The recently aired HBO documentary, Valentine Road, examined the murder of 15 year old Leticia King by a classmate. She was transitioning from male and had asked out a classmate, who then shot her dead. The clips (available here on Gawker.com) from the documentary show how structures are maintained that define ‘normal’ behavior vs. ‘deviant’ behavior. In one clip, one of her teachers is appalled that she should come out as transgender and she says that she relates with his murderer, saying “I don’t know if I would have taken a gun…” I don’t know??!!
In the second clip, the jurors discuss how much they felt sorry for the murderer, and how his actions were quite reasonable. They even argue that the white supremacist drawings in his notebook were merely the result of random doodling.
The behaviors of these women are exactly what generates the social understanding of what “counts” as normal and what “should be” stigmatized. Their behavior sanctioned the murder (and in the teacher’s case, explicitly sanctioned beating him) of Leticia. Those of us who remain silent, while knowing these norms exists, and believing that we are innocent, are in fact complicit in creating the environment in which such actions can appear justified.