Dozens of transgender religious leaders converged on legislators on April 28 in Washington D.C. to deliver a joint letter in support of hate crimes legislation and against the history of violence against transgender people. Transgender faith leaders spoke out for both protection of transgender people - who are often targeted for hate crimes - as well as for reform of the criminal justice system that favors incarceration over education.
The Rev. Malcolm Himschoot said, â€śLawmakers and judicial authorities need to bring moral imagination to the problem of hate crimes. If people are taught to hate and dehumanize transgender people, they can also be taught to be respectful.â€ť
The full letter from transgender religious leaders reflected on the recent murder of Angie Zapata in Colorado, which stated that the verdict of guilty reached in a court of law dignified, but could never repair, the value of Zapataâ€™s life and the gravity of her loss. Yet, they said their experience in ministries that work toward nonviolent alternatives reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders does not allow them to believe they can achieve safety by disposing of people behind bars.
â€śThe recent murder of Angie Zapata galvanized transgender religious leaders. As people of faith we hold to a story of justice, not violence; a story of restoration, not retribution. Hundreds of transgender persons have been murdered and that must stop,â€ť Nicole Garcia, transgender representative for Lutherans Concerned, North America said. â€śAll of us must open our eyes to our beautifully diverse world. It is time for transgender people of faith to be seen and heard. It is time for a season of respect.â€ť
Himschoot, a United Church of Christ minister, initiated the statement in support of hate crimes legislation and full human rights of transgender people.
'The statement was signed by close to fifty faith leaders - many of whom attended the lobbying day and delivered the statement to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Transgender faith leaders spoke to decision makers about the poverty that comes with prejudice and employment discrimination. Encouraging the resources and reliability of federal protection everywhere, they spoke highly of officials in Colorado who resisted the so-called â€śtrans panic defenseâ€ť as an excuse for murdering transgender people. Transgender activists said they are grateful for responsible investigators, prosecutors, and a jury who invalidated a harmful and re-victimizing â€śtrans-panicâ€ť defense. They argued that no one is responsible for their own beating, bashing or killing.
â€śI donâ€™t live in fear anymore. I live with hope. I live to educate and help people realize that we are all human beings with feelings, family, and faith,â€ť Garcia said. â€śWe all matter. I pray that Angieâ€™s family finds some peace and consolation in the guilty verdict. I pray for Allen Andrade [the murderer]. His life will now be a series of prison cells for years to come. I hope he finds peace as well.â€ť
Five different agencies were involved in this process: The Transgender Religious Leaders Network, The National Center for Transgender Equality, The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, TransFaith Online, and Lutherans Concerned/ North America (LC/NA).