Perpetrator of a Hate Crime Against Trans Woman Found Guilty

Supermajority Education Fund

February 12, 2020

Fred Constanza, an Idaho man who beat Lauren Jackson, a transgender woman, last summer after she used a woman’s restroom, was found guilty of a hate crime in an Oregon court and sentenced to over five years in prison.

Last August, Constanza saw Lauren Jackson use the woman’s restroom at Agate State Beach Park, walked over 100 yards across the park to yell “something about [Jackson] being a woman,” and then hit her ten times before fleeing the scene, according to CNN. Jackson was left with a broken jaw that later required surgery.

Only a couple months before this attack, Oregon’s legislature changed the state’s hate crime laws to include transgender people as a protected class. Constanza was convicted of second-degree assault, harassment, and first-degree bias crime. 

Research has found Jackson’s experience is hardly an isolated case. A 2013 survey found that 70 percent of transgender responders said they were denied entrance, harassed, or assaulted when trying to use a public bathroom corresponding with their gender. Researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed 2017 data from more than 3,600 trans and nonbinary youth in grades seven through 12 and found that risk for sexual violence increased when restroom and locker room access was restricted for trans people. 

Several states have introduced, and in some cases passed, legislation meant to stop trans people from using the bathrooms in which they’d be safest. Legislators have frequently defended these bills by claiming trans people pose a risk to cis people. Research has not only shown that there isn’t evidence to support that claim, but that the opposite is more often true. In 2019, at least 26 transgender people were fatally shot or killed — the same count as the previous year. At least one trans man, Dustin Parker, was found shot to death in Oklahoma on New Year’s Day. 

Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, director of the Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project at the National LGBTQ Task Force, told Supermajority News that while useful, hate crimes legislation still has limitations in protecting trans folks. On the state level, she said, this legislation enhances the penalty against a perpetrator rather than prevent the violence. Federal hate crimes legislation, on the other hand, can usefully “prosecute cases where state and local police just don’t want to do anything about it. It is a tool to hold people accountable when local justice won’t,” she said.

However, Rodriguez-Roldan added, it’s important that we look at all of the reasons trans people suffer from violence, whether they were targeted for being transgender or not. Trans people can be “victims from domestic violence, victims of regular violence against sex workers, and so on, but because of the various circumstances in their lives that made them the victims of systems of oppression, they were more vulnerable to being killed even if the technical motive of the murder wasn’t there being trans. They were more vulnerable to it, which is systematic marginalization of trans people.”