Saturday, 5 June 2010

There is, actually, some good news

I spend a lot of time on this blog bemoaning the generally sorry state of affairs in this fucked-up, kyriarchically-dominated world. But today, a good thing happened. Today, a piece of barely-human scum who thought he could murder a woman and get away with it because nobody cared about that woman was sent to prison for twenty-two years.

Of course, it's not enough time, and with time off for good behaviour, Neil McMillan could be out in eleven years. Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the bastard can rot until the end of fucking time. But read the summing up from Michael Lawson QC. That guy is in no doubt about what kind of scum McMillan was:

'What you did that night brought to an end a life which in many views was one of relentless difficulty faced with extreme courage.

The person you killed was a person who always sought to overcome difficulties.

On the other hand, faced with a difficulty in that flat, whatever that was, you chose to take it out on her.

There was the distinction between you and her.'

Note two things here, and note them well. One: Michael Lawson QC refers to Andrea as 'her'. No pronoun confusion from him. But also note that he underlines, in no uncertain terms, what a weak, pathetic, cowardly piece of shit Neil McMillan was. McMillan killed a trans woman, one who worked in the sex industry, too, and thought he could get away with it because, hey, who cares about women on the margins of society? McMillan killed Andrea Waddell and smirked to himself as he left her apartment because he figured the police wouldn't devote a lot of effort to investigating the death of a murdered trans woman sex worker. But, fortunately for us and sadly for Neil McMillan and his evil little excuse for a heart, Brighton police cared enough to carry out a thorough investigation of the case, leaving little doubt that McMillan was the man responsible; the jury cared enough to find him guilty; and the judge cared enough to heavy into him verbally and ram home how vile his act was.

Of course, none of this corrects the fundamental injustice of this situation, which is that a talented, intelligent and courageous woman like Andrea should never have been in a position where someone like McMillan could kill her in the first place. But the conviction of Neil McMillan sends a message: in the eyes of the law, trans lives are every bit as important as cis ones. In the eyes of the law, when it works properly - as, I admit, it rarely does, and I can't help wondering what sort of prejudices might have been in play if Andrea hadn't been middle-class, well-educated, and caucasian - in the eyes of the law when it works as it should, everyone matters.

As we enter a period under the sway of a government which, in many peoples' eyes, does not believe all people are equal, a judgement like this is a shot in the arm and an encouragement to hope that, one day, if we all stand up to the kind of prejudices which lead someone like Neil McMillan to think they can get away with murder, the world might really be a fine place, and worth fighting for. Until that day we can at best hope, like Morgan Freeman in Se7en, that the latter part is true; but it's days like this that bring us closer.

(Days like this, and people like Helen at Bird of Paradox, who has dilligently followed and reported on each twist and turn of this story. If you want to acquaint yourself with the full facts in the case of Andrea Waddell, and a lot more besides, you could do worse than visit her blog.)

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