Kellie Telesford

// 16 August 2008

Kellie Telesford, a 39 year old black woman, lived in south London where she worked as a florist and beautician. Her body was found by police officers (who had been alerted by her friends, worried because they could not contact her) at her home in Thornton Heath on 21 November last year. She had been strangled with a soft brown fur scarf and her body was on the floor, with only her feet and right hand poking out from a “carefully” draped white throw. The flat “showed signs of disturbance”, appearing to have been searched and items stolen.

Jamaican-born Shanniel Hyatt, then a 17 year old father of one, was arrested on 29 November at his flat in south east London and charged with her murder.

On 17 November, Mr Hyatt had met Ms Telesford outside Norbury train station. His girlfriend was visiting family with their baby that night. Ms Telesford had told colleagues at the salon that she had met a ‘handsome light skinned guy’. After meeting, the pair headed to the victim’s flat – in a police interview Mr Hyatt first claimed he had gone back to her flat for drinks and to watch a DVD, and that he left after 10pm after she had performed a sex act on him. Mr Hyatt admitted taking the phone, but no other possessions.

In further interviews he changed his story several times but insisted he left the flat late that night and went ‘robbing people’ with his friends in South Croydon. CCTV images and mobile telephone records show that Mr Hyatt used Ms Telesford’s Oyster card to catch the bus from her home in the small hours of 18 November. He was carrying a “big bag, probably containing other items that he had stolen”. Mr Hyatt insisted Ms Telesford was alive when he left her flat, although he changed the time he first told the officers he had left, the court heard this week.

Mr Hyatt was been found not guilty of murder and an alternative count of manslaughter, but was remanded in custody on separate immigration matters.

Throughout the trial, Mr Hyatt’s barrister, Joanna Greenberg, has made a case for the defence by means of a sustained attack on Ms Teleford’s character. This victim-blaming has been a successful form of defence because – obviously – Ms Telesford was not available to give her side of the story to the court. Ms Greenberg said that, although Mr Hyatt was a “cheap and nasty thief”, Ms Telesford was “fit and well” when he left her flat.

She suggested that Ms Telesford may have died during a consensual sex game which went wrong, or even that she may have inflicted her fatal injuries herself: yet the Old Bailey heard that when paramedics found her body, the scarf was tied so tightly around her neck they could only get the tips of their fingers inside.

Further, Ms Greenberg posited that the alleged consensual sex that took place involved “kinky sex”. Even though “kinky sex” doesn’t seem to have been clearly defined – and even though the idea that Ms Telesford died from a sex act that went disastrously wrong was denied by Dr Kenneth Shorrock, who examined the body.

He told the jury: “There was nothing which suggests this was a sex act.

“There are usually sex toys, mirrors and pornography.

“This is just an ordinary rather cluttered room with a body.

[…]

“To put it simply, there was no evidence of kinky sex. If you take that out of the equation, you just have a strangled body.’

I wonder what the inclusion of the idea of “kinky sex” says about the attitudes of both the mass media and certain sections of wider society. As has been suggested elsewhere, this defence strategy could conceivably be applied to all similar cases, especially within the queer community. For example, the media depiction of lesbians inevitably seems to focus on sex aids and strap ons: the implication being that they are, somehow, indulging in “kinky sex”.

In other words, women who partake in a varied and experimental sex life are somehow threatening the established order and therefore inevitably leave themselves open to victim-blaming accusations, such as “What did she expect? She was asking for it wearing that miniskirt“, or as in this case, “If she hadn’t been indulging in ‘kinky sex’, she wouldn’t have died“. In my opinion, this mysogynistic mindset, which attempts to give credence to the idea that Othering is acceptable, is the reason that Mr Hyatt’s defence was successful – despite there being “no evidence of kinky sex”.

And, of course, this result distinguishes this trial for the murder of a black trans woman from many other similar trials, because it means that there was no need to use the more common trans panic defence.

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Comments From You

Debs // Posted 16 August 2008 at 9:50 am

Thanks for posting about Kellie on the F Word, Helen, where more people will see it.

This case is just so shocking, I haven’t really been able to say much about it – it’s just disgusting.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 16 August 2008 at 10:58 am

One of the reasons why Hyatt was acquitted because he like men who rape women all claim ‘she consented.’ Join up the dots and see male violence against women is systematic, excused and justified because all women supposedly ‘consent’ to men raping and committing sexual violence against them. Furthermore the mainstreaming of pornography has now normalised ‘male sexual violence because apparently all women are maschocists and all want to suffer male violence inflicted on them.’ These are the real issues and it is these misogynistic myths which must continue to be challenged. Women irrespective of whether or not they are lesbian continue to be subject to social control and subordination and therefore all women will continue to be subject to male-centered definitions of what supposedly passes the test of male sexual violence or not. This is the reality not women’s sexual orientation.

Shev // Posted 16 August 2008 at 12:32 pm

I am so upset by this. I can’t believe he has gone free.

It is so indicative of how the justice system (doesn’t) work. She was trans, she was assumed to have had sex , and she was a woman of colour. So, obviously, y’know, she had done it to herself. After having had kinky sex with a man, who robbed her and left her alive and well. And didn’t know she was trans, despite having had sex with her. Oh, and she draped the blanket over herself as well, because trans women are just like that – always trying to get poor naive straight men in trouble.

This is the most blatant and outright travesty of justice I have seen ina long time.

Does anyone want to get some people together, and we’ll march through London, demanding justice for trans rights? A woman has died, and a man has got away with it AGAIN, and this needs to be marked, and we need to not let this just slip into obscurity.

Squigglefish // Posted 16 August 2008 at 1:25 pm

Thank you for furthering the point that I raised. I think that this kind of argument, that kinky sex makes a victim deserving of the results, is extremely dangerous.

There is also another aspect that I hadn’t thought of at the time. The defense barrister argued that Kellie “had the strength of a man”, an argument which makes invisible the strength which women do have, both to defend themselves, and to commit crimes themselves. Victims of female batterers are real victims, and domestic abuse is still a taboo within the GLBTQ community which lines like that only serve to further shun those lesbian and bisexual women who have had to live through such things.

Helen G // Posted 16 August 2008 at 2:07 pm

JENNIFER DREW: Thank you for commenting. I’m a little puzzled by a couple of your points, though, and wondered if you’d be kind enough to clarify matters for me and other readers.

First, correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that Ms Telesford was raped by Mr Hyatt, and that he subsequently claimed that she consented. I myself don’t recall any such reference in any of the coverage of the trial that I have seen and I wonder if you’d mind providing details of the source of that information. Or have I simply misunderstood what you are saying?

Second, I’m not sure what bearing the murder of Ms Telesford has on the debate about pornography; would you mind clarifying your thought process in introducing a subject which, at first thought, appears to be of no obvious relevance to the death of Ms Telesford? In the report I saw in Croydon Today (link here), Dr Shorrock, who examined the body, was, I thought, quite clear. He’s quoted as saying “There was nothing which suggests this was a sex act. There are usually sex toys, mirrors and pornography. This is just an ordinary rather cluttered room with a body”.

Third, and I realise this is also moving off-topic in the context of the subject matter of my post – the trial of Mr Hyatt for the murder of Ms Telesford – but I hope you will indulge my digression in this instance. I’m not entirely clear about the meaning of your assertion that “the mainstreaming of pornography has now normalised ‘male sexual violence because apparently all women are maschocists [sic] and all want to suffer male violence inflicted on them'”. Presumably you believe that male sexual violence existed before the mainstreaming of pornography to which you refer? Also, in passing, I notice that you appear to be using quote marks there – please can you provide the title of the work and the name of the author whose work you’re quoting?

Last query: I’m not sure I’ve read anything about Ms Telesford’s sexual orientation in this case and it would help my understanding if you would kindly explain where you found the information, and how you think it’s relevant to her strangulation. The point I was trying to make was that the defence barrister’s use of victim-blaming (stating that Ms Telesford “indulged in kinky sex” and that it “went disastrously wrong” [via]) could apply just as easily to lesbians – or gay men, for that matter – as it could to Ms Telesford, who I, perhaps mistakenly, assumed was not a lesbian.

In closing, to me what is extremely odd about the case is how, although it is accepted that Ms Telesford died of strangulation, no murder charge has been been proved. Are we meant, do you suppose, to believe she strangled herself with the scarf?

Helen G // Posted 16 August 2008 at 2:10 pm

Shev: I’d like to make a slight correction, if you’ll forgive my pedantry – following his acquittal of the charge of murder, and an alternative count of manslaughter, “Mr Hyatt was remanded in custody on separate immigration matters” (Via).

But I agree with you that it is hard to see how the outcome offers any kind of comfort, let alone justice, for the bereaved family of Ms Teleford. I can only hope that the CPS will launch an appeal and that a more meaningful verdict can thereby be reached in the very near future.

Jess // Posted 16 August 2008 at 2:21 pm

It’s really an outrage that the solicitor seems to have been able to imply that this was somehow a consensual sex scenario, regardless of the evidence at hand.

It is also just really confusing to me – why, if the defense was that Hyatt wasn’t responsible, and when he left her flat she was safe and well, was it necessary to bring in any speculation about “kinky sex”? Why was it necessary to make any speculation on what happened after he left, or to argue that she wasn’t subsequently murdered?

It just seems totally irrelevant to me, and I can’t see any valid point in bringing it up, other than to try and negatively influence the jury’s attitudes about Kellie Telesford, about her worth as an individual and, as you say, effectively blame her for what happened to her.

Equally, if he didn’t do it, I think it leaves open the possibility that it was an attack carried out by someone else, and the possibility remains open that it was a hate crime motivated by transphobia.

Jacob // Posted 16 August 2008 at 5:47 pm

I don’t get it, are they saying that soon after he left, she immediately had sex with someone else who then strangled her and killed her? How tenuous is that? If he just stole all her stuff then surely she’d be phoning the police or trying to get it back, not doing someone else or strangling herself to death for fun. It’s such an incredibly unlikely thing to happen that it’d have to be a counter-logical theory and therefore entirely fabricated by the defense.

Like you say, surely none of the sex stuff matters at all anyway.

If they’re saying that the sex with HIM was violent but consensual and ended up with her dying, even if one were to take the fantastical defense to the extreme ie, he accidentally killed her while strangling her, which she enjoyed until she died: Surely the huge amount of neglect required to carry on strangling someone when they’re unconscious would be enough to bang him up?

You can go to jail for driving fast and killing someone, for simply neglecting to realise to react to the impact of your actions. Everyone knows there’s a risk crossing the road. Even if every word he spoke was the truth, he hardly shows the shock of someone who’s just been involved in a tragic accident, no phoning an ambulance, just stealing all her stuff.

It strikes me that her trans status isn’t mentioned in your article and isn’t mentioned in my reply, somewhat proving that it really isn’t relevant (unless previous commenters have been mixed up, I’m guessing she WAS trans)

It’s all damn crazy. I’m up for a march.

Helen G // Posted 16 August 2008 at 6:10 pm

Hello Jacob: The last paragraph of my post confirms that Ms Telesford was a trans woman of colour. It’s my guess – and it is only a guess – that she was the victim of transphobic violence, but, given the outcome of the trial, this can only be speculation on my part.

sam // Posted 17 August 2008 at 5:19 pm

Helen G, I am not Jennifer Drew but I know a few things about the pornography you’re defending. So does Dr. Kenneth Shorrock.

When Dr. Shorrock said, “There was nothing which suggests this was a sex act. There are usually sex toys, mirrors and pornography. This is just an ordinary rather cluttered room with a body”, the part of his statement you have glossed over is his experience of examining scenes where sex is involved with a death and usually finding pornography. The use of mirrors is a common preoccupation among porn users who have trained themselves to primarily experience sex visually while marginalizing input from the other four senses, one of many learned responses by people who spend more time making sex with media product than with human beings.

One of those other responses to pornography use is what Jennifer Drew said, “male violence against women is systematic, excused and justified because all women supposedly ‘consent’ to men raping and committing sexual violence against them”, but you must have misread her because your response was about the eternal nature of male violence and not her point, which was that pornography tells society that women want to be raped because they get off on it. I don’t believe you can support the argument that the dominant theme of non-pornographic media has been that all women secretly crave to be raped, but perhaps you believe it was a common, society-wide expectation for women to get off on painful, humiliating, life-threatening sex acts before the mainstreaming of modern pornography.

I question our Western culture that has gone directly from “women don’t like sex” to “women like being raped” in one generation, and the answer those questions come up with is “pornography”.

Helen G // Posted 17 August 2008 at 9:31 pm

Hello sam, thank you for stopping by. However, and please forgive my puzzlement, but I’m not entirely clear about the point you wish to make. My post is about the recent case regarding the death of the trans woman of colour, Kellie Telesford, and the court’s acquittal of Shanniel Hyatt on the charge of her murder. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood the court’s thinking, but my reading of the outcome is that we are to accept that Kellie Telesford, whilst on her own, strangled herself.

Please remember that I am not a legal expert, so this is pure speculation on my part: my concern about the outcome of the case, based on my limited observation of similar cases, is that this was not self-strangulation but another incident where a trans woman of colour seems to have been the victim of transphobic violence.

So I wondered if you’d mind clarifying a few things for me, to help me comprehend it a little better, because your comment seems to suggest that you have more knowledge of the court proceedings than I.

You say: “I am not Jennifer Drew…”

This strikes me as a rather unusual way to open your comment. So I wonder, please can you tell me why you feel it necessary to tell us that you are not a previous commenter? It’s not something which would have occurred to me ordinarily – but now that you’ve piqued my curiosity, I wonder is there some connection between the two of you that has some bearing on this? I’ve looked at your website and, although I notice you mention receiving an email from her on another matter, there’s nothing there that would, at first glance, make me think that you’re JENNIFER DREW, posting under a pseudonym.

You say: “I know a few things about the pornography you’re defending”.

This immediately raises two questions in my mind:

First, may I ask your credentials? I couldn’t see listed any professional or academic qualifications relating to pornography on your website, but perhaps I was looking in the wrong place. (As before, your statement has simply aroused my interest).

Second, why do you say I am defending pornography? I do not know how you can say that and would like to know your reasoning. I am deeply concerned that you feel it is acceptable to make unsubstantiated remarks about me. You do not know what my views are on the subject so please refrain from making assumptions like that.

My concern about JENNIFER DREW’s comment was that she used it to introduce the subject of pornography to a topic that, to my mind, does not even contain a single element of pornography. The recorded evidence of the forensic scientist, Dr Shorrock, appears to validate my concern. To recap, Dr Shorrock was quoted as telling the court: “There was nothing which suggests this was a sex act. There are usually sex toys, mirrors and pornography. This is just an ordinary rather cluttered room with a body”. I hope you can understand my issue with JENNIFER DREW’s comment; it seems to me that she was attempting to recentre the discussion from the question of how Kellie Telesford might – without sex toys, mirrors and pornography, and while entirely alone – have been able to strangle herself; to turn it instead into a debate about pornography. Whilst I might agree that pornography is a valid subject for discussion in a feminist blog, I do not feel that this particular post is the appropriate place for it.

You say: “…the part of [Dr Shorrock’s] statement you have glossed over is his experience of examining scenes where sex is involved with a death and usually finding pornography”.

I refute your assertion that I have “glossed over” anything. The only published record I have found of Dr Shorrock’s was on the Croydon Today website on 8 August. I provided a direct link to it in my original post above, but for the sake of clarity, here is the link again. From it, we can see that Dr Shorrock told the jury: “There was nothing which suggests this was a sex act. There are usually sex toys, mirrors and pornography. This is just an ordinary rather cluttered room with a body. If I exclude from my mind that this person was a transsexual, the issue does not appear. To put it simply, there was no evidence of kinky sex. If you take that out of the equation, you just have a strangled body”.

That is the extent of the only quote of Dr Shorrock’s that I have found. I strongly disagree that I have “glossed over […] his experience of examining scenes where sex is involved with a death and usually finding pornography” as I have no further information on his experience. I wonder, would you mind providing details of whatever factual source it is that permits you to make that statement? Otherwise, I would ask you to withdraw it as it is inaccurate.

You say: “The use of mirrors is a common preoccupation among porn users who have trained themselves to primarily experience sex visually while marginalizing input from the other four senses, one of many learned responses by people who spend more time making sex with media product than with human beings”.

This may or may not be true and I am willing to defer to your superior knowledge; however, until or unless you provide the source of your statement above, I can accept it only as your opinion and not as an absolute fact, which is how you seem to be presenting it. Equally, in the absence of any further detail from you of Dr Shorrock’s evidence to the court, he remains on the official record as saying only, “There was nothing which suggests this was a sex act. There are usually sex toys, mirrors and pornography. This is just an ordinary rather cluttered room with a body. If I exclude from my mind that this person was a transsexual, the issue does not appear. To put it simply, there was no evidence of kinky sex. If you take that out of the equation, you just have a strangled body”.

I’d be interested to know why you’re so certain that pornography and mirrors were factors in Kellie Telesford’s death, when no evidence from the court case has been published to confirm that?

But perhaps I am missing something blindingly obvious which a further explanation from you would make clear to me and help me understand your point. I therefore await with interest your further response and additional sourced information.

Sunny H // Posted 17 August 2008 at 9:32 pm

This isn’t directly related to this post, but the term ‘woman of colour’ always makes me uncomfortable.

The woman is black, or of african-caribbean origin, but it in this case her race is irrelevant to the story (though I may have missed out the reference). So I’m uncomfortable with the idea her race needs to be highlighted for no reason, and its quite obvious from the pic anyway.

Secondly, ‘woman of colour’ is a misnomer because it assumes white women don’t have colour. White women also have colour. They also have an ethnicity and culture (zohra has written more about this elsewhere). Its an obvious point to make, but this sort of language feeds into the view (in some leftwing circles, not F Word per se) that ethnic minorities should be fetishised because they have colour or culture.

It also sometimes feeds into the view that ‘people of colour’ think the same or can be generalised about. I just think its an old general term which should be ditched. If you wouldn’t use ‘white woman’ for a white woman who was murdered, why use ‘woman of colour’ in this case?

Just wanted to make a point that had been troubling me for a bit.

Squigglefish // Posted 17 August 2008 at 9:41 pm

Sam,

If you look at the historical portrayal and societal role of women, the “likes to be raped” aspect is not new, and has gone hand-in-hand with “don’t like sex”. There could be cause for this being new in the hundred years sense, but certainly not in terms of a generation. The very choice of words tie the two concepts together quite clearly.

Matters of pornography and sex work are very complex, and are all to often taken by everyone as being either black or white, when in reality they are grey, and generalisations don’t help anyone.

More importantly, aside from a relationship between it and the treatment of women, it isn’t really entirely relevant to the tragedy depicted here. If people want to discuss it, other blog posts might be better suited for the discussion, rather than derailing a story that needs to be told.

Steph Jones // Posted 17 August 2008 at 9:46 pm

The whole thing is just utterly shocking. I’ve been appalled by some of the things that Ms Greenwood has been reported to have used in the defence.

Helen G // Posted 17 August 2008 at 10:51 pm

Sunny H: Thank you for taking the time to comment; your views on the appropriate term have given me much food for thought, and I am considering returning to the subject elsewhere.

As regards the inclusion of the information about Kellie Telesford in my post, I have done this for what I believe is a good reason.

Although the verdict of the court was that Shanniel Hyatt was not guilty of murder, as I mentioned in my earlier response to Sam, it is my guess that Kellie Telesford is more likely to have been subject to a transphobic murder arising from what is often called “trans panic“, which is generally explained as happening when the cissexual (non-trans) man discovers that the trans woman has a genital configuration of which he does not approve; he believes he has been “deceived” or “duped” and that therefore the trans woman deserves to die a violent death.

As a white trans woman living and working not far from the area of London where Kellie Telesford died, I hope that the CPS will appeal the decision, and that the possibility this was indeed a hate crime will be addressed by the authorities.

With regards to your original point, I would refer to the case of Angie Zapata, whose death seems to have certain similarities. Brownfemipower discusses the relevance of the fact that Angie Zapata was a Latina in this recent post, and I believe that her point is equally valid here.

She says:

‘So why is it just a given that “it”–that the dehumanization of Zapata–is not necessarily intertwined with and dependent upon her identity as a Latina? That is, would the panic defense be so easy to get away with if Angie wasn’t Latina? Would she be so easy to turn into “it” if we U.S. citizens weren’t already perfectly aware that Latin@s are people who could “trick” us if we aren’t careful? Even more to the point, would it have been so easy to kill Angie Zapata if she weren’t a Latina living in a country that actively criminalizes and dehumanizes people who look, sound, and have names similar to Angie’s?’

Kath // Posted 17 August 2008 at 11:03 pm

Helen G, I don’t really understand the defensive nature of your replies to Jennifer Drew and Sam. In your post you make the point that an accusation that the victim was involved in ‘kinky sex’ was used to discredit her. You say that such an accusation is a form of victim blaming, as in “If she hadn’t been indulging in ‘kinky sex’, she wouldn’t have died”. You are right. Jennifer Drew made an additional point that because of the mainstreaming of pornography women are commonly perceived as being willing victims of male sexual violence. I don’t see why that point shouldn’t be raised here.

I don’t know why Sam started her post with “I am not Jennifer Drew” but I am assuming it is because she wanted to address points you had made to Jennifer whilst pointing out that she is not speaking for Jennifer. You are right to point out inaccuracies in people’s comments or ask for clarification but I found the tone of both your replies quite aggressive and somewhat unusual for The F Word.

Sunny // Posted 18 August 2008 at 1:18 am

Hi Helen, I agree when you say:

As a white trans woman living and working not far from the area of London where Kellie Telesford died, I hope that the CPS will appeal the decision, and that the possibility this was indeed a hate crime will be addressed by the authorities.

But then this is more to do with her transsexual identity than being black, isn’t it?

I don’t deny that in certain cases a person’s immigrant status is used to dehumanise them. I don’t think it applies here though – and there’s many black people in the UK who aren’t immigrants. I just think labels should be used in context.

That aside, ‘people of colour’ still bothers me for the reason I mentioned above. Just my view on the phrase.

Helen G // Posted 18 August 2008 at 8:29 am

Kath, thank you for commenting.

You say: “Jennifer Drew made an additional point that because of the mainstreaming of pornography women are commonly perceived as being willing victims of male sexual violence. I don’t see why that point shouldn’t be raised here.”

I’m afraid I don’t agree that that point should be raised in this thread. My reading of the court’s verdict is that no man was present when Kellie Telesford died, consequently I simply don’t see how the case can be made that she was a victim of male sexual violence, willing or otherwise, due to the mainstreaming of pornography.

As I have also said, I believe that the debate about pornography as it affects us as women (trans or non-trans) and feminists, is indeed a valid and useful discussion to have; I just don’t think that this is the appropriate place, given the acquittal of Shanniel Hyatt of the murder of Kellie Telesford, together with the inference that she took her own life and the very pertinent fact that no pornography seems to have been found at the scene.

You say: “[…] I found the tone of both your replies quite aggressive […]”

I apologise if my tone caused you offence; that was not my intention.

But citing the subject of pornography as the cause of Kellie Telesford’s death seems to me to be ignoring other, more pertinent questions (such as how she was apparently physically able to strangle herself; at what point in the process did she cover herself with the blanket; the lack of a suicide note, and so on).

And I admit that I do find it frustrating to witness attempts to refocus this discussion on to a subject which, try as I might, I cannot perceive as having any bearing on what I’m increasingly beginning to think may possibly be a failure of the justice system.

This case has hit home quite hard with me and it may be that my frustration at the verdict has intensified my emotional reaction which, in turn, manifests itself in what you perceive as a defensive tone.

I therefore unreservedly offer my apologies to you, Sam and Jennifer Drew for any unwitting offence my tone may have caused.

Helen G // Posted 18 August 2008 at 9:41 am

Hello Sunny; thank you for your further comment.

First, I feel I should re-confirm that it is only my personal opinion that Kellie Telesford died in a transphobic attack. Although the official verdict of the case does not suggest this, nevertheless I find the court’s conclusions, implied or stated, difficult to accept.

In the light of my opinion, it seems to me that there are various elements at work here, and her being black is a part of that. I believe that these elements intersect in many ways and the combination creates something which is bigger than the sum of its parts.

For example, as a woman, Kellie Telesford is likely to have experienced the same oppression, discrimination and prejudice as other women. As a trans woman, she is likely to have experienced cissexism, trans-misogyny and transphobia too. And as a black woman, it is likely that she would also have experienced racism. In addition, it is quite possible that she would also have been on the receiving end of various other privileges from which she did not benefit – for example, classism.

Be that as it may, history shows us that by far the largest number of trans women who are murdered, are trans women of colour – black and Latina – and I believe that race plays into this, particularly when it is linked to the multiple other intersectionalities likely to have been experienced by this black trans woman.

Finally, I take your point about the phrase ‘people of colour’, and am trying (with admittedly little success in this comment) to wean myself off using it. If it’s okay with you, I would like to make a separate post on the subject – based on your comments here – where the various opinions about it may be explored in more depth. If you are not comfortable with this suggestion, please do let me know; my workload anyway dictates that I am unlikely to make such a post today.

Jess // Posted 18 August 2008 at 11:27 am

I think the problem is that we can’t know why she was killed. We don’t have enough information to speculate; all we know is that a woman is dead, no-one has been convicted of killing her, and there is no discernable motive. We also know that as a black, trans woman living in the world, the possibility remains open that the attack was yet another everyday incidence of violence against women, was racist or transphobic, or that some combination of all (or concievably, none) of these factors contributed to her death.

LauraR // Posted 18 August 2008 at 1:25 pm

When I first found this website, I was overjoyed to find a UK-based feminist site. I therefore fail to understand why so many of its contributors bang the drum about prejudices other than misogyny/sexism so much of the time. Are there not other sites on the internet which cater for the other prejudices out there?

If we are to believe that Kellie was murdered (and, having just read a few details of the case, I for one believe that she was), she was not murdered because she was a woman but, it would seem, because she WASN’T. It really is not misogyny at play here, but – and this is conjecture – the rage of a teenage boy who realises that he has been ‘duped’ into taking part in a sex act with a person who calls themselves a woman, looks like a woman, but has male genitalia.

I would also assert that the jury would not have considered the victim to be a woman, but a man (Joe Public – and I realise I generalise, but I think it is a fair generalisation – tends to associate male genitalia with being male). If my assertion is correct, then it is not for misogynistic reasons that the defendant was found not guilty.

Misogyny is rife – on a feminist website let’s fight that cause, eh?

Fran // Posted 18 August 2008 at 2:49 pm

LauraR: the point is that other forms of prejudice — racism or transphobia, for example — may intersect with sexism to create a new form of oppression, rather than acting independently of it. Black women, for example, may have unique experiences that can’t be attributed to racism and sexism alone, but to the interaction of the two — making race very much a feminist issue.

In the case of many “trans panic” murders, the victim was not necessarily killed JUST for being trans, but because the killer felt he had a right to access female genitalia (I feel the same mindset is behind many rapes) — which turned out not to be there. This is why people are mentioning the intersectionality of sexism and transphobia.

Also, without making any judgements about what “real” feminists think, I’d point out that many feminists aren’t simply content with tackling overt sexism, but are also interested in confronting patriarchal gender norms. In which case the plight of trans people, who don’t display the gender patriarchal society thinks they should, is certainly a valid topic for discussion on a feminist website.

Legible Susan // Posted 18 August 2008 at 3:01 pm

LauraR,

(i) Intersectionality, the way in which multiple oppressions play off and exacerbate one another, is a crucial part of the way Those White Guys Who Run Everything keep the rest of us down. Also, half of most other oppressed groups are women.

(ii) “because she WASN’T” you’re wrong there. If she was living as a woman, a woman is what she was. “Woman” is not just someone who has two X chromosomes; like many things in life, it’s more complicated than that.

(iii) The “rage of a teenage boy” you refer to is what Helen described as the trans panic defence. It’s related to a form of (intersectional) prejudice called trans-misogyny, which Helen has written about on this site, and you can probably find more about on the Questioning Transphobia site – Helen gives you a link up there that you could start from.

Helen G // Posted 18 August 2008 at 3:13 pm

LauraR:

What Fran and Legible Susan said.

You may also wish to consider reading Julia Serano’s book, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

Sabre // Posted 18 August 2008 at 3:34 pm

LauraR:

Feminism doesn’t live in a bubble, free from mixing with other prejudices. To think that would be to assume that the experiences of all women are the same – they’re not. Women of different races have different experiences of sexism. Homophobia and transphobia are feminist issues because those hatreds are usually based on a strict concept of what male and female behaviour should be, which is in itself rooted in patriarchy and misogyny.

To talk about feminism while ignoring other intersectioning prejudices would be to deny many women their experiences and opinions while allowing a very un-diverse group of women to not acknowledge their privilege over those of different races, (trans)genders, sexualities, classes or abilities. Feminism can only really make a difference if it’s inclusive and respectful of the fact that oppression of women comes in many guises (as Fran pointed out).

Yes there are other websites that deal with these other prejudices but separating them out weakens feminism overall and would make this website niche, elitist and therefore not relevant to all women. What’s the point of that?

Kellie Telesford was a woman, Y chromosome or no, she was one of us.

Sunny // Posted 18 August 2008 at 4:09 pm

Hi Helen – of course, go ahead!

naath // Posted 18 August 2008 at 5:21 pm

I don’t have all the information about this case – and from what you say it does definately sound like he was guilty. However, consider if it was true…

he goes to her house, they engage in consensual sex; as part of that they engage in some erotic asphyxiation, using the handy scarf. She unfortunately dies, as a result of negligence or intoxication on his part (rather than malicious intent, which is the other hypothesis of course) .

What happens next…

He panics. Absolutely panics. This looks bad, no worse than that. Plus of course grief at the death of someone he was with (we assume not actually seriously involved with, but did know) is going to cloud his judgement. The police record on SM cases is atrocious, one can be arrested for consensual SM even if no-one sustained any serious injury.

He covers her up – a mark of respect for the dead. And scarpers, because he has panicked. Because if he called the police what could he possibly say to avoid being done for murder?

And yeah, he steals her stuff… this, this doesn’t fit my theory. This is why I think it’s more likely that this was not a consensual sex game gone wrong.

Kinky toys are expensive, many people with some kinky interests will avoid the expense by using common household items, such as scarves, rather than buying purpose made items (which also can look bad if the police show up). Kinky sex does not need mirrors (mirrors can be kinky, but they aren’t required) nor does it need porn. If these items had been part of a hypothetical scene then he could have stolen and disposed of them as easily as he stole her Oyster.

I’m not at all convinced by his defence from reading about this case- but I think dismissing it as entirely implausible is fairly silly.

Anna // Posted 18 August 2008 at 7:09 pm

She chokes and falls unconscious – so he doesn’t call an ambulance? Doesn’t wash with me..

Helen G // Posted 18 August 2008 at 7:18 pm

Hello Anna – The court was told by the defence barrister that Kellie Telesford was “fit and well” when Shanniel Hyatt left her flat.

LauraR // Posted 18 August 2008 at 7:27 pm

I have not thus far commented much on this site (compared to some others here!) but it is interesting that on each occasion I have, certain people seem to think I need educating and they then proceed to attempt to educate me, presumably because they disagree with my point of view.

I am well aware of the theory of intersectionality. I have – all my life – personally experienced other prejudices in addition to the fact that I am a woman. BUT what gets my back up the most is the unrelenting, pervasive misogyny I and other women face on a daily basis – and it affects 50% of the population, a huge proportion by anyone’s standards. I just expected that the articles on this site would all, in some way, reflect this fact, instead of fighting other causes (worthy as they may be). I am also dismayed to note the aggressive, bullying manner in which certain contributors choose to make their points – it is not in the spirit of sisterhood as I understand it.

If anyone can point me in the direction of other UK-based feminist websites which I can visit in addition to this one, I’d be grateful.

Helen G // Posted 18 August 2008 at 7:51 pm

LauraR said: If anyone can point me in the direction of other UK-based feminist websites which I can visit in addition to this one, I’d be grateful.

There is a link in the sidebar to the Carnival of Feminists website which may provide you with a useful starting point.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 18 August 2008 at 8:40 pm

LauraR

we can all do with being educated on other people’s experiences. if one person feels that there is a link between one thing and another to do with discrimination then thats worth discussing. i think trans issues, and racial issues as well as sexual abuse and/or domestic-type-violence are issues that a lot of people would see links with. their opinions are just as valid.

Lisa Harney // Posted 19 August 2008 at 4:29 am

Trans women have no common cause with cis women? Trans women don’t experience misogyny? A cause’s worthiness is determined by how many people fit into said cause?

This isn’t in the spirit of sisterhood as I understand it.

Laban Tall // Posted 19 August 2008 at 9:08 am

While I don’t share the politics, sexual or otherwise, of most of the commenters, I was very surprised at the verdict (and blogged it).

The evidence was that Hyatt had left the flat with Ms Telesford’s DVD player and Freeview box. Unlike a mobile and Oyster card, which he also stole, these are difficult things to slip into a pocket unobserved. If, as Hyatt testified, he left her alive and well, why didn’t she notice these thefts ?

CCTV evidence showed him with “a big bag” presumably containing the stolen goods.

I wondered about the jury – if they weren’t sympathetic to Ms Telesford’s lifestyle. Although it has to be said that the DNA evidence on the scarf was inconclusive.

Fran // Posted 19 August 2008 at 9:45 am

LauraR – I’m not sure what happened other times you commented, but in this case, you asked a question (why contributors here talk about prejudices other than misogyny) and we answered.

If you feel my response was bullying or aggressive, I apologise, that is not what I intended.

Helen G // Posted 19 August 2008 at 12:29 pm

Sunny: Looks like you were quicker off the mark than me!

I have amended two references within the post and hope that it is less problematic now.

I apologise for using language which made you uncomfortable.

Kath // Posted 19 August 2008 at 2:32 pm

Hi Helen, thanks for replying to my comment. I do think there is a relationship between pornography and sexual violence against women in general, although no doubt it is a complex one. I’m sure it will be discussed elsewhere on this blog and others. Kath

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