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Nicole Garcia
Nicole Garcia

From Fear to Hope

I lived in fear most of my life.  I feared that someone would discover the man I appeared to be was only a façade.  After I came out as a transgender woman, I lived with the fear that someone would lash out at me because of their fear and ignorance.  Over the last six years, I have transitioned into a strong, confident, transgender Latina.

Angie Zapata was also a strong confident transgender Latina and at eighteen years old, she was brutally murdered at the hands of Allen Andrade.  Her family was devastated.  They knew and loved Angie as a fearless transgender woman.  They turned their loss into hope by courageously speaking out for Angie and all transgender people.

I believe that their bravery, and the bravery of all those who are speaking out, helped citizens of the State of Colorado to have the courage to stand up and say that violence against any person because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a hate crime. 

Andrade was the first person in Colorado to be convicted of a hate crime murder of a transgender person.  The jury in Greeley Colorado finally said the “trans-panic” strategy, used so successfully in other cases of violence against the transgender community, is no longer valid.  Andrade faces life in prison, without the possibility of parole.

All of us must step up and speak out.  This week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act known as the Matthew Shepard Act by a vote of 15-12.  The entire House of Representatives may vote on it in the next few days. We must speak out.

On April 28, 2009, as the transgender representative to the board of directors of Lutherans Concerned/North America, I will climb the steps of the Capital in Washington DC.  I will be accompanied by members of the transgender community who will be attending the Transgender Religious Leaders Summit.  We will talk to members of Congress, asking them to remember Angie’s death.  We will ask Congress to recognize the fact that our lives matter.  Violence against a person, because of their gender identity, is wrong.  Congress must declare hate and the ensuing violence will not be tolerated.  We, the members of the transgender religious community, will not let Angie Zapata’s death be in vain. 

I don’t live in fear anymore.  I live with hope.  I live to educate and help people realize that we are all human beings with feelings, family and faith.  We all matter.  I pray that Angie’s family finds some peace and consolation in the guilty verdict.   I pray for Allen Andrade.  His life will now be a series of prison cells for years to come.  I hope he finds peace as well.     

Finally, I pray for you.  I pray that you and every person who reads this commentary will contact their congress persons to urge them to vote for hate crimes legislation.  Pick up the phone, write a letter—fax it and send a copy.  Your voice makes all the difference.  Turn fear into hope.

Nicole Garcia
Louisville, Colorado
Transgender Representative
Lutherans Concerned/North America

Nicole Garcia began her transition, male to female, in 2004.  She was able to complete her transition while employed as a law enforcement officer in Colorado.  She was welcomed and became a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in downtown Denver.  During the past four years, she has become active with Lutherans Concerned/North America, an organization which is working for the full inclusion of the LGBT community in the Lutheran Church.  She was elected to the Board of Directors of LC/NA as the Transgender Representative in July 2008.


 

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