Heteronormative Violence Against Persons Case Study Discussion Requirement: Drawing on assigned readings, define heteronormative violence and discuss two d

Heteronormative Violence Against Persons Case Study Discussion Requirement: Drawing on assigned readings, define heteronormative violence and discuss two different examples of the “modalities through which heteronormativity performs its violence on, through, and against bodies and persons” (Lloyd 2013: 820). Both assigned readings should be incorporated into your journal response CTJ Description:
The Critical Thinking Journal (CTJ) assignment is designed to enhance critical reading
skills and to aid in the development of analytical thought and writing. To these ends,
the CTJ will ask you to draw connections between course readings, identify points of
similarity or disagreement, and to consider the implications of concepts and theories
discussed in the readings. In sum, the CTJ assignment will challenge you to think
beyond what you are given.
Drawing on assigned readings, define heteronormative violence and discuss two
different examples of the “modalities through which heteronormativity performs its
violence on, through, and against bodies and persons” (Lloyd 2013: 820). Both assigned
readings should be incorporated into your journal response.
Your response should be 450 to 500 words and include references to both readings
assigned on Feb. 13:

Bender-Baird (2016) “Peeing Under Surveillance: Bathrooms, Gender Policing,
and Hate Violence”
Lloyd (2013) “Heteronormativity and/as Violence: The ‘Sexing’ of Gwen
Use in text citations for direct quotes (MLA or APA format) & paraphrased ideas. Do
not include a list of works cited.
Heteronormativity and/as Violence:
The “Sexing” of Gwen Araujo
This paper will examine the violence of heteronormativity: the violence that constitutes and
regulates bodies according to normative notions of sex, gender, and sexuality. This violence,
I will argue, requires more than a focus on gendered or sexualized physical harms of the
kinds normally examined when studying violence against sexual minorities or women.
Rather, it necessitates focusing on the multiple modalities through which heteronormativity
performs its violence on, through, and against bodies and persons, including through the
production of certain bodies and persons as inciting violence in their very being. To establish
my argument, I explore the killing in 2002 of trans woman Gwen Araujo and the violence
of the legal strategy (the trans panic defense) used in the legal trials that followed her killing.
Both forms of violence, I suggest, operate in a similar way, albeit through different mechanisms, to maintain and extend the system of binary morphology that itself entails the
perpetual violent materialization of sexed bodies.
On October 3, 2002, seventeen-year-old Gwen Araujo was killed at a party in
Newark, California by four men, who “kneed her in the face, slapped, kicked, and
choked her, beat her with a can and a metal skillet, wrestled her to the ground, tied
her wrists and ankles, strangled her with a rope, and hit her over the head with a
shovel.” They then “buried her in a shallow grave and went to McDonald’s for breakfast” (Steinberg 2005, 499–500). The precipitating cause for this violent assault on
Araujo, who had lived and identified as a woman from age 14, was the coerced revelation that she had male genitalia. (Araujo was held down in the bathroom by her
assailants who forcibly removed her underwear.)1
Araujo was neither the first, nor indeed is she likely to be the last, transgender
individual to die so violently. According to figures provided on the Transgender Day
of Remembrance website, between March 1970 and October 2010 more than 300
transgender persons in the US suffered a similar fate. The site also publishes causes of
death; this makes for grim reading. The list includes, among other equally horrific
things: “Beat (sic) and sexually mutilated by members of a local street gang”; “42 stab
Hypatia vol. 28, no. 4 (Fall 2013) © by Hypatia, Inc
Moya Lloyd
wounds to the head, neck, face, and arm”; “Tortured for several hours, beaten to
death, and beheaded”; “Stabbed repeatedly and castrated”; “Shot”; “Raped, hit in the
head, and drowned”; and “Beaten with beer bottles, sexually assaulted with a broom
handle, strangled with an electrical cord and then drowned in a bathtub. His body
was later set on fire in a trash can behind a church” (St. Pierre 2011). Extrapolating
from data such as this, the Human Rights Commission has estimated that “one out
of every 1,000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate crime” (Human
Rights Commission 2011). The preliminary findings of a study organized by Transgender Europe, The Trans Murder Monitoring Project, indicate that worldwide “since
the beginning of 2008 the murder of a trans person is reported every third day, on
average” (Balzer 2009, 148).
It is not, specifically, the level of brutality involved in trans murder that interests
me in this paper, though clearly it is significant. As the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) report for 2007 makes clear, “Homophobic hate
crimes and incidents often show a high degree of cruelty and brutality” (OSCE 2007,
53–54, my emphasis; see also Balzer 2009, 149), with trans homicide and assault, in
particular, likely to exhibit the characteristics of “overkill”: the infliction of injuries
in excess of those necessary to cause an individual’s death.
The development in particular jurisdictions of hate crime enhancements or laws
to prosecute the types of offenses committed against trans persons would appear to
suggest that there has been some degree of official recognition of the seriousness of
such acts. Yet trans murder is often not reported in the media, and many killers of
trans individuals are never prosecuted. I am interested in what happens to those who
are and, in particular, to those where the defense, with varying degrees of success,
has attempted to have trans homicide reduced from murder to manslaughter through
the deployment of an exculpatory legal strategy known as the “trans panic” defense.
Although the trans panic defense failed in the case I focus on—the prosecution of
Gwen Araujo’s killers—it has succeeded elsewhere.2 It was the Araujo case, however,
that has been credited with bringing the trans panic defense to “national consciousness” (Brigham 2006).3 For my purposes, it is the “archive” of material available in
this case that makes it so significant, for this material provides invaluable insight into
what I will call the “heteronormative violence” at work in the construction of a trans
panic defense and, in particular, in its deployment of gender norms.4
Accounts of gendered or sexual violence focus attention mainly on diverse forms of
physical brutality, comprising rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, “queer-bashing,”
“gay-bashing,” and sexual assault. Here we might legitimately include the fatal assault
on Araujo. When victims are gay or trans individuals, this violence is often categorized
as either homophobic or transphobic respectively. Against this, I intend to characterize
such species of violence as modes of heteronormative violence, that is, violence that
constitutes and regulates bodies according to normative notions of sex, gender, and
To account fully for the violence that is heteronormativity, however, it is necessary,
I will argue, to focus not only on gendered and sexualized physical harms of the kinds
just listed, whether threatened or actual, though these certainly need to be attended
to since the ability to recognize certain acts as “gendered” or “sexualized” violence is
central to their prosecution and prevention. Attention must also be paid, however, to
the multiple modalities through which heteronormativity performs its violence on,
through, and against bodies and persons. This includes but is not limited to the
violence of gender norms; the way those norms work to position certain bodies and
persons outside the realm of “recognizable” violence; and, in this particular context,
the kind of violence at stake in the use of the trans panic defense.
The paper thus begins with a brief contextualization of the trans panic defense.
This is followed by an explanation of what is meant by heteronormative violence,
drawing from work on heteronormativity as well as from the writings of Judith Butler
and Michel Foucault. Examining reports of the trial of Araujo’s killers as well as legal
documents pertaining to the case, I then demonstrate the specific ways that heteronormative violence was enacted.
The prosecution of Araujo’s killers was a complicated affair, involving two trials: the
first ended in June 2004 when, after ten days of deliberations, the jury was unable to
agree on a unanimous verdict.6 Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard thus declared a mistrial (DeFao and St. John 2004). The second trial took place
in September 2005. Initially, all four men involved in her killing (Jason Cazares,
Michael Magidson, Jose Merel, and Jaron Nabors) were charged with first-degree
murder with a hate crime enhancement, a crime carrying a sentence of twenty-five
years to life with little prospect of parole. One of the four defendants, Nabors,
however, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in return for testifying against his
three friends; for this he received an eleven-year jail sentence.
As a result of the second trial, Magidson and Merel were both convicted of
second-degree murder, with a sentence of fifteen years to life. The jury, however, was
not willing to add hate crime enhancements to their convictions. Neither trial was
able to determine the fate of Cazares, who denied involvement in Araujo’s actual
murder, claiming only to have assisted with her burial. He was eventually given a
six-year prison term, after agreeing to a plea of “no contest to voluntary manslaughter” (Baldman 2006).
At the preliminary hearing, lawyers for the defense attempted to have the charges
against their clients downgraded from murder to manslaughter (Haddock 2004). They
pursued a similar strategy at the two trials that followed. This strategy centered on
attempting to persuade the jury that Araujo’s slaying was not murder but rather
“manslaughter in the heat of passion” (Thorman [defense lawyer], cited in Haddock
2004). The defense thus took the form of what has come to be known as the “trans
panic defense,” an exculpatory legal strategy designed to absolve killers of criminal
responsibility for trans homicide by categorizing that crime as one committed in the
“heat of the moment” (see Steinberg 2005; Lee 2008). It has its origins in two other
related kinds of legal argument: the homosexual (or, more recently, gay) panic
Moya Lloyd
defense and the nonviolent homosexual advance argument (Chen 2000; Steinberg
“Acute homosexual panic” was initially categorized as a psychiatric disorder in the
1920s, at a time when homosexuality was widely considered to be a mental disease.
The term was used to characterize feelings of extreme anxiety ostensibly exhibited by
latent homosexuals in same-sex situations, feelings that often led to self-harm or even
suicide, though not normally to violence against others (Howe 1997; Golder 2004).
According to Cynthia Lee, from 1967 onward, however, the idea of homosexual
panic began to be used in support of “mental defect” defenses (such as insanity or
diminished capacity) in the hope of mitigating the nature of the crime heterosexual
men had committed in cases where they were charged with murdering gay men; the
contention was that “the victim’s (homo)sexual advance triggered in them [the
heterosexual men] a violent psychotic reaction” causing them to lose control temporarily
and to resort to lethal force (Lee 2008, 491, my emphasis).
Although in some of these cases, defense teams fell back on the idea of latent
homosexuality to explain the “panic” experienced by the defendant, once homosexuality ceased to be categorized as a mental disorder in 1973, when the American
Psychiatric Association removed it as a mental illness from its Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II), they could no longer do so. At this point, however, the legal strategy of “homosexual” or “gay panic” did not disappear as one might
have expected; it was reconceptualized as a form of provocation defense.7 Now it was
asserted that “a non-violent homosexual advance reasonably provoked them [the
defendants] into a heat of passion” such that they killed (Lee 2008, 500; see also
Chen 2000, 210). It is this latter version of the panic defense based on provocation
that informs the trans panic strategy. Here it is allegedly the discovery that sexual
intimacy has taken place (or is about to take place) with a trans person that is
adjudged to prompt the ostensible “panic” that leads to violence. The legal basis of
the provocation, however, is that the victim has withheld information about their
“true” sex from their assailant. This is precisely the logic employed by the defense
team in the Araujo case.
Keen to establish that their clients were guilty only of manslaughter, defense
lawyers claimed first that there was no premeditation in the killing of Araujo, and
second that there was no hate crime involved. In fact, commenting on the case afterwards, William Du Bois (Merel’s lawyer at the second trial) claimed that his client
“had a real affection” for Araujo, being “almost in love with her” (cited in Szymanski
2006b). “This crime didn’t occur because Mike had a bias,” Magidson’s attorney
Michael Thorman told the jury at the first trial. “It happened because of a discovery
of what Eddie had done” (cited in Haddock 2004, my emphasis), “Eddie” being
Araujo’s birth name.8
What was it, though, that “Eddie” is alleged to have “done”? As Merel’s lawyer at
the first trial, Jack Noonan, put it, “he” was guilty of “sexual deceit” (cited in St.
John 2004b). In the words of Thorman, Araujo had “lied to get them [Merel and
Magidson] to engage in sex with her” (cited in St. John 2005). His client, Noonan
claimed, had “had sex with a person who he thought was somebody else” (cited in
St. John 2004b); he had been duped. It was the discovery of this “deception” that
provoked the emotional reactions—“anger and rage and shock and revulsion” in the
case of Magidson (Thorman, cited in Hoge 2004); an intensely tearful, emotional
breakdown in the case of Merel—that caused Araujo’s brutal homicide.9 In short, as
captured in the headline that appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle: “Teenager
provoked own killing, attorney says” (St. John 2005).
Panic-style defenses have been explored by a number of legal scholars (Howe
1997; Chen 2000; Golder 2004; Steinberg 2005; McDonald 2006; Lee 2008; and
Tilleman 2010), concerned above all with their efficacy or suitability as vindications
for murder. My main interest is not, however, in the legal viability of the trans
panic defense; it is in how this defense functions to (re)instate a particular world
view through the classificatory system it uses to position the sexed body of the trans
individual. As Lucinda Finley points out, the “concepts, categories, and terms that
law uses” have “a particularly potent ability to shape popular and authoritative
understanding of situations.” In this respect, legal language “reinforces certain world
views and understandings of events” (Finley 1989, 888). With regard to the trans
panic defense, the question is how does it function in support of a heteronormative
understanding of transgender and trans murder? More specifically, how, in particular,
does it operate as a mode of violence that parallels, though is distinct from, the
lethal violence meted out by the killers of trans persons? In the next section, therefore, I set out what I mean by heteronormative violence before turning in the subsequent section to the question of how that violence was enacted at the trial of
Araujo’s killers.
Heteronormativity is a much-used though often ill-defined term. Originating in the
work of queer theorist Michael Warner (Warner 1991; 1993), though clearly influenced by earlier feminist work on what has been variously called the “heterosexual
contract” (Wittig), “compulsory heterosexuality” (Rich), or “obligatory heterosexuality” (Rubin; see Jackson 2006), heteronormativity has “become widely used,” as Stevi
Jackson observes, “as shorthand for the numerous ways in which heterosexual privilege is woven into the fabric of social life, pervasively and insidiously ordering everyday existence” (Jackson 2006, 108; see also Berlant and Warner 1998). Although
there is disagreement, as Samuel Chambers reports, about how best to characterize
this privilege, with some construing it in terms of “practices,” others as “rules,” and
still others as a “system of binary gender” (Chambers 2009, 65), it has been most
commonly defined in terms of “norms,” the approach I will follow. Thus, Robert
Corber and Stephen Valocchi surmise, “[h]eteronormativity” refers to “the set of
norms that make heterosexuality seem natural or right and that organize homosexuality as its binary opposite” (Corber and Valocchi 2003, 4). But what does it mean to
say that “within social life heterosexuality is constructed as a compulsory norm”
(Beasley 2005, 251)?
Moya Lloyd
“Norm” may, of course, be used in a variety of different ways. The Oxford English
Dictionary defines a norm, deriving from the Latin norma (meaning carpenter’s square,
pattern, rule), as a “standard, a type; what is expected or regarded as normal; customary behaviour, appearance.” Etymologically, “norm” links to “normal,” its adjectival
form connoting “constituting or conforming to a type or standard; regular, usual, typical; ordinary, conventional. Also, physically or mentally sound, healthy” (as well as
“heterosexual”); to “normalize,” a transitive verb meaning “to make normal or regular;
cause to conform”; and to “normative,” as in “establishing a norm or standard; of,
deriving from, or implying a standard or norm; prescriptive.” In social theory, norms
have variously been viewed as the glue holding the social order together, an external
constraint on the individual, constitutive of the self and, by extension, constitutive
also of social action (Jackson 2006, 109). By contrast, according to Michel Foucault,
norms are to be understood as both disciplinary and productive.
To contend that “heterosexuality is the norm, in culture, in society, in politics”
(Chambers 2009, 35) might, therefore, be to make at least one of two claims: the first
distributional, that statistically “heterosexuality” is the type of sexuality that occurs
most frequently within the population; and the second normative, that heterosexuality is a prescribed mode of behavior, a regulatory standard, deviation from which is
liable to censure, medical intervention, or worse. For the purposes of this paper, it is
the latter conceptualization of norms that (as for Chambers, Beasley, et al.,) is most
pertinent to my argument; norms that establish heterosexuality as the default position
in society (Warner 1993; Berlant and Warner 1998; Chambers 2009), where to be
human is to “be” heterosexual (Warner 1993, xxiii) and where “heterosexual experience is synonymous with human experience” (Yep 2002, 167).
It is often assumed that the concept of heterosexuality is “as old as procreation”
(Katz 1995, 13). In fact it is of relatively recent historical origin. The term heterosexuality was, as Katz demonstrates, first used publicly in Germany in 1880, having been
coined only some twelve years earlier in 1868 (54, 52), at which point it was differentiated from “‘Normalsexualit€at,’ normal sexuality” (52). At this time, 1868, Karl
Maria Kertbeny (the originator of the term) saw heterosexuality and “normal sexuality,” Katz notes, “as the innate form of sexual satisfaction of the majority of the popul…
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