When Allen Andrade was found guilty for the murder of Angie Zapata, his conviction became significant to hate crime legislation because “Colorado was the first state to pass a hate crime statute in 1998…but Angie’s murder was the first time the murder of a transgender person was prosecuted as a hate crime in the U.S.”
“Photos of Angie” is a documentary directed by Alan Domínguez. It follows the life and death of Angie Zapata, a young trans woman who was found by her sisters, beaten to death in July 2008 in Greely, Colorado. This documentary stands out as it tackles multiple issues like media representations of trans folks through media coverage of the trial, family struggles, unity, and hate crime legislation.
As the story of Angie unfolds, we learn about her life and tragic death. We get to know Angie, a loving sister and daughter who lived her life fearlessly. We also see the way her killer’s defense team blames the victim by claiming that Angie was deceitful because she did not reveal her trans identity to Allen Andrade (her killer). It’s this “lie” that supposedly prompted Andrade to react in a violent manner and ultimately beat Angie and leave her to die. The media also reinforces a transphobic narrative by displaying scandalous headlines that incorrectly refer to Angie as “him” or inhumanely refer to her as “it.” The documentary shows how GLAAD intervened and took an active role in teaching the media and community about trans issues.
The film raises a lot of questions. The successful prosecution of Angie’s death as a hate crime may have seemed like a celebratory moment, due to the precedent the hate crime legislation in Colorado would have on future cases. I ask: was this really a moment to celebrate? While the legislation places protection on marginalized individuals, it simultaneously subjugates more people of color in to the prison industrial complex.
According to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition:
- In Colorado Latin@s account for 17.1% of the population, but represent 19.4% of people in state prison.
- African-Americans make up 3.8% of the population, but represent 19.4% of people in State Prison.
- Anglos are 74.5% of that state’s population but only 46% of the prison population
Additionally, hate crime legislation do not place real protections on anyone, since we first have to experience violence before the courts can do anything. The solution, therefore, does not lie with the criminal justice system. The solution lies at home, calling out our family and friends when they make homophobic, racist, transphobic, sexist, etc. remarks.
I am by no means advocating that people should not be held accountable for their actions, especially when these lead to violence against our community. I am, however, suggesting is that we seek alternative solutions and envision and practice a place where anyone can be free to be who they are!
¡Para Angie! Rest In Power!
“Photos of Angie” is now playing at the Reeling International Film Festival at the Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark Street, on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 pm.