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Trans Woman “Punished for Surviving” Hate Crime

Trans Woman “Punished for Surviving” Hate Crime

Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, a black, transgendered college student from Minnesota, has pled guilty to charges of second degree manslaughter after defending herself against a violent attack by three men and women shouting racist and transphobic slurs.

When one of the women smashed a glass into McDonald’s face, lacerating a salivary gland and cutting through her cheek, she tried to flee the scene to seek medical attention. McDonald was followed by one of the men, Dean Schmitz. Injured and afraid, she pulled a pair of scissors from her purse to try to scare him away, and in the ensuing fight says that Schmitz grabbed her and pulled her toward him, resulting in the scissors stabbing him in the chest. Schmitz died as a result of the wounds.

What is clear is that McDonald was acting in self-defense. Would she have been arrested if she were white? Cisgendered? It’s impossible to say, but it’s hard to read about cases like the Trayvon Martin murder and not reach the conclusion that African Americans are denied the benefit of the doubt in self-defense cases.

Kenyon Farrow of Colorlines argues that, “innocent” or not, McDonald needs and deserves the support of the LGBT and black communities – and goes on to detail other cases of systemic bias against people of color defending themselves against violence.

Jamilah King agrees, writing, “Time and again, people of color whose gender identities fall outside of societal norms fall prey to a deeply flawed criminal justice system. When they’re feared, they become victims. When they fight back, they become criminals.”

Mara Keisling of The Advocate goes even further, stating: “CeCe McDonald is being punished for surviving.

McDonald’s plea is a reduced charge which will entail a 41-month prison sentence (with credit for time already served) – if she’d plead innocent, the case would have gone ahead, and she could have potentially been convicted of the more serious charges of felony murder in the second degree in a jury trial. Considering that there was some question whether or not the judge would allow an expert to educate the jury on the level of violence faced by trans women (they make up a disproportionate amount of anti-LGBT hate crime victims), this might have been the wisest course of action.

Dean Spade, a legal scholar and the founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, discussed the case with Pretty Queer, explaining more about the plea deal and what it will entail for McDonald. Pretty Queer also has suggestions on how to correspond with someone in jail, for supporters who are interested in writing to CeCe as she serves her sentence. Supporters can also send CeCe books and magazines.


Related Stories:

Trans Woman On Trial For Self-Defense From Hate Crime

One trans person murdered worldwide every other day, figures show

Historic Indictment For Anti-Gay Hate Crimes

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Image credit: Support CeCe McDonald

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9:20AM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

I fear for her life while in prison. Where will they put her? In a men's prison? She will be beaten and raped. In a women's prison? She will be beaten and ridiculed, harassed and bullied. Besides that, in my opinion she acted in selfdefence and should not even be charged. If someone attacked me as vicious as that, I would kick and scream and do whatever it takes to stay alive.
Is there some way I can write to her? Are there any information of where she is incarcerated? And are there a petition for her?

5:59AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Not acceptable she should be free very sad and unfair.

5:59AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Not acceptable she should be free very sad and unfair.

5:58AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Not acceptable she should be free very sad and unfair.

5:58AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Not acceptable she should be free very sad and unfair.

7:53AM PDT on May 8, 2012

Now how the hell can this woman be guilty of murder when she's trying to defend herself and has the wounds to prove it yet Trayvon Martin's killer isn't even arrested to 2 months?? What goes on here? Anyone who thinks there is equal treatment under the law for blacks, women and transgenders is obviously sleeping through life! And she didn't even get medical attention for the wound that went through her face! AGGGH!! It' makes me so damn angry I want to scream!

11:00AM PDT on May 7, 2012

where my coment went ..?that woman should be rewarded for making the world a bit safer by getting rid of a parasite...many buterflyes and many stars

10:54AM PDT on May 7, 2012

she should be rewarded for making the world a tiny bit safer I give you many stars....and a whole fluck of buterflyes...........

10:49AM PDT on May 7, 2012

What a bunch of CACA I think she should be rewarded for her action that make the world just litle bit safer by getting rid of a parasite .....

8:30AM PDT on May 7, 2012

This is typical for trans people, especially ones of a racial background other than caucasian. Guilty, even when innocent.

For Trans people, they first have to prove their existence is legitimate in order to have the SAME rights as other people do. Add in the racial angle & it becomes near impossible to convince a white male judge that a black female trans woman could ever be innocent of anything.

It's bad in Canada, and hundreds of times worse in the USA.

To call this a travesty of justice, is a monumental understatement. Not once, did the authorities give one whit of a damn about CeCe's rights. Especially those of reasonable force, self defense or even common decency... Again, typical of cases involving Trans people, especially Trans women.

She's just one more glaring example of a legal system that's geared to do harm to minorities.

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