Femicide Census

The Femicide Census is a publication of profiles of women killed by men since 2011. Hitherto, it has included trans women, but this year it excluded us: Andrea Waddell, Chrissie Azzopardi, Destiny Lauren and Vanessa Santillan. So this post is to honour our dead. These women are still named on this Women’s Aid page. Naomi Hersi had never been included, perhaps because she was still spending some time presenting male.

Andrea Waddell

Andrea Waddell was strangled by a man who set fire to her flat to cover his tracks. She has two beautiful tributes on line by her Quaker family.

She always showed the world a cheerful face, despite serious health conditions and repeated major surgery. She befriended homeless people in Brighton, where she lived, with food and conversation. She took one homeless woman into her flat. She was “dazzling, brilliant and cheeky, funny, intellectual and glamorous”. She was vegan, and passionate about animal rights. She was bullied terribly at her all-boys school, but she concealed this from her parents. So did the school, and the fact that she declined from maths prodigy to the bottom set. Before University she spent a year in Prague as an English language teaching assistant, and contributed to an English language Prague magazine.

While studying philosophy at Durham, she reinvigorated the Philosophy Society. Comedian Pamela Anderson spoke on the topic “Is feminist philosophy a contradiction in terms?” Her poetry book was published. There is a bench in her memory in Blagrave Park, Reading.

Chrissie Azzopardi

Unfortunately, such tributes are rare. Google Chrissie Azzopardi, and read about her murder. The BBC reports her surgical status.

She was 22. She was stabbed and suffocated over drug debts, then left in her flat for a month before the body was discovered. The murderer was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years, and the prosecutor said Chrissie “had everything to look forward to in life”.

Destiny Lauren

Destiny Lauren was strangled at home in 2011. Headlines refer to her as a “transsexual prostitute”. The BBC gives her dead name and operation status.

“More on this story: Why transgender people are easy targets”.

Vanessa Santillan

Vanessa Santillan, an escort, was strangled by her husband. The BBC thinks fit to say this was “after” he found her with a client, as if he were provoked.

In court, her family’s impact statement said, “This loss cannot be remedied or changed. It is something that has greatly affected us and hurts a lot. Our family will never be the same again without Vanessa. We cannot stop thinking how unjust her death was.”

On line, victim impact statements are often the nearest we get to some interest in the murdered woman as a person rather than as a body stabbed or strangled. When I read of these women I want a sense of the person, her value, to celebrate her, rather than indulge creepy voyeuristic descriptions of violent acts. Perhaps this is selfish of me: they have family and friends to remember them, who should not put details on line if they do not want to, but we are left with accounts of the murders and nothing more.

I celebrate the Femicide Census. It is a project I support, to record violence of men against women as a societal phenomenon rather than as isolated incidents. I just don’t see who benefits from excluding these women from the lists. They were killed by men as women. But there is one last victim to name:

Bethany Hill

Jack WIlliams and Kayleigh Woods murdered Bethany Hill. Bethany Hill, 20, had been in a relationship with Woods, 23, and hoped to have a child with her. At the time of the murder all three had shared a flat, with Bethany Hill in the bedroom and Williams and Woods sleeping in the living room. They murdered her, then tried to make it appear to be suicide. The murder weapon was recovered from the river Avon.

There was a male perpetrator, Jack Williams; but in the new report Kayleigh Woods, who was trans, has been named as a male perpetrator, under her former name Kyle Lockwood. She was in the news again in 2019: she was imprisoned in a women’s prison because she had transitioned, though she did not have a gender recognition certificate- the Mirror says she was not “legally considered a female”. But she was put in a men’s prison after sexual activity with another prisoner.

She is a trans woman. She is a woman. I don’t know of any mitigation, of any suggestion that Williams led her on, and I do not suggest her culpability was reduced. I have no wish to excuse her because of our common characteristic, any more than I would wish to excuse a murderer who was Scots. But she is a trans woman, not appropriate to be named as a male perpetrator here.

Naomi Hersi

Content: murder. Who was Naomi Hersi?

Naomi Hersi was a woman. The photo on that page shows her Black, smiling, beautiful, vibrant. It’s a good photo. She lived in Mill Hill, North West London.

You can read about her brutal murder, that she was “openly transgender”, what her “legal name” (that is, male name) was. You can read the words of her murderer given in evidence at his trial: “I felt open-minded, liberal-minded”. All sorts of details. Here you can read about her dead body. She was in no position to respond to her killer’s attack. Ms Hersi’s family described her as a “sweet and trusting” person who was “funny and carefree”. “Our lives will never be the same. The grief has swallowed us up. It’s consumed us. Maybe one day it will not be so painful but the violence of [the] death haunts us,” her father said. Did the BBC use “[the]” to cover up “his”? I don’t know.

This article, on the woman who tried to help her killer evade justice, and got a suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service, includes the murderer’s description of Miss Hersi, which I do not believe.

So much for the BBC. MTV had a documentary entitled “The Body in the Bathroom: The Murder of Naomi Hersi”. The photo of her there is of her, still alive, and by coincidence with a red patch on the wall behind her head.

After the conviction The Independent reported her “legal name” and that she was an “openly transgender woman”. It reported that her murderer (whose photo, often repeated, is not attractive) “was a former grade A student”. The link is “transgender-murder-sex-drugs-[killer’s name]-naomi-hersi-heathrow-airport”. Almost at the end of the article, it quotes a detective inspector saying she “will be much missed by all those who knew her, especially by her family”. Someone from the Crown Prosecution Service said her death was “tragic”.

The Mirror headline is “Web of lies that snared university drop-out for murder of transgender woman”. The page starts with a video from Channel 5, “The Body in the Bathroom”, then invites the reader to subscribe to “free email alerts from Mirror – Celebs”. The murderer was “a gifted tennis player”. There are three images of Miss Hersi, captioned “(Image: Naomi Hersi)”- the one with the coincidental red stain, and one with her presenting male. There is a long account of the murderer’s lies, and nothing about Miss Hersi at all. Of her family, the Mirror says, “their grief still goes on”.

After the murderer was sentenced, The Guardian published the same unattractive photo of him, and a Press Association report. She was 36. There is one of her photos: the caption again describes her as “sweet and trusting”. The murderer mixed fact and fiction, disregarding anyone but himself. Miss Hersi’s sister is a “hospital doctor”- Registrar? Consultant? Junior doctor? Her father said the grief has “consumed us”. The murderer had been at the LSE but his “promising academic career” was cut short.

The Sun reported on the sentencing of the murderer’s girlfriend. It described Miss Hersi as the murderer’s “transgender lover”. There is nothing about Miss Hersi at all, just about the murderer, his girlfriend who believed his lies until their trial and then had a breakdown, the murder, and how Miss Hersi met the murderer, on a “dating app”.

The Press and Journal of Aberdeen, famed for the “Aberdeen Man Lost at Sea” headline reporting the Titanic sinking, has a tag page for “Naomi Hersi” but no articles now tagged.

I thought the Daily Mail had interviewed her sister Amina, but it appears they only watched “The Body in the Bathroom”. The article refers to Naomi as “he” and by her male name, shows her photo presenting male, and describes the murder in detail. Naomi never showed herself to her sister: she only saw her presenting male. If Amina said anything about what Naomi was like as a person, the film or the Mail don’t consider that worth recounting. Perhaps that’s a good thing: if Amina had only seen her sister presenting male, Naomi had not really shown who she was.

So much for the mainstream media.

A week after the murder, Stonewall commented “Media coverage of Naomi Hersi’s death is a disgrace”. It wrote of the abuse trans people suffer, but nothing about Miss Hersi. Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity, issued a statement on the press coverage of Naomi Hersi. “The media reporting may be unsettling for trans communities…. We are here if you have been affected.”

I had not heard of Fumble, “Your handy guide to sex”. It has a large headline “Black Trans Lives Matter”. It says “It’s time we listened and believed the voices of the trans community”. It then quotes the start of Travis Alabanza’s article in Gal-Dem, a news site with Black women and non-binary journalists. This is that article. As a black nonbinary person Travis apologises to Miss Hersi, that things happened to her that happen to other Black TGV (Trans and Gender Variant) people.

Travis reports “This killing hits particularly hard”. The Times, which reports the most trivial thing if it can make trans people look bad, did not report the murder. They write searingly of anti-blackness: would there be a similar silence for a white trans woman with class privileges? As I said, I am glad I am that trans woman. I am not dead. I say it because it is true: I am not trying to be nice, I just could not bear the additional discrimination. From her still visible Twitter, Travis found out that Miss Hersi was “a tennis enthusiast, a music lover and a chocolate addict”.

Research Naomi Hersi, they said. After an hour and the top twenty articles my Google search finds for her name, I know she was sweet and funny, trusting and carefree, a tennis enthusiast, music lover and chocolate addict, that she at least once used a “dating app”, and that she lived to age 36. I know a bit about her murderer, and her murderer’s deluded accomplice, and a lot about his lies and the crime. I have seen the lovely photographs, and that’s all I know of Naomi Hersi. There may be a tribute on line to Naomi Hersi the person, describing her joys and dreams, but I have not found it. Instead there are reports of the crime and the murderer’s attempts to get off.

Lower down the google rankings, Isabelle Ehiorobo anatomises how the murderer’s story plays on transphobic and racist tropes to portray Naomi as a threat. Sometimes such “Bad Victim” tactics result in acquittal. I look at Isabelle’s photo, see she is Black, think she might be trans, and wish it was a white cis bloke explaining these things, that we did not have to explain them to people, fearing we were not believed. There was a lot of evidence against the murderer, such as the lack of defensive wounds on either party, indicating he had surprised her, and she had no chance to defend herself; and there was CCTV of them together. Without that evidence, might he have got off with it?

Trans feminism and the Toronto murders

A murderer drove a van down the street in Toronto. The van killed ten people and injured fifteen. Just before, it appears there was a post on the suspect’s facebook page, praising a murderer who had carried out a mass shooting in Isla Vista, saying the Incel rebellion has already begun. We will overthrow all the Chads and the Stacys. It appears he identified as an “involuntary celibate”, whom I wrote of before.

Men on 4Chan and elsewhere identify as incels, unable to find a partner, creating ridiculous misogynist fantasies about why, and praising murderers like that Isla Vista murderer. Emer O’Toole in the Guardian Opinion section gave a feminist response. The Toronto murderer appears to have been motivated by hatred of women, out of a feeling of entitlement to sex. O’Toole reasonably calls this “violent misogyny”. She complains that others use mental health or childhood trauma to explain away such murders, and so it is necessary for feminists to keep feminist analysis central to the conversation.

Well, the Guardian reported that facebook post in its News section. The NYT used a male journalist to explain what an “incel” is. O’Toole argues that we should not name the Isla Vista murderer, because that gives him the fame he craves, but the NYT article uses a bizarre photo of him in a car so that his face is in sunlight and the background in shade, as if he had a halo.  Who are incels? Incels are misogynists who are deeply suspicious and disparaging of women, whom they blame for denying them their right to sexual intercourse… at their most extreme, incels have advocated rape. With O’Toole, I would mark them down for the photograph, but I would give them a pass mark overall. The takeaway from the article is that misogyny is the likely cause for the murder. The NYT also did an article on how the police officer who arrested the suspect de-escalated the situation, where an American police officer may just have shot him. Their main Opinion piece talked of how Toronto is so peaceful, generally, and how the murderer’s motives are not yet determined, but it was published on 24 April.

The Telegraph, though often offensively right-wing, began its article The Toronto van attack suspect praised [Isla Vista murderer] and referenced a misogynistic online community of angry celibate men in a facebook message. Then it speculated on his mental health- “a social or mental disability”. He was a “loner” said someone who knew him. These are the kinds of things such people always say, and are always quoted. He was a murderer. The feminist point is that he is at one end of a spectrum of violent misogyny, egged on by men who might be too weak to be so violent, even though they were chaotic enough to desire to be.

The link to misogyny is clear, here. Should Emer O’Toole be satisfied? No. For her, the murders are the extreme edge of the Patriarchy, different from cat-calling, slut-shaming and everyday sexism in degree but not in kind. So the Telegraph article, with those commonplaces about the murderer being a “loner”, would not get a pass mark: it makes him a freak, rather than one end of a spectrum.

I see the feminist anger, I see the justification for it, I am on side. I started writing wanting to give an answer, but I am left with a question: what do you think the trans feminist’s response should be? Please comment. Possibly he did have mental health problems, but ascribing the murders to that might be seen by gender critical feminists as evidence we were on the side of Patriarchy, rather than against it. In a cis woman, that would be evidence she needed her consciousness raised; in a trans woman it might be another reason to reject us. So, I can hardly answer, I cannot work out an answer separate from how people might see me. Is patriarchy really all-pervasive? Are the women who say, well, he could hardly be entirely sane and balanced, of course mental health and even being a loner is relevant, wrong? If someone thinks patriarchy is all pervasive, do they think me part of it?

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them, said Margaret Atwood. If not kill, then rape, or strike, or disrespect, or merely see through the distorting lens of patriarchy and act accordingly- always with the threat of escalation even as far as murder if she persists. And my fear of men is different, as I am read as trans- that I will be assaulted or disrespected- or killed- as a weirdo pervert rather than as a sex object.

I feel my position, as a trans feminist contemplating these misogynist murders, is as an ally rather than as one of those affected. As I identify as a woman, it is my fight alongside my sisters’; but not as someone under the same threat. Then I let go of what people will think of me.

A murder

Renoir, Le Moulin de la GaletteMan could not pay his debts. He strangled his wife and her nine year old daughter (probably), and shortly after died in a police cell.

One debtor I pursued would pay my client the supplier just before making his next order. Eventually the supplier got fed up. Several made up spurious complaints about goods supplied: almost always I acted for the creditors, but once I acted for the debtor, and it was my client trying that on. Sometimes it seems that the debtor would rather pay more money to a solicitor, to avoid paying a smaller debt- or, perhaps, run up fees without intending to pay them, either.

I have always dealt with these people at one remove, but have met fantasists. One woman told me she had been dismissed after transition, and her manager had written to the Human Resources worker: “Never send me a pervert like that again”. The HR worker was so shocked by this that she sent the letter to my friend, who used it to obtain ÂŁ75,000 in compensation. The way I have told it, the story is full of holes: she told it slightly better, and I cannot remember or care how she filled in those holes. She also told me that she had two X chromosomes, but one had an “SRY inclusion factor” which had made her develop in the womb as a male. Apparently this is possible but uncommon. She told me “You look so feminine, possibly you have that too”- and I went away in a dream, to crash down to earth shortly after. I still resent her for that. I met one fantasist and heard later of her terrifying violence.

Then there were the two men who had served seven years for attempted murder. After one lost his DLA appeal, he started a long paranoid rant about how people in the DSS were conspiring against him. He had all his anger and malice, but prison had broken his ability to carry it out, except to his partner and children. As for the broken, grey woman who had chosen the other one, I never heard her speak.

Treading on difficult ground, here. I started with a specific case known to a specific person, whom I would like to call a friend even if a blogging connection seems too tenuous for that. Some reading will know whom I mean. I write selfishly- I do everything from selfish motives- and I am trying to be constructive. I can use both empathy and analysis, separately.

These people are at the tip of the bell-curve, but not a species apart: they show what humans are capable of, just as our heroes do. We can distance ourselves by seeing them as the enemy, the out-group- cockroaches, infidels, “gay activists” are such out-groups, and this is more difficult for me being in one such out-group myself. They show what those around me might be capable of. Yet- not everyone is like that: out of luck, we manage to avoid such urges, and rub along together.

Seeing one beggar at close quarters makes a far greater impact on me than knowledge of thousands of them in the city. This is a human response. It is the way we are wired up.

Quiet, please

File:Syhem Angel.jpgI am not sure how we got on to murder- but all the ideas came from me.

I went into the library, and got chatting to the librarian. I wanted to ask her what quote she had tattooed on her arm. She rolled up her sleeve to show me, “because I don’t read it every day”. It is about how we are surrounded by angels, who support us, and we should practise awareness of them.

-It’s unprofessional to talk about myself. (Oh, what could the next word possibly be? Nothing other than) But-

The tattoos are the history of her life with her husband, ending with a butterfly, her pupation and leaving him. I congratulated her. He was a little scrote, she says, packing great malice into the word. She has been reading the detective fiction in order to get ideas.

-There was painting poison onto a stamp, so that when she licked it, she would die.
-Oh yes, I saw that. Murder in Paradise. I like that, it’s terribly British, isn’t it: fluffy, unserious, always a happy ending. But stamps are self-sticking.

In The Name of the Rose, a monk was murdered by painting poison on his manuscript. As he turned the pages, licking his finger to stick to the corner, he took it in.

-Now all I have to do is poison all the motorbike magazines in the hopes he will buy one.

File:Syang.jpgYou could steal a car, knock him off his scooter, then burn the car out. She likes this idea.

-There are people I would like to imprison in a disused nuclear bunker with a plentiful supply of bottled water to drink, and lots of sharp knives. I would have painted on the wall, “If you kill someone you will have something to eat”, and I would switch the lights on and off randomly.

-You’ve thought a lot about this, haven’t you?

-Well, it doesn’t take much to think that up. How do you feel when you kill a spider? You probably couldn’t do it.

-I don’t mind spiders, they don’t do me any harm. They kill flies. I hate flies, I kill them.

Her brother got the huge row for getting a tattoo, so when she got her first her mother was almost reconciled to the idea. They are all over her now. Her mother was a biker-chick, though: she has seen the photos of her mother in leathers. She remembers her grandmother, with a blue rinse, telling her off for dying her hair that colour, and she thought, oh, you can talk. Her sons are learning to drink, but are far less trouble than she was.

In other news: I had a serious WTF moment reading this blogger. He says Christianss are not obsessed with gays, and is bewildered by questions about homosexuality when he has been talking of “the state of marriage”. It is society that is obsessed: Activists want to change the definition of marriage, and they want to require Christian photographers and florists to service homosexual weddings. He presumably thinks that of all Worldly, Atheistical people, gays are the unique evildoers whom Christians should refuse to serve. Go, if you like writers who miss the point, and savour his befuddled, injured innocence.

Scott Lively

Scott Lively is the leading American conspirator behind the Ugandan “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”, and at last Sexual Minorities Uganda is bringing him to account. They have filed  a statement of claim in a court in Massachusetts.

This is not a matter of religious belief or freedom of speech. Lively is entitled to express his belief that freedom of speech is a bad thing, and that advocacy for gay rights should accordingly be criminalised. He is entitled even to lie that the Nazi rise to power was a homosexual conspiracy, ignoring the 100,000 arrested for homosexuality during the Nazi regime. The court action against him is for his actions, not his words or beliefs.

The wrong is conspiracy to commit a crime against humanity, namely persecution, defined in international law as the “intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.” The conspiracy succeeds according to Lively’s wishes: even before the passing of his Bill gay men are murdered and lesbians sexually abused by the police. Organisations which speak for them are proscribed, and human rights NGOs which might speak for the LGBT community will not, in case they are removed from the country. Gay people are refused AIDS treatment, and a clinic set up to treat gay AIDS sufferers is threatened with closure.

It is not that gay people are safe if they are quiet and pretend to be straight. They are named in the press, and their address details given.

This is what Lively wanted. He whipped up hatred of gay people with this precise purpose. He organised and spoke at a conference for legislators and others in 2009, where he told the lie that gay people seek to recruit children to homosexuality through pederasty. He incited those politicians and others to the hatred and violence they now pursue.

People die because of Scott Lively.

He is proud of this. He has been working in Uganda to create this situation since 2002, and wrote, my host and ministry partner in Kampala, Stephen LANGA, was overjoyed with the results of our efforts and predicted confidently that the coming weeks would see significant improvement in the moral climate of the nation, and a massive increase in pro-family activism in every social sphere. He said that a respected observer of society in Kampala had told him that our campaign was like a nuclear bomb against the “gay” agenda in Uganda. I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.

What is that gay agenda? Not to convert children, or harm society, but to live in peace and be treated like human beings. A nuclear bomb is not a proportionate response.

Directly because of Lively’s activities, gay people and gay organisations in Uganda suffer severe deprivations of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly, and the press, and the rights:
– to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention;
– to be free from torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
– the right to respect for human dignity;
– the right to privacy.

Update: In December 2014, the US First Circuit Court of Appeals denied Lively’s attempt to have the case against him thrown out. It will proceed to trial.