You are a murderer.
Earlier this year, a woman named Jasmine was killed. She was a sex worker in Sweden. She lost her children to her abusive ex-partner because the courts deemed her an unfit mother due to her occupation. She reported her ex-partner’s abuse and the authorities took no notice again and again and again and again because her life and safety and well-being as a sex worker meant nothing to them.
Her ex-partner murdered her, but her blood is on your hands for every time you didn’t stand up for the rights of women like Jasmine. She is dead because you did nothing.
In Melbourne earlier this year, a woman named Jill Meagher was raped and murdered by a serial killer. I say “serial killer” because the man had done it before. Nobody cared because all of his previous victims were sex workers. It took the murder of a woman society deemed worthy of their regard in order for the killer to finally be brought to justice.
Her blood is on your hands as well. So is the blood of the sex workers who were raped and killed by a man who got away with it because nobody cared as long as they deemed the lives of his victims not worth saving. You heard them scream and did nothing. You let them die and looked away, unseeing, unknowing, uncaring.
Society has devised a particularly cruel method of punishment for those it deems inferior. We don’t kill them ourselves – we allow the dregs of society, the rapists and torturers and murderers, to do our dirty work for us. We stand back and shake our heads and cluck disapprovingly at the side of the victims’ graves. Didn’t they know what they were getting themselves into? Didn’t they know they would eventually be punished?
We let the blood drip from our hands and pretend ourselves innocent as more and more and more people die, condemned by our judgement to be slain by society-sanctioned executioners. We swear we had no part in their murders, but we turn a blind eye to those who commit them in our name.
Once every three days in the United States, the murder of a transgender person is reported. Often, the corpses are found with their genitals mutilated, with slurs carved into their flesh. This, we have decided, is the fate reserved for the abnormal – to be tortured, maimed and brutally killed while we look on, unmoving and unmoved. We stay silent as gays and lesbians are beaten and left for dead on the curbside outside pubs on a Saturday night. We pretend we do not see every young black man in a hoodie who is gunned down in cold blood by a white man with a grudge. They are guilty of the crime of existence. We allow them to be punished for it and then wash our hands of the deed.
Two years ago in Scotland, a young gay man was tied to a lamppost, beaten and then set on fire for the crime of existing and being gay. He was twenty-eight years old when they killed him. In Queensland, there is a gay panic defence on the books – if someone murders a gay person, they can claim it was self-defence because the person they murdered might have been making advances towards them.
So much blood and so many dead and we continue to delude ourselves into believing we are innocent of their murders.
A friend told me recently that a quarter of trans* people end up taking their own lives. Twenty-five percent. Imagine if twenty-five percent of young, attractive, white women felt driven to kill themselves in order to escape a world they knew didn’t want them. Imagine if twenty-five percent of the people you love the most felt so hated, so reviled, that they did the murderers’ work for them so that they could at least choose to make it swift and painless. Imagine one in four people you care about killing themselves, and ask yourself why you are content to let one in four trans* people do so.
You may not have set fire to that young gay man, nor raped and murdered Jill Meagher, nor beaten Jasmine and been ignored and ignored and ignored until you finally killed her. You may not personally have bullied a trans* person into taking their own life. But it may as well have been your finger on the trigger, your hand grasping the dagger hilt, your fingers that struck the match. You killed them when you stood by and said nothing as they were bullied and mocked and shunned. You killed them when you decided they weren’t worth saving.
Their blood is on your hands. Their blood is on all of our hands.
How many more must die before we decide to take responsibility for the monsters we have created? We allow the small oppressions – the slurs, the cyber-bullying, the whispered comments on the street – knowing full well that they enable larger ones. We know that we are giving our implicit consent to rapists and tormentors and murderers to do with those we’ve shunned as they will. We know that our silence is assent. We know, each of us, deep in our hearts, that we are every bit as guilty of every beating and every rape and every murder as the people we allowed to commit the acts.
We did not do enough to save Jasmine or Jill or Trayvon or the thousands upon thousands of people who are murdered or who take their own lives to escape the cruelty of a society that has deemed them lesser. These were not isolated incidents – this happens every second of every minute of every hour of every day and we stand by and let it continue. There are so many Jasmines and Jills and Trayvons, so many people killing themselves or being killed by people we have allowed to appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner. All that evil needs is for good people to do nothing. We tell ourselves we’re the good ones, but how good are we if we allow ourselves to discount the value of human lives?
If we are ever to wash the spot from our hands, we must act. We must stop the small things – the taunts, the insults, the “jokes”. We must let our fellow human beings know that we consider their lives sacrosanct, no matter who they are or what they do for a living. We must refuse to sanction thugs who carry out our dirty work for us. There must be no dirty work at all. The victims of our inaction lived, loved and were loved, had so much potential, so much to give. If only we had opened our eyes. If only we had stayed the hands of their murderers. We are allowing ourselves to be robbed of the most precious resource on the planet – human life – because we have become complacent, careless, callous, cold.
I do not want any more blood on my hands. I am tired of death counts and statistics. I refuse to give my consent for the destruction of innocent human lives by killers who get away with it because we do nothing to stop them. Jasmine’s children lost their mother. Jill’s husband lost his wife, and the sex workers killed before her left behind family and friends who had loved ones snatched from them for no reason at all. Trayvon Martin’s family was forced to watch as their son’s character was assassinated on national television after his person was assassinated by a man with a thirst for blood. Can we really claim to have humanity if we allow this to continue? Can we claim that we are compassionate, loving, fair, just, when innocent people die and we do nothing?
If you want to stop being a murderer, disarm your weapons. Disenfranchise the bigots. Defang their hate. Only then will our Jasmines and Jills and Trayvons be safe. You cannot afford inaction, not any more. Too many lives depend on you.
There is so much blood on your hands.