Muni Stabbing leads to discussion of Transgender rights in California
On Saturday Jan. 3, a 54-year-old man identified as Brodes Wayne Joynes allegedly attacked a transgender woman on a Muni bus line in San Francisco, stabbing the 24–year-old transgender woman repeatedly. While the motive is unclear, lawmakers agree the attack has the characteristics of a hate crime.
The victim and her friend, Rae Raucci, were on the Muni bus in the South of Market neighborhood when they were approached by a man. According to what Raucii wrote on her Facebook page after the attack, they “were both on the bus together when a man across the way accused (them) both of defrauding him by pretending to be female."
After the initial encounter, the victim and Raucii left the bus to get away from the man. He followed them brandishing a knife and attacked the victim stabbing her twice in the upper chest. Joynes was charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious bodily injury, two counts of criminal threats and false imprisonment. Currently, lawmakers are considering designating the attack as a hate crime, which could lead to longer sentencing.
In 1984 California covered sexual orientation in its hate crime law. As defined in the California Penal Code, “on the most basic level, a hate crime is a crime that you commit because the victim has . . . or you perceive the victim to have . . . one of the following characteristics: disability, gender (i.e., because they are male or female) nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation (i.e., because they are gay), or an association with a person or group who has one of these characteristics . . . even if the victim doesn't have that characteristic him/herself.”
Although according to 2010 statistics, hate crimes as a whole have been decreasing, anti-transgender hate crimes remain the highest committed in the gender category. Out of 12 hate crimes committed on the basis of gender in 2010, 11 out of the 12 crimes committed were against transgender people.
Incidents like the Muni stabbing and the highly publicized suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn establish the need for more protection and acceptance of transgender rights. It’s a shame that it takes death and assault to bring these topics into the general conversation. Aside from issues of death an assault, there are a plethora of other issues that need to be considered when discussing transgender rights. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, topics such as discrimination and economic opportunity remain at the forefront of transgender rights, but they are not the only ones worth thinking about.
Unlike Ohio, the home state of Leelah Alcorn, California currently bans conversion therapy, defined by Fallon Fox in his TIME article as a “treatment whose goal is to change homosexuals to heterosexuals, and to convince transgender people to identify with the sex and gender they are born as.” This is the therapy that the parents of Leelah Alcorn sought for their daughter, who then cited this treatment as a reason she chose to end her life. Many other states are following California in looking to ban this type of therapy, calling forced conversion therapy “psychological torture.” Currently a Change.org petition petitioning to enact “Leelah’s Law” banning conversion therapy is circulation with over 300,000 signatures, showing the prevalence of transgender rights in national debate.
While transgender rights have come to the forefront of political debate recently, it is important to look deeply at the issues surrounding the transgender community and not just use one or two news stories as the basis for discussion. We cannot rely solely upon large laws to implement change, but rather need to look at everyday discrimination as well. The responsibility is upon us to raise the social awareness for the rights of everyone. We may not agree with everyone’s choices, but we must accept their ability to make a choice.