer, I can make a fuss on my own behalf rather more effectively than Kellie posthumously could. Let's be clear, though; if I were randomly battered to death in a street attack - and I do live in a moderately dodgy area - I would get the same sort of story in the tabloids that Kellie got. The local youth who occasionally shout things in the street - as much about my being fat and a dyke as about my being trans - feel entitled to feel superior because of the same religious/macho attitudes that helped kill Kellie. We are all in this together and we are right to make a fuss both about the fact that she was killed and about the fact that the man accused of her killing got off.

I don't know what the jury were thinking - reading accounts of the case, I would guess that the defense successfully raised a lot of irrelevancies about Kellie's alleged strength, or her alleged taste in sex. I would suspect also that the case was an example of CSI syndrome - because the forensic evidence was unclear and there were more than one DNA samples on the scarf used to strangle her, the jury assumed that inconclusiveness was itself evidence.

The simple fact is that the man accused of killing her was caught with her Oyster card, and her mobile phone, and was seen on CCTV the night of her killing with a bag of a size consistent with its containing the various electronic goods missing from her flat. I wasn't in the jury room and I don't know why that simple fact was lost sight of.

Kellie died, and the man accused of her killing walked free.

Because she was trans, we tend to assume that her killer, whoever they were, knew she was trans.
The man accused of killing her claims he did not know, and we should not assume that he was lying about that, just because we assume, in spite of his acquittal, that he was lying about everything else.

What if he did not know?

Men kill women all the time. Men kill women all the time and walk away with their stuff. And the one of the reasons they kill women is that sexism of which cis-sexism is only a subset.

Because the defense used the fact that Kellie was trans to claim that she was involved in kinky sex games, that she was strong enough to fight back - and because even if the trans panic defense was not explicitly used, it was constantly present in the courtroom, we are led to assume that her being trans was directly the cause of her death - that her death was a hate crime against a transwoman, rather than just a misogynist attack on a woman.

And that, ironically, is a result of cis-gendered prejudice. Perhaps beecause Kellie was trans, the police and prosecution lost sight of the fact that she was also a woman.

And that, in turn, is why the claims by some radical feminists that transwomen are not proper women is something we have to fight as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.

A further thought after a cup of tea The fundamental implausibility of the narrative constructed by the defense includes the assumption that somehow, in the middle of the night, after sex with a man who robbed her, Kellie somehow brought round to the flat another man, who killed her. Who feels like having sex with a second dodgy person in an evening? How, if she knew someone she thought was OK, and wasn't, did Kellie get them over without leaving her flat, and without her mobile phone to ring DodgyGuys'R'Us.

William of Occam, that patron saint of amateur sleuths, said that you should not multiply entities needlessly, that you should not explain with more variables what you could explain with fewer. Second visitor, not terribly plausible.

We can of course discount the auto-erotic asphyxiation scenario; you can't do that to yourself without attaching the other end of the scarf to something and you can't throttle yourself to death and then put a blanket over yourself. This shouldn't need spelling out, but William of Occam thought it best.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.