By Emily Ann Smith
The Attorney of a man convicted in the brutal slaying of a transgender prostitute argued for leniency in sentencing his client because she didn’t belong to a certain class of individual, according to the New York Post.
“A sentence of 25 years to life is an incredibly long period of time judge,” John Scarpa said Thursday as he asked a judge to go easy on his client, Rasheen Everett, for killing hooker Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar in 2010.
“Shouldn’t that be reserved for people who are guilty of killing certain classes of individuals?”
Then, taking callousness to a new level, he said: “Who is the victim in this case? Is the victim a person in the higher end of the community?”
– New York Post
In 2010, Rasheen Everett strangled Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar after he claims to have discovered that she had male genitalia. A judge has sentenced him to 29 years in prison.
The judge made it clear he did not agree with Everett’s Attorney, John Scarpa, by saying “This court believes every human life in sacred… It’s not easy living as a transgender.”
Scarpa’s arguments are deeply troubling and emblematic of an idea that trans people, and all people who engage in sex work, are worth less or that they aren’t human. In the past, the tendency to be overlooked by society has allowed murders to take the lives of prostitutes while raising little alarm.
This is especially disturbing because being transgender makes you far more likely to engage in sex work. Trans people often face discrimination in employment.
A study found that, on average, trans women can see a one-third drop in salary upon transitioning. Furthermore, education gaps and poverty are commonplace and make it impossible for some trans people to obtain employment in the traditional economy.
Transition is expensive. hormones, hair removal, and surgeries total up to tens of thousands of dollars, all while trans people see wages evaporating from discrimination.
Faced with decreasing income and rising expenses, it is clear why many trans people turn to sex work.
But the nature of that work does not make them any less valuable as human beings. Something Scarpa continuously claimed during the trial, saying ““Amanda was engaged in a life of prostitution, life of drug use, HIV exposure.”
Sadly, life sometimes forces people into prostitution, and then they are treated as sub-human for it.
However, even trans women who are not prostitutes can often be arrested for solicitation in some parts of the US.
In New York City, trans women have found themselves jailed simply for carrying condoms. One study said that 59 percent of trans people asked had been stopped by the police. And many times, the police will confiscate condoms from people whether they are prostitutes or not.
This has proven particularity troubling for homeless members of the transgender population, who may often appear to loiter because they have no place to go. If they are arrested carrying condoms, they are very likely to plea guilty rather than try to fight an uphill legal battle.
It’s good to see that Everett’s attorney did not use a transgender panic defense – saying that the shock Everett received upon learning that Gonzalez-Andujar had male genitalia made him temporarily insane.
A few years ago, the use of this defense might have been far more likely. Over just the last ten years there has been positive shift in the treatment of crimes against trans people by the justice system.
But the point remains. Trans people, whether they are prostitutes or preschool teachers, are people. Hopefully, the dehumanization and characterization of trans people will stop and everyone will become more equal under the law – but not until some serious changes are made.