SOIN
Sexual Orientation Issues in the News
           
 
Contact Us

Links
Take Our Virtual Survey

USC Annenburg School for Communication
 
  LGBT Community Groups Reject Trans Panic Defense in Gwen Araujo Murder Trial
Defense team obscures real issues by blaming the victim and hurling accusations of “deceit”

April 19, 2004 – One week into the murder trial of Newark, CA teen, Gwen Araujo, defense attorneys are trying to blame the
victim by focusing the jury on Ms. Araujo’s conduct. Trying to deflect attention from the actions of their clients, defense attorneys raised questions about what Araujo was wearing on the night of the murder, whether she “deceived” her attackers, and
whether revelation of her transgender status caused at least one defendant to become upset “beyond reason.”

“The defense attorneys are so desperate in this case that they are presenting 1974 arguments in 2004,” said Julie Dorf,
Director of Philanthropic Services at San Francisco’s Horizons Foundation. Dorf, who helped start the Gwen Araujo Memorial
Fund at the Foundation added, “We reject the use of an updated ‘gay panic’ defense in the form of some kind of ‘trans panic’
defense. Our society has learned to stop blaming the victims of violence for the conduct of their attackers.”

“One reason the defense lawyers think they can get away with these arguments is because of pervasively negative stereotypes
about transgender women,” said Christopher Daley, Co-Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Clearly, like all transgender
people, Gwen wasn’t deceiving anyone when she dressed like and presented herself as the young woman that she truly was. And
just like transgender people in any other context – work, housing, school, etc -- she was under no obligation to disclose
her gender identity to anyone – including the defendants.”

In addition to focusing on Araujo’s conduct instead of the defendants’, at least one defense attorney is also claiming
that no hate crime was committed. “The definition of a hate crime is very simple,” said Tina D’Elia, Hate Crimes Project
Manager at Community United Against Violence. “In this case, it’s a crime committed because Gwen was transgender. Had she not been transgender, she wouldn’t have been murdered.”

Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, thinks that had the three co-defendants been taught
about transgender people, Araujo might still be alive today. "California schools are still not doing enough to inform students about transgender people. If our schools had taught
these four young men to respect people of all genders, including transgender people, imagine how different October 3,
2002 - the night of Gwen's murder -- might have gone for everyone involved. I know that Gwen's mother, Sylvia Guerrero,
and the youth in GSA clubs think about that all of the time."

Organizational Information can be found at: 

Community United Against Violence www.cuav.org .
The Horizon’s Foundation www.horizonsfoundation.org .
GSA Network www.gsanetwork.org 
Transgender Law Center www.transgenderlawcenter.org 

   
     
    [back to the top]
     
 
     
who we are · enhancing curriculum · research · get involved · live issues · workshops