Trans-panic Defense Alive And Well In Palm Beach

July 3, 2007 ·

It looks as if the trans-panic defense is alive and well in Palm Beach. From the Palm Beach Post:

Two strangers met outside a bar on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. One of the strangers turned out to be a 17 year old male and the other was a 39 year old transwoman.

“The teen says that she got into their car, and performed oral sex on him in the back seat while his friend drove. They ended up near a lifeguard tower on the island of Palm Beach after midnight. According to the 17-year-old, the woman was on top of him when he saw something he didn’t expect under her bikini bottom. Just as they were about to have sex, he says, he saw she was actually a pre-operative transsexual.

The two stories before this time differ, but a witness saw what happened next:

“The teen shouted for help, dragged her through the sand, beat her head against the lifeguard stand and punched out her front teeth. He was hysterical, freaking out, crying, upset,” the witness said. “He said he picked up a girl, he thought it was a girl; it was a guy.” The witness also said that the teen told him that “the man had tried to rape him”

“The witness said he suggested that the boy go on home and not tell anyone. But about half an hour later, the kid returned, he said, dragging what looked to be a topless man down the beach by the hand. He screamed that he was going to kill her and slammed the person’s head against the lifeguard stand, the witness said. The witness jumped off the tower and headed for the boardwalk. The kid came back again, he said, saying he thought he had killed someone and was going to jail. Palm Beach police pulled up right then, the witness said. They found the victim covered in blood.”

The victim claims that

“she had several drinks over the course of the evening and agreed to go to a party with the two young men because she needed to sober up before driving home. She figured they were in their early 20s.

The teen came onto her aggressively, kissing her, touching her breasts and putting her face in his lap. She said she told him that she was a transsexual and denies that there was any sexual activity or that she was on top of him. He seemed to be more upset that she rejected his sexual advances, she said, than that she was a transsexual”

There are many holes on both sides of the story, but what isn’t up for debate is the strategy of the defense.

“The teen’s attorney, John Brewer, will argue self-defense. Brewer said the 39-year-old threatened to kill him and his family if he told anyone what happened.

Something flipped in his mind and he thought, ‘I’ve got to bring this guy in; he’s going to harm me.’ At that moment, Brewer said, the teen’s ‘whole world just got turned upside down. Nothing is as it seems. Everything is possible.’ He realized, Brewer said, ‘I’m in way over my head.'”

On the face of it, it seems pretty absurd. The woman obviously was no match for the teen physically, how would he be “harmed?”

The defense is not denying that the teen beat her, only that he was justified in doing so because the victim had a penis. This defense depends on the homophobia and transphobia of those who will decide the case. Hopefully those hearing the case will see it as such and judge the evidence based on the facts, not on fear and intolerance.

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