Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Have you heard yet about Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado? He was a 19-year-old Puerto Rican boy who was murdered this week. Not just murdered, but decapitated, dismembered, and burned. I don't know in what order all of these things happened to him. Today the Puerto Rican press reported that his suspected killer was found with not only a knife and a burned piece of PVC pipe, but also a wig. Jorge's wig, presumably. You see, he was wearing the wig, along with women's clothes, when he was killed.

Maybe I'm using the wrong pronouns for Jorge. Maybe she was trans and not yet out, or at least not out to the newspapers. Or maybe he was just a gay man who was dressed as a woman. Or maybe ze was neither, or both, or unsure, or in between. The fact remains that no matter what this person's gender identity was, the killer used the following justification:

He said that he did not know that it was really a man and they went to his apartment in Cidra, where [Jorge] allegedly told him to have anal sex with him, which provoked anger in him and caused him to murder him. He also said that... under a fit of rage he injured him, dismembered him, decapitated him and then later took his remains to Guavate where he was left.

I can't breathe right now. Not after this. This is mere weeks after the passage of the hate crimes bill, days before International Transgender Day of Remembrance, and this man is using the same bullshit trans panic defense that killers of trans women always use. "I didn't know she was really a man so I killed her."

This boy may not have been trans. Maybe I am, in fact, misappropriating Day of Remembrance to draw attention away from the T and back to the G, and that's not what I want to do. What I want to do is cry until he comes back to life. What I want to do is to be able to tell closeted kids that it's really safe to come out, as any of the letters of the alphabet. What I want to do is irrelevant. This boy, this young man, is dead. He won't come back.

The brutality of the attack is crippling. Decapitation isn't something that often makes the news. Decapitation and dismemberment and immolation? This comes directly out of our rigid gender codes. This is the result of both a severely disturbed individual and a society that encouraged him to believe in a gender binary and to fear deeply those people who call that binary into question.

We can't bring back Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. We can remember him. We can tell other people about him. We can be thankful for having the chance to survive beyond the age of 19. And we can work like hell to make sure that this is the last time the trans panic defense is used in this country, the last time anyone thinks they can justify their own deep-seated misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and violence by pretending that someone else's gender "made me do it."

This Friday, remember Jorge. Remember the 117 other people who were murdered this year because of their gender identity or expression, most of them women of color. In Los Angeles, you can remember them here:

West Hollywood, California, Friday, November 20, 2009, 6:00 PM
The event begins at Matthew Shepard Human Rights Triangle (Santa Monica Blvd. at Crescent Heights) where there will be an unveiling of the first Transgender Memorial Plaque, commemorating those who have been murdered due to anti-transgender
violence and hatred. For more information, please contact Karina Samala at 213-999-0456.

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