CommunityPam's House Blend

Helen Boyd: Law And The Objects Of Hate

This is a guest post by Helen Boyd. Helen Boyd is the author of  My Husband Betty and  She’s Not the Man I Married. Her partner Betty transitioned in the past few years and they’ve found themselves living in Wisconsin, where Boyd teaches Gender Studies at Lawrence University. Her blog (en)gender can be found at

Helen, as part of a trans family (and in a community sense, part of my trans family), is another trans community voice who I asked to share their thoughts on federal hate crime legislation — the hate crime legislation that was signed by President Obama on October 28, 2009.


Why we have to pass a law to tell people it’s not okay to hurt or kill people for whom or what they are is beyond me.

Why we have to inform police and other law enforcement that the victim of a crime is a victim of a crime even if she is black, trans, and queer is completely baffling, and frustrating.

Why a person who is different provokes such violent rage is incomprehensible.

What is true is that these kinds of crimes happen, and they are happening this year at an alarming rate. We know, despite the protections that have been on the books a long while, that people are still killed for being black, Muslim or from a country currently out of favor in the US. People have been killed for being gay, for being assumed to be gay, for being trans and for being gendered differently.

We in the trans community know full well that the more crossroads of identity you live with – being black while trans, being female while Muslim, being differently-abled and poor – the more likely it is that you will face discrimination, hate, or violence. Any combination of minority identity leaves you vulnerable.

José Sucuzhañay didn’t have time to explain that the man whose arm he was holding was his brother’s when he was beaten by homophobic haters one night in Brooklyn. That José Sucuzhañay was already protected against a hate crime as an immigrant and a Latino didn’t matter to the guys who thought he was gay. For someone like me, who is lesbian and not-lesbian, queer and heterosexual, explaining the complicated layers of my identity won’t help. We are all one object of hate, immigrant and trans person, prostitute and Muslim, brother or wheelchair-dependent person. We are all one in our difference, minorities within a minority, and so the same object of scorn and fear to the people who would harm us.

What the Hate Crimes Act does is make us multiple; the additional protections that have been added to federal Hate Crimes Law help others recognize the many ways we are, and can be. So while we know these laws won’t make us safe, they will make the crimes against us countable. They make the fear and mourning of our families visible. These new protections recognize our humanity and our families and our struggles.


Further reading:

* CNN: Slain immigrant’s brother hopes for hate-crime legacy



* Pam’s House Blend tag: Transgender Hate Crimes Essay Project

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