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.
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.
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 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, 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:
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.