Monday, August 31, 2015

In My Own Words - Emma Marie Sultan

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The tragic death of Kent (K.C.) Haggard has brought the reality of the complexity of trans issues here in Fresno. Perception within the trans community often times about the person and circumstances is often at odds the community at large. Certainly this is the case with the Haggard case.

Many self-appointed trans activists have insisted that K.C was a trans woman who was brutally murdered because she was trans. Many in the community at large differ. A recent letter in the Fresno Bee by Wayne Martin indicated "The Haggard Family deserves better than a charade fomented by a miniscule, self-serving group using the tragic death to draw attention to itself."

So there is a major problem for the trans community in perception in its visibility and protest here in Fresno and I presume other places as well.

The solution for the trans community I believe that will bring a more appropriate, not knee jerk, reaction to a horrible event is to rationally look at the situation. Each tragic event has its own set of issues and to jump to an immediate conclusion cannot happen.

What was known initially was a person dressed as a woman was stabbed. Identification indicated that the individual was Kenton Haggard. The police gendered the person as a he. The trans community immediately chastised the police for misgendering the person. She is K.C. not Kent. It became a rallying cry for protest as information surfaced from the community that K.C. was known to be trans even though the family knew nothing about it.

But more importantly than the misgendering is the conclusion that Haggard was murdered because she was trans. Wayne Martin again in the letter indicates "the video of the person's death raises far more questions than there have been answers forthcoming besides what is on the driver's license."

Looking at the facts that are evident it is clear that Haggard was out late at night in a known area known for drugs and prostitution. She was apparently hailed and approached the car and then brutally stabbed. There is no clear indication from the video what the motive was. It could be that Haggard was murdered because she was trans or for another reason totally not related to being trans at all. Hopefully if and when the police do their job and catch the murderers then the motive will become more clear.

So what should the appropriate response of the LGBT community be to a tragic event like this? It cannot be a response that is perceived to be self-serving and accusatory. Accusing the police immediately that K.C. was misgendered and showing disdain does not help perception and trying to use the media does not help. The community needs to step back from such a tragic event before it responds. Information needs to be gathered from the tragedy and the community to respond appropriately.

It was not clear initially if K.C. was involved in the trans community until some research was done to show some involvement in a local support group. It is still not clear to many that K.C. was trans but a man who dressed as a woman. To declare she absolutely is trans looks self-serving. She may have been trans but only K.C. could have made that declaration. A public protest then to promote Trans Lives Matter looks self-serving and disingenuous.

I am not sure what the appropriate response to this complex tragedy should have been. But I do know that the immediate response by self-appointed activists did little for K.C. or the trans community.

Emma Marie Sultan (just a transwoman)

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