Todos Somos Veronica
This weekend Veronica Bolina, a transwoman from Sao Paulo in Brazil, was savagely beaten, probably three times, by police while in custody. Her face was smashed to a pulp and she was rendered unrecognisable. Her breasts were exposed in public and her long hair was shaved off. And then she was forced to recite a ‘confession’ that it was all her own fault.
Now I suppose we could suggest that Veronica was lucky; at least 113 transwomen were slain in Brazil last year alone, making it the trans-murder capital of the world. And the Brazilian police are the most deadly on the planet, killing at least 11,000 citizens every year. (For comparison, this is around 50 times the rate at which US police kill.)
It’s time we all stood up and said ‘stop’. It’s time we said that every time some transphobic bigot attacks a transperson he – or she, for sadly there is no shortage of female bigotry, at least on this topic – that person attacks us, personally.
The simple fact is that in not standing up and denouncing the bigots, we give them sanction to act as they do. Every time anyone laughs at a transphobic joke, or posts a cartoon drawing of a woman saying ‘warning, may contain nuts’, or sniggers at some ‘how to spot a ladyboy’ video, that person is contributing to the killing of transpeople. Actively. Contributing. To. Murder.
The vile people who carry out these attacks are acting for the patriarchy. They doubtless never consider this, and are usually neither intelligent nor educated enough to know what it means. But that is what they are doing. They are the patriarchy’s puppets, carrying out its programme of intimidation that is intended to keep us all in line. They derive support and encouragement from the very silence of others.
Given the low intelligence of the actual attackers, the only way to stop these deplorable acts is to publicly humiliate the people whose transphobia may be less violent but is much more pervasive, and which gives succour to the killers and beaters.
That includes the creators of nasty transphobic YouTube videos. It includes the ‘journalists’ and media who use misgendering and transphobia to sell copy. It includes business people who deny service to transfolk and the bigots who would prevent them accessing gender-appropriate toilets and changing facilities.
These and all those like them are malevolent, hate-filled, jealous dupes of the patriarchy, as ugly and vicious as the skinhead thugs of the far right.
True, these people rarely if ever actually do any killing or beating themselves. They are, by and large, smarter than that, or perhaps just more cowardly. They leave the actual dirty work to society’s real dregs. Instead they are the armchair warriors in this campaign of hatred against other humans who do them no harm. They are as Alf Garnett, the brilliantly satirical character played by Warren Mitchell, was to racism. Their complicity is clear but they hope to avoid accusation themselves.
Well, enough. I accuse them. They are killers and abusers just as if they had done it themselves.
As if that were not enough, the killers and beaters are supported by great cultural leaders. Pope Francis, for a moment, gave LGBT Catholics hope that one day the relentless, church-inspired condemnation that fuels the hatred and discrimination they face every day might diminish; but no, not a bit of it, after a few gestures and soundbites, Francis turned out to the be the same old same old: transphobic, homophobic, misogynist and patriarchal. He too is a killer and a beater, a discriminator and an abuser, are as all his prelates.
I accuse them; they are murderers.
I will not go into detail over the vile and stinking pot of excrement that constitutes the attitudes and words of extremist Protestants, such as fester in the United States or, for that matter, Northern Ireland, nor the campaigns of hatred and violence that they wilfully promote and even fund in Africa, for example. Islam, that most nasty and vicious of the Abrahamic death-cults, lacks a single voice directing its venom, but in the place of the Pope they have legions of mullahs, each, it appears, more racist, anti-gay, anti-transgender than the last. These too are killers every one and I accuse them.
Every right-thinking person has to come out against these attacks, from the killings of Brandon Teena, Jennifer Laude and hundreds of others every year to the literally uncounted beatings and tortures of transpeople just for being who they are and not conforming to gender stereotypes pre-fabricated for them by the patriarchy. This is why we all have to come out in support of Veronica Bolino. We all have to say ‘Somos Todos Veronica’. (‘We are all Veronica’.)
We have to stand up to the sniggering and despicable bullies whether they be infesting the local pub, writing for the gutter press, preaching their filth from the pulpit or hiding in the corridors of political or corporate power. We have to say ‘No, we will not tolerate you deliberately discriminating against other people’.
For make no mistake, it is our lack of action, our lack of courage that supports the beaters and the killers and we have to accept that we, each and every one of us is personally responsible for the deaths of transgender people. Personally. And if we want it to stop we have to recognise our own guilt. We have to link arms with our transgender sisters and brothers and say, ‘This is the line; you shall not pass.’
Transgender is not a ‘disorder’, indeed the DSM-V, the American manual of psychiatric diagnosis specifically states this. It is just part of a broad spectrum of human gender expression. And even if it were a disorder, it harms no-one and the treatment could not be more simple: we just accept people as what they see themselves as being. It harms no-one but it offends the patriarchy, which seeks to control society by controlling all individual humans. Enough. One person’s life is of more worth than the whole of the patriarchy or its vile ideology of hatred put together.
We live, thankfully, in an era when transgender is becoming far more widely understood and the move from the old, pathologising approach of the 20th century to a less biased and more evidence-based one, on the part of professional clinicians, is a welcome illustration of that. So too are the success stories of Western transwomen like Janet Mock. In Thailand, otherwise a profoundly patriarchal nation, transwomen are forging a new place in society; for centuries and probably millennia they have been an important part of the culture and this remains the case today. Celebrity transitions such as that of athlete Bruce Jenner have brought more favourable media attention.
But it’s a drop in the ocean that touches but the rich and famous or small numbers lucky enough to live in tolerant cultures. Hundreds of transfolk are killed every year and countless more harmed or abused. This ranges from savage beatings like that given to Veronica Bolina to everyday slurs and insults, name-calling, discrimination in all walks of life, refusal of access to decent jobs and housing and misgendering. Transpeople everywhere spend their lives in fear. Fear that we could prevent.
We will stop the killings by stopping the smaller harms. When we all shout down the transphobes, they will know they have nowhere to turn, and just as racists have been forced, at least in public, to moderate their speech and actions, they will realise that society no longer will tolerate their bigotry. And when the leaders of church and state realise that the tide has turned, that the people they rely on to fill their churches and mosques and buy their products will no longer condone their intolerance of ordinary human beings, then they will have to change or find themselves ignored.
But it all starts with YOU. You have to draw your line in the sand. You have to say that you support transpeople and you condemn those who abuse them. You have to silence the transphobes just as the racists are being silenced.
So let me be clear and nail my colours to the mast: I am not trans, but I support trans people. If you condemn them, then you are my enemy. Don’t read what I write, don’t follow me on Twitter, don’t ask me to be a friend on social media. Unfriend and unfollow me. Don’t offer to buy me a drink in the pub or even to shake my hand. If you do not support transpeople’s right to live in peace and equality with everyone else, including you, then I don’t want to know you, nor wish to be tainted by contact with you of any kind. Do me a favour and find some other cockroaches to associate with.
But bear this in mind: the exterminator is coming, and every time another Jennifer Laude is brutally murdered by a vicious bigot, or another Veronica Bolina is beaten half to death, the day that you will be exposed and routed from the nasty and dark recesses that you frequent comes closer.