A state group dedicated to fighting violence against gays cheered the guilty verdict handed down Wednesday against a man accused of beating to death an 18-year-old Greeley transgender woman in her apartment last summer.
Allen Andrade was sentenced to life without possibility of parole after a Weld County jury convicted him in the brutal slaying of Angie Zapata. Andrade awaits sentencing on hate-crime charges and other felonies, including automobile and identity theft.
At the same time as the Colorado Anti-Violence Program hailed Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck as a leader for prosecuting Andrade, the group chastised defense attorneys for “attempts to blame Angie for her own murder” and warned against spreading the “dangerous assumption that outing oneself as transgender guarantees safety.”
The verdict today brings us mixed emotions. We are reminded that we have lost yet another young member of our community to hate. The fact that Angie’s killer was found guilty of first degree murder and a bias motivated crime shows that this murder was taken seriously. This verdict sends the message that violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people is unacceptable. We applaud the Weld County District Attorney for making Colorado a leader in showing that violence against the LGBTQ community will not be tolerated.
We must not leave today thinking that this is an isolated incident or that our work is done. In 2008 alone, there were at least 19 reported anti-LGBTQ murders in the United States. We remember Lawrence King, Duanna Johnson, Latiesha Green, Sanesha Stewart and Simmie Williams Jr.
Since the time of Angie’s murder, we at the Colorado Anti-Violence Program and many others have witnessed the mourning of the Zapata family, the Greeley community, the transgender community and the greater lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and ally communities. We have also witnessed incredible perseverance, strength and love unite people as they began to organize to raise awareness and educate others to prevent this from happening again.
Fear, misunderstanding or hatred of LGBTQ people does not justify violence. It takes incredible courage to be who we are in a world that makes us invisible, forces us to hide, and condones violence against us. Angie was not only a loving daughter, sister, aunt and friend but a beautiful young woman courageous enough to be herself.
Throughout this trial we’ve heard many myths about transgender people including attempts to blame Angie for her own murder. We witnessed the defense continually focus on the behavior of the murder victim, rather than on the violent actions of her killer. The fact is that transgender people are faced with a Catch 22. Being out about one’s transgender status often means experiencing a tremendous amount of violence, the blame for which is often placed on the individual for being out. However, not speaking about one’s transgender identity often means being stereotyped as deceptive and yet again, blamed for the violence that one experiences.
Implicit throughout this trial was the dangerous assumption that outing oneself as transgender guarantees safety. On the contrary, in some instances, outing can increase the risk of violence. Many transgender people struggle to know when and how to talk about their bodies and gender. This can be extremely difficult and scary to decide when and with whom to have this conversation. CAVP and NCAVP stand by the truth that the right to live free from violence is not conditional. It is a right granted to all of us regardless of whether or not we identify with the gender we were assigned at birth.
Ultimately, this is a human rights issue. Transgender people, like all people, have a right to self-determination, safety and respect. We call on our lawmakers to pass legislation that funds restorative and transformative justice, victim’s rights and accountability programs for offenders as well as community-based prevention initiatives and public education that works to counter the stereotypes and misinformation at the root of hate violence. We call on the people of Colorado and the rest of the country to stand up, speak out, and organize to create safer communities where we are all free to live our lives without the fear of violence.
Read our continuing coverage of the Zapata murder trial.