'Jennifer Laude is a child of God'
NEW YORK CITY, USA – For Father Noel Borbador, an Episcopalian priest from downtown Manhattan, the killing of Jennifer Laude on October 11 reminded him of an issue close to his heart. One of his cousins is, like Jennifer, a transgender person – a reality that Fr Noel told us has divided their whole family.
"She has been abused, even by family members, both here and in the Philippines," Fr. Noel said. "She has been vilified and even ostracized. This is a very personal issue for me."
So on a rainy Wednesday evening, October 15, on 5th Avenue right outside the Philippine Consulate building in midtown Manhattan, Fr Noel made sure he carried his placard and let his voice be heard that 26-year-old Laude's life mattered.
"Jennifer is a child of God," said Fr. Noel. "I believe crime against her is a crime against God."
Laude was found dead at a lodge in Olongapo City hours after she was seen with an American. Her family on October 15 filed a murder complaint against US Marine Private First Class Scott Pemberton, who is among thousands of American soldiers who arrived in Olongapo in transit to their next destination. The former Subic Naval Base in the city serves as a transit point for US ships on the basis of a military agreement between both countries.
Fr Noel joined members of Anakbayan NY/NJ, BAYAN Queer Caucus, Gabriela New York and Transgender of Audre Lorde Project, and other supporters including Geena Rocero, founder of GenderProud, at a rally which began at 5 pm, at the height of rush hour. Their chants, "Justice for Jennifer Laude" drew attention from passersby.
One New Yorker who was waiting on a bus to go home said he was glad to see young people being passionate for something that happened halfway across the globe.
But what activists like Irma Bajar and Kalayaan Mendoza want everyone to know is that Laude's killing is just one of many acts of violence against transgender people.
Trans Murder Monitoring project by Transgender Europe reported that there were 1,233 murders of trans people in 59 countries from 2008 to 2013.
According to Bajar of Gabriela USA, 8 trans women of color fell victim to hate crimes and murders in the U.S. just this summer.
"The fact of the matter is transgender lives are sometimes seen as expendables and that is not acceptable," said Mendoza, a human rights activist who has also been named as one of OUT magazine's 100 most prominent LGBT in 2014.
"I'm sick and tired of going to vigils memoralizing those who shouldn't have died." Deaths of transgender people, Mendoza believes, should be met with anger and fury. "We need to make sure especially within our community, that we do whatever we can whether holding the government accountable or spread awareness to make sure this doesn't happen again."
But according to BAYAN-USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin, putting the Marine suspected of killing Laude under US Navy's custody undermines the Philippine's legal system.
"We demand that the US turn over the American suspect to Philippine authorities," Ellorin said.
The Philippine government has said it will seek custody of Pemberton.
In San Francisco, California, on Wednesday evening, a vigil was also held to condemn Laude's murder and to demand the immediate turnover of the American suspect to Philippine authorities. In Los Angeles, Gabriela USA held a press conference asking for a coordinated action to ensure justice for Laude. – Rappler.com