Marti Abernathey

Remembering Our Dead, Echos From Our Fallen Sisters

Filed By Marti Abernathey | February 17, 2008 2:23 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Chanelle Pickett, ENDA, hate crimes against LGBT people, Remembering Our Dead

I was looking at videos for my YouTube post and found this video titled "Twin Boys Living As Girls". It was taped in the early nineties, and is from the Jenny Jones show. I sat there thinking this was just another trans segment on talk TV.

It is not. When I realized who these two girls were, I sat here trembling, on the verge of tears.

iPhone users: Click to watch

If you are not aware after watching the video, of just who these young women are, I'll let the Remembering Our Dead site explain it for you:

Chanelle Pickett, a young (23) black "pre-operative" transsexual woman, was found dead in the apartment of William Palmer, 35, a computer programmer, on November 20, 1995. According to the report of the police-appointed medical examiner, Chanelle had died of strangulation. She also suffered bruises about the face consistent with having received a severe beating. Palmer denied having murdered her, claiming that she died while he slept.

Chanelle met Palmer at Playland, Boston's oldest gay bar and a downtown Boston hangout popular with trans girls. According to Chanelle's twin sister Gabrielle, Chanelle thought Palmer was genuinely interested in having a relationship with her. On Sunday evening, November 19, the three of them indulged in some crack cocaine together. When Palmer was unable to convince Gabrielle to join them in a threesome, he took Chanelle to his apartment. Later that night Palmer's roommates heard loud noises coming from his room and knocked on the door to ask if everything was OK, but he said he had the situation under control. The next day, at the advice of his lawyer, Palmer reported Chanelle's death to the police, and was eventually charged with first-degree murder.

On December 10, about 250 people attended a memorial service followed by a candlelight vigil in memory of Chanelle. Many of those in attendance did not know Chanelle, but appreciated the ongoing struggle of all transgender people represented by her murder.

In the ensuing murder trial, judge William Barton did not allow the jury to see photographs of Chanelle's bruised and bloodied face. The medical examiner testified to death by strangulation, but the jury believed the medical witnesses for the defense. Palmer's lawyer incited the prejudices of the jury, repeatedly referred to Chanelle's "bizarre" transformation that took place as she struggled for her life, her voice and manner becoming more masculine. The jury found Palmer guilty only of assault and battery. At the sentencing, Judge Barton admonished Palmer, telling his attorney "quite frankly, the defendant should kiss the ground you walk on," before sentencing Palmer to two years in prison. Such a sentence for assault and battery with no priors sent a clear message that the judge believed Palmer to be guilty of at least manslaughter.

In the words of the headline to the Boston Phoenix article about the murder, "When is a murder not a murder? When the victim is a transsexual." -- Nancy Nangeroni

That's right, those sisters on Jenny Jones are Chanelle and Gabrielle Pickett. No one knows what happened to Gabrielle, although I've heard some really bad rumors. Even if you're an atheist like me, say a tiny prayer ... if just to yourself, that Gabrielle is OK. I hope against hope that she simply woodworked after Chanelle's death.

If this isn't a reason to help support TransYouth Family Advocates, I don't know what is. If this isn't a reason to support gender identity in ENDA, I don't know what is. They were kicked out of their own home for being transgender. They were fired from their jobs for being transgender. Chanelle was murdered for being transgender. I just want to take these girls in and love and support them, but it's too late for that now ... but it's not for others.

Please, do whatever you can to help pass a GI inclusive ENDA, The Matthew Shepard Act, and support TransYouth Family Advocates. Our youth are worth it.

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OOh on some many levels. soo sad, and Yes we must support with our full gusto the transyouth educational groups. Last week a 14 yr old gunned down by a 13 in california..this month a ten yr old in wales i believed HUNG himself because his mom would not let him wear make up to school, but did allow him the female garments he requested.HE IS DEAD NOW a 10 yr old hung himself !!! see details on Our children must have the social space they need to cross dress in school, just like the natal females already do. And in the courts ,everytime a hate crime is minimized and sensationalized WE LOSE. The case of Patty in ABQ NM covered on and tapastry illustrates that no local paper or local news can resist the lurid sensationalizism of blaming the TG/TS victim. So we got our work cut out for US, youth advocacy and media confrontation when they sensationalize. Thank you Marti and thank YOU ALL BILERICO for being a go to spot for all the news all of us need regardless of which part of our LGBT we ID in. And yes my prayers nightly are for NO MORE STATISTICs..

Marti, thanks for sharing this. Definitely a bit of a downer this afternoon. But I agree . . . it's a reminder about why we need to keep on fighting the good fight.

this story breaks my heart... and makes me very angry. and it has been repeated too many times. why should our community support a government with tax dollars when that government condones our murder? why should we support a government that denies us full benefit as citizens? enough is just enough. Equality now.

Thanks Marti for highlighting the difficult work that we do at TransYouth Family Advocates. Next week I will once again be in the thick of things in Colorado. I am happy to report that the story of the 8 year old transitioning that caused all the ruckus these last few weeks is doing really well! There are many more families there in need of our services and I hope you will all consider a donation of ANY amount to support this important work. Every child deserves a safe home and school environment in which to grow and prosper and we do all we can to see that these kids have that.

Kim Pearson
Executive Director
TransYouth Family Advocates

And there are so many similar stories out there. :(

MauraHennessey | February 17, 2008 8:17 PM

One of the things that I learned from my friend of operative history was about the Remembering Our Dead pages. She know of a number of the women through mutual friends, and knew a few personally.

The experience inspired a comment of mine on another blog, a response to someone who opposed a United ENDA:
"The pictures tell the story. First of all, pictures of mine taken when my post-operative friend introduced me to friends of hers. A musician, a physician, two university professors, a computer specialist for a major corporation, an activist. All of them ended up as sex workers despite graduate degrees during their transition when they not only lost their jobs but were largely blackballed in their fields. Bright women and determined women all, they came back to impressive positions over time. But their past is still with them, whispered sotto voce amongst themselves and to an occasional friend.

The other pictures are from a site clled "Remember Our Dead" that my friend showed me. She pointed out the names and photos of the women that she knew personally and the ones that she knew of through mutual friends. Murdered, all of them, either by others directly or by the prejudice of others socially and economically isolating them til they became hopeless and their own hands became the weapon of the bigotry of others in ending their lives.

If we leave them behind, Tom, we won't be back for awhile. Past behaviour is the best prognosticator of future behviour and in the past we have left them behind for years. If we leave them behing we are saying to America that even we don't consider them worthy of equality and protections. They remain vulnerable, and they will continue to die.

One gay man gets beaten to death brutally in Wyoming and it is a national tragedy. Hundreds of transsexuals and transgendereds murdered since them and no one blinks.

Perhaps you can live with yourself after leaving them behind, Tom, but I could not. And many of them will not live at all if we do."

I am tired of the casualty list associated with incrementalism and "political tactics"

I've heard the bad rumors about Gabrielle too - and I too hope they're not true.

Thanks for posting this Marti.

I think there is also a hint of racism in the story of Chanelle. A white man killing a black transwoman is not going to be judged nearly as harshly as if the victim were another white.

The jury obviously thought that it was a much lesser crime since the victim was both trans, and black. If she had of been another white gay man I am certain the jury would have seen fit to convict at least on a manslaughter charge.

Our sisters of color are the ones that all too often do the dying it seems. In New York just last Saturday there was another transwoman killed, the killer is using the "trans panic" defence, though they had met and had been together at least once before by the time he decided to kill her.

Justice might be colorblind, but juries do not seem to be.

stellewriter | February 18, 2008 7:43 AM

Thank you Marti,

Not a day goes by that I do not think about those who have no voice, no protector, and no advocate. I think about those who I knew, who when they needed help the most, they had none. I regret I was not there in their dark hours, and for others when they had no where to run. When I recover from my own hard crash, and find my own place of safety, my door will always be open. All we have is each other!

Thanks for the reminder and call for all of us to take action. - Stellewriter

Marti: First of all, thank you very much for sharing this important, but sad, story with the rest. I had never heard of these folks before.

Although it isn't mentioned in the article or any of the comments, I have to wonder if this doesn't support the belief of many of us that being gender variant is genetic? I'll have to let that up to the scientists to decide that, but I've always thought that it was.

This is the appropriate place to share with everyone a dream of mine. Some day, I would like to see a National Day of Remembrance for our murdered trans sisters and brothers take place somewhere. Our Dignity group has been doing this for the last two years, and it is raising awareness in our small group. But we need an event large enough to awaken the nation to the ongoing violence against our group. The list of names is now approaching 400. I really think we need to do this, but how? Where?

Any ideas?


NOVEMBER 20th yearly

and the list is way to long. WAY WAY Tooo long.

For four years, I kept track of the statistics that came from the murders of trans people and the Remembering Our Dead list. I had to read the list many times over and over to pull off the stats, trying to distance myself emotionally to do the work. I couldn't. I cried more times than I can count, and each year at the Transgender Day of Remembrance here in Atlanta, I cried again. Ethan St. Pierre is now keeping the stats, because I couldn't do it any longer.

Marti, you did a good job with presenting this. We cannot affort to forget. Never.

Neither should we wait until November to remember our fallen sisters either.