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Why this man pleaded innocent after killing a transgender woman is frustrating.

In 49 states, people can argue that a homicide is justified because they found out the victim is LGBT. It's time to end that.

Why this man pleaded innocent after killing a transgender woman is frustrating.

Imagine that a 21-year-old woman is beaten by a complete stranger as she's walking home.

Imagine that she dies days later in the hospital.

Imagine that the man who attacked her admits he was the one who did it.


And now imagine that, when asked how he pleads, the man answers, "Not guilty."

This is not a hypothetical story.

This is the story of how Islan Nettles died and how her attacker tried to use one of the most vile defenses imaginable to get away with it.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

When James Dixon was questioned by police after attacking Nettles, he admitted he did so because she was transgender.

To hear him describe it, he was justified in beating her.

"I don't go around gay-bashing people," he told police. "I don't care about what they do. I just don't wanna be fooled. My pride is at stake."

After being "tricked by a [sic] transgender" a week earlier, Dixon said the encounter with Nettles sent him into a "blind rage."

And so, initially, he pleaded not guilty.

It's called the "trans panic" defense, and it has been used with varying degrees of success to excuse the murder, battery, and assault of trans people.

Essentially, what "trans panic" means is that someone claims that the act of learning someone else's gender identity sent them into an uncontrolled state where they can not be held fully responsible for their actions.

It's been successful in helping people get lesser charges for violent crimes. For example, in the 2002 beating death of Gwen Araujo, two of her attackers got off with light sentences. In 2014, U.S. Marine Joseph Pemberton choked trans woman Jennifer Laude to death, and in court, he used the trans panic defense and was able to get murder charges downgraded to homicide.

Photo by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images.

While Dixon eventually opted for an agreement in which he would plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a shortened sentence, the Nettles case has the issue of "trans panic" defense back in the news.


Just four days before Dixon killed Nettles, the American Bar Association came out very publicly against "gay panic" and "trans panic" defenses.

In a resolution, the American Bar Association offered guidance to governments looking to ensure fairness in trial and sentencing of people who commit violent crimes against LGBT individuals.

"The American Bar Association urges federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction."

Specifically, the ABA recommended that governments require courts to instruct juries not to let bias on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity affect their judgement and for these states to specify in law that "neither a non-violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person's sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter."

So far, one state has followed the ABA's recommendations: California. Had New York done the same, it's possible Dixon would have been tried for murder instead of manslaughter.

In September 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2501 into law, which states being provoked into a violent act is "not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim's actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation."

In other words, in California, you can't kill someone because they're gay or trans and then use that fact as an excuse for your actions. Simple enough, right?

California Governor Jerry Brown. Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images.

No one should be killed for who they are or who they love, and while there's nothing that will bring back people like Islan Nettles lost to anti-LGBT violence, the least we can do is not allow it to be excused.

Now is as good a time as any for more state, local, and federal governments to take up legislation to ban use of the "trans panic" defense. Let people clearly know that no, this will not be excused.

Mourners hold a vigil for Jennifer Laude. Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images.

Public Domain

A very simple thing happened earlier this week. Dr. Seuss Enterprises—the company that runs the Dr. Seuss estate and holds the legal rights to his works—announced it will no longer publish six Dr. Seuss children's books because they contain depictions of people that are "hurtful and wrong" (their words). The titles that will no longer be published are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat's Quizzer.

This simple action prompted a great deal of debate, along with a great deal of disinformation, as people reacted to the story. (Or in many cases, just the headline. It's a thing.)

My article about the announcement (which contains examples of the problematic content that prompted the announcement) led to nearly 3,000 comments on Upworthy's Facebook page. Since many similar comments were made repeatedly, I wanted to address the most common sentiments and questions:

How do we learn from history if we keep erasing it?

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

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When an earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 most people who lived in the area fled. Some left without their pets, who then had to fend for themselves in a radioactive nuclear zone.

Sakae Kato stayed behind to rescue the cats abandoned by his neighbors and has spent the last decade taking care of them. He has converted his home, which is in a contaminated quarantine area, to a shelter for 41 cats, whom he refers to as "kids." He has buried 23 other cats in his garden over the past 10 years.

The government has asked the 57-year-old to evacuate the area many times, but he says he figured he was going to die anyway. "And if I had to die, I decided that I would like to die with these guys," he said.

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