Last September 7, Joseph Scott Pemberton, a U.S. Marine, was granted absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte. Pemberton was convicted for killing Jennifer Laude, a Filipino trans woman, in 2015. Granting Pemberton absolute pardon shows complete disrespect to Jennifer Laude and highlights how easily people disregard the rights of trans individuals.
Ever since the crime was committed in 2014, Laude has become the face of the movement to stop the violence against the trans community in the Philippines. The pardoning of Pemberton is a testament to how far we still have to go when it comes to protecting trans people and their rights.
Here are a few basics about respecting trans rights, particularly areas that topics like gender-based violence touch on, that you need to know:
Trans Rights Aren’t “Extra” Rights
Many people seem to think giving trans people the rights they ask for is “too much.” In reality, they’re only asking to be granted the same rights that cisgender people already enjoy. To say that the right to be treated with respect and protected from gender-based violence is something everyone, with no exception, deserves is an understatement.
Trans People Don’t Owe You Disclosure
Pemberton used the extremely problematic “trans panic” defense to justify his crime. This defense is a legal strategy that claims someone’s gender identity is the reason for the aggravator’s violent reaction.
This perpetuates the idea that trans people are required to disclose their gender identity and that if they choose not to, they deserve violence. It isn’t anyone’s business what gender a trans person was assigned with at birth because the truth that they are living now and how they express themselves is all that matters. Additionally, to say that violence is an appropriate reaction to finding out someone is trans implies that trans people are inherently dangerous and malicious, and it’s obvious how wrong and dehumanizing that is.
Trans People Aren’t Pretending or Tricking You
A trans woman isn’t a “man acting like a woman.” A trans woman is a woman. One’s womanhood or manhood isn’t dependent on what body parts they have or how they look. Rather, it depends on someone’s gender identity, which is a truth that they deserve to live out. So to say that someone doing so is “pretending” has more to do with your prejudices and outdated notions about gender than the validity of someone else’s.
Seek Out Trans Voices
Knowing how to do your part as an ally includes listening to trans people. There are tons of great trans activists and creators, from AC Dumlao to Gigi Esguerra, who use their platforms to educate the public about trans rights. Hearing their stories and learning from them is a vital part of checking your privilege, supporting the trans community, and knowing how to respect and protect their rights.
More Educational Resources to Check Out:
- Supporting the Transgender People in Your Life: A Guide to Being a Good Ally
- Tips for Allies of Transgender People
- Gender Identity for Beginners