When I heard about the beating of “a gay man” in Lowell, I knew that I had to do something. I drove down to Lowell to find the victim, “James” Nickola.
After a bit of detective work, someone led me to her house. I met “James” and talked with her for a while. I told her that there was a candlelight vigil being planned in response to the violence she experienced.
While talking with “James”, she disclosed to me that she is not a gay man, but a transgender female named Jenine. I gave her some information about Fenway Community Health’s Violence Recovery Program and we talked for awhile about what happened the night she was attacked. Then I headed back to Boston.
At first, I did not mentioned on my blog that Jenine is transgender. I am writing about it now because Jenine has disclosed this information herself during an interview with Channel 7 News and during an interview with BayWindows. I applaud Jenine for her honesty and openness. The reason I did not mention that Jenine is transgender is because the Massachusetts hate crime laws to not include gender identity or gender expression.
Jenine’s attackers have been charged with a hate crime. Once the lawyers for the men who attacked her find out that Jenine identifies as transgender, they will probably try to have the hate crime charges thrown out in court. They will argue that the men attacked Jenine because she was transgender, not because they thought she was a gay man.
This is a huge problem in Massachusetts. Gender identity and gender expression are not covered in the state’s hate crime or non-discrimination laws. There are 17 states that do cover gender identity and gender expression in either their hate crimes or non-discrimination laws. Massachusetts usually leads the country on issues of fairness and equality. In this case, we are behind 17 other states.
This year a bill, H1722, was introduced to include gender identity and gender discrimination in our hate crimes and and non-discrimination laws. This bill must become law to protect people like Jenine. If her attackers are successful in arguing that the hate crime charges do not apply to their case, it will be a real blow for justice in Massachusetts.
Go to the Massachusetts Transgender Polititcal Coalition website to find out what you can do to right this wrong.