not enough people are talking about how a white american soldier stationed in the philippines drowned and murdered a filipina trans woman in a hotel room toilet this month and its goddamn important
her name is jennifer laude. she was 26. she was engaged. she was planning on getting married in march, going back to school for hotel management, going on to become a flight attendant. not that this matters necessarily, because even if she had been a sex worker, which a lot of media has assumed, she would obviously not have deserved to die — but not every media source is giving her an identity outside of “trans” “filipina” and i want people to know who she was.
she was out on october 11 with a friend, met a 19 year old US marine named joseph scott pemberton, and the two of them went to a motel together.
thirty minutes after checking in, he left, and she was found naked with her head in the toilet, dead. there were two condoms found which are currently undergoing investigation.
tensions are rising because the US naval&military presence in the philippines has already been highly contested, many citizens want US soldiers out of their homes, and this isn’t the first potential hate crime, potential rape, or murder committed by US soldiers in the philippines (or, obviously, anywhere). the US is currently ensuring that US guards protect joseph scott pemberton even though potentially the philippines should have jurisdiction given the fact that it’s fairly definite that he murdered a philippine citizen.
her boyfriend and sister have even literally climbed into the military base demanding justice, and her mother has also voiced protests. they have not been answered.
guys, this is important for so many reasons.
it’s important because we need to talk about how trans people are still murdered every day.
we need to talk about how being nonwhite and trans in the presence of whiteness and cisness is still dangerous — literally, just existing.
we need to change the way we talk about nonwhite queerness, nonwhite trans people. they are not inherently exotic, erotic, or “other.” they are human people. their genitalia is not your business. their gender is not a reason or excuse for their murder.
we need to change the way the media talks about being trans. “chicks with dicks,” the “used to be a dude,” the “surgery” question — media must stop dehumanizing trans lives, reducing them to an absurdity or a joke. media coverage still uses jennifer’s “birth” name or mentions “formerly a man,” or shit like that, and it physically pains me to see these microaggressions, because they are a reminder of the exact transphobia that cost her her life. they participate in the same violence, they reinforce that otherness, and microaggressions will not necessarily kill a trans person but the attitudes they inspire clearly often do.
we need to talk about masculinity and the military and what leads 19 year old boys to commit murder in the face of what they’ve been told is the “other.” because articles are surfacing arguing that pemberton didn’t know she was trans, but she was naked and she was killed and so i’m pretty sure that’s not a fucking useful defense.
i don’t actually care whether or not she was cheating on her fiancé (which i doubt). i wouldn’t care if she was planning on having sex with pemberton for money (she was also robbed this night, by the way, though it’s not clear by who) (though i’ve got a guess). she did not deserve to die.
we need to acknowledge that trans lives are worth saving. we need to acknowledge that they are being stolen. we need to acknowledge that we are losing trans lives because misinformation and prejudices present transgender people as less than important, as other, as separate, as disgusting, and not only are their murders altogether too common, but so is the poisonous rhetoric that follows, that she deserved it for being a monstrosity, or for “tricking him,” and this is rhetoric that we cannot abide.
no one is asking for it.
jennifer laude has faced more oppression, discrimination, and prejudice in her life than most people could bear. her strength and courage to be herself every day is praised by her friends and family. she has inspired filipina and filipino queer and trans youth. she worked so hard to become who she is and create a life that allows her to be true to herself, and to recognize that that life was cut so brutally, needlessly short — it makes me furious. and it should make you furious too.
jennifer laude’s only crime was being a human, who happened to be trans, filipina, and female, and her murder needs to be acknowledged and met with justice.
a personal note: this story is particularly devastating to me because i am a cis female bisexual half-filipina, and i’ve been struggling coming out to my family in the philippines because the pervasive culture is very catholic and conservative, and moving very slowly towards an acceptance of queer identity. jennifer laude is and was an inspiration — and so was her mother, pictured below, who came to accept, love, and protect her.
it is not easy for people who were raised largely ignorant about being trans to come around, and so to know that jennifer’s mother made the journey to accept and support her daughter only to have that journey cut so brutally, horrifically short — i can’t stand it. i cannot.
here are some links for further news and reading (trigger warnings for some transphobic language, obviously, unfortunately), and if any word surfaces on protests or petitions for her murderer to find justice i will let you know, but before i leave you guys let me quote what the commission on human rights (CHR) chairperson loretta ann rosales said at jennifer’s wake:
Ang pinakamahalagang usapin dito human being siya. Hindi siya dapat pinatay.
The most important issue here is that she is a human being. She shouldn’t have been killed.
links to more information:
Witness Says Suspect U.S. Marine Didn’t Know Murdered Filipina Was Transgender
Marine murder case reveals US-Philippine sore spot
Remarks vs Laude reflect deep-seated prejudice – CHR
Jennifer Laude ignored haters, fought for dolls, kept poise