Will Justice for Angie Also Bring an End to the Trans Panic Defense? [VIDEO]

By Julianne Hing Apr 24, 2009

Please be warned, this is not an easy video to watch. Angie Zapata‘s brother, Gonzalo Zapata, flanked by the Zapata family, read a statement yesterday after Angie’s killer, Allen Andrade, was convicted of first degree murder with a hate crime enhancement. It was the first conviction for a transgender murder using Colorado’s hate crimes law. The Zapata family always led with their love and respect for Angie, and were firm throughout the case about calling Angie "our sister," "our aunt," "our daughter." The Zapata family has been so fierce about protecting the memory of their baby girl and defending her character throughout the media scrutiny and this painful public trial. I hope this case will help bring an end to the feeble trans panic defense strategy often used in transgender murder cases. The trans panic narrative, which Andrade’s lawyers attempted, is built around casting the murdered trans person as deceitful, and the killer as a victim of the trans person’s sexual wiles. Typically the narrative starts with an act of sexual intimacy between the trans person and the unwitting partner, when lo, a guy realizes he’s just had sexual contact with another biological male, and is driven to kill his partner. The strategy preys on the assumed transphobia and homophobia of the judge, the jury, the media and larger society. We are all supposed to think, "Of course murder is a defensible act. I’d do the same thing if I found out I was Allen Andrade." The strategy is about assailing the character of the trans or gay person by exploiting the hateful stereotypes of LGBT people as morally depraved sexual predators. We even saw this tactic extended to the disrespectful misgendering of Angie Zapata throughout the case. The defense referred to Angie by her biological name, Justin, and insisted on using male pronouns to further paint her as intentionally deceptive. And yet, we found out through the trial that Angie Zapata was nothing if not open about her identity. And the prosecution proved Angie Zapata’s murder to be the bald-faced hate crime that it was. Andrade’s conviction, now, after Angie’s brutal murder, is little comfort, and the most painful kind of justice. But you can help protect the rights of all people by signing a petition supporting the passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.