MARSHA P. JOHNSON
Johnson was a transgender woman and one of the main instigators of the Stonewall uprising. She also organized Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries, which helps homeless transgender youth in New York City. Her 1992 death sparked outrage in the community after it was ruled a suicide with little investigation. An activist named Mariah Lopez got the case reopened in 2012 in the hopes of bringing justice to her death and the countless other members of the trans community who are murdered every year.
Schubak, Adam. “26 People From the LGBTQ Movement You Should Know.” Redbook, Redbook, 9 June 2020,
To realize a world of equality and dignity for all, we will have to change laws and policies; we will also have to change hearts and minds. Every sector and every person can play a role, speaking out to remind the world that it should not be illegal to live your life as you are and to live your life with whomever you love.”
– Rick Parnell, Chief Operating Officer of the UN Foundation
VOICES FROM THE COMMUNITY
ABOLISH THE LGBTQ+ "PANIC" DEFENSE
The LGBTQ+ “panic” defense strategy is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.
By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBTQ+ victims, this defense implies that LGBTQ+ lives are worth less than others.
HOW IS THE DEFENSE USED
Defense of Insanity or Diminished Capacity
The defendant alleges a sexual proposition by the
Defense of Provocation
Allows a defendant to argue that the victim's proposition, sometimes termed a "non-violent sexual advance," was sufficiently "provocative" to induce the defendant to kill the victim.
Defense of Self-Defense
Defendants claim they believed that the victim, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, was about to cause the defendant serious bodily harm.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
• Demand that your representatives take action and support legislation against the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense strategy.
• Legislatures should specify that neither non-violent sexual advances nor the discovery of a person’s gender identity can be used as an adequate provocation for murder.
• Contact legislators and governors in states currently trying to ban the gay/trans panic defense. Be sure to reach out to federal legislators as well.
• Be an advocate in states where there is currently no proposed gay/trans panic ban legislation.
• Let your own politicians know that equality under the law should apply to the victims of hate crimes as well.
• Support organizations that work to protect and uplift the LGBTQ+ community, like the LGBT Bar, or the American Bar Association’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
• Litigate cases which can promote the protection and empowerment of the LGBTQ+ community.
STATES WHERE IT IS STILL LEGAL
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
NOTABLE CASES WITH THE DEFENSE
Daniel Spencer was stabbed and murdered by his neighbor Robert Miller in September 2015. Miller claimed that he rejected a sexual advance from Spencer and acted in self defense when Spencer became agitated, but physical evidence disproved his claim that he was ever in danger. Miller’s conviction was mitigated from murder to criminally negligent manslaughter.
Terrance Hauser was stabbed 61 times by his neighbor Joseph Biedermann. During his murder trial, Biedermann claimed that he passed out and woke up to Hauser holding a sword against his neck and attempting to sexually assault him. Biedermann claimed to be in such a panic that the only way he could escape was to stab Hauser 61 times, but evidence from the scene showed few signs of struggle. The jury acquitted Biedermann of first-degree murder.
Ahmed Dabarran was an Assistant District Attorney in Fulton County, Georgia. He was struck over the head over a dozen times by Roderiqus Reshad Reed and died from his injuries. At trial, Reed’s attorney claimed that Reed killed Dabarran to protect himself from unwanted sexual advances. However, a medical examiner testified that Dabarran was asleep at the time of the murder. The jury acquitted Reed of the murder despite Reed’s full confession.
DEMAND THE ABOLISHMENT OF THE LGBTQ+"PANIC" DEFENSE. AN INDIVIDUAL'S SEXUALITY SHOULD NEVER SERVE AS JUSTIFICATION FOR MURDER.
PRESSURE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. DEMAND CHANGE
Sources: National LGBT Bar Association & The American Bar Association
RESOURCES FOR TRANS INDIVIDUALS
On Name Changes, Immigration Rights, Healthcare Rights (Sylvia Rivera Law Project)
For Formerly Incarcerated Trans Folks (Black and Pink)
Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective
Pods & Pod Mapping (making your own safety team) (3)
Oakland Power Projects: Know Your Options Healthcare Toolkit (4)
Critical Resistance: Addressing Harm, Accountability and Healing (5)
OTHER RESOURCES FOR LGBTQ+ INDIVIDUALS AND ALLIES
ORGANIZATIONS FOR BLACK QUEER & TRANS RIGHTS
• the Marsha P. Johnson Institute
• national queer & trans therapist of color network
• black trans tv
• black trans travel fund
• TGI justice project
• trans women of color collective
• know your rights camp
• SNaP Co
• house of gg
• the transgender district
• Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex by Eric A. Stanley, Nat Smith
• Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility edited by Tourmaline, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton
• Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
• Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
• Fairest by Meredith Talusan
• Death Threat by Vivek Shraya