Activists love to trumpet milestones whenever someone from a special interest group has a milestone achievement. But they won’t be trumpeting this one.
That’s not JUST because someone from a favored class did something embarrassing to the movement. There is no shortage of examples where someone self-describing as non-binary or trans makes the news when the prison they are assigned to becomes controversial.
This story is different.
Yes, it involves the ‘first’ of being sentenced to death by lethal injection. Amber (formerly ‘Scott’) McLaughlin was executed by the state of Missouri on Tuesday due to Scott being convicted in 2006 for stalking and murdering his ex-girlfriend in 2003, before dumping her body.
The Missouri Governor, Mike Parson made the following statement:
“McLaughlin’s conviction and sentence remains after multiple, thorough examinations of Missouri law. McLaughlin stalked, raped, and murdered Ms. Guenther. McLaughlin is a violent criminal,” Parson said in a statement confirming the execution would go ahead.
“Ms. Guenther’s family and loved ones deserve peace. The State of Missouri will carry out McLaughlin’s sentence according to the Court’s order and deliver justice.” Newsweek
The fact that the inmate was arrested and convicted under the name ‘Scott’ is actually part of what complicates this story.
It was only after Scott had been in prison that the transition to the name ‘Amber’ happened. More specifically, it has been reported that this transition began roughly three years ago.
In the appeal for clemency, the defense attorneys appealed for mercy on account of the difficult life Scott had lived.
Reference was made, as one might expect, to a difficult childhood. But the defense also wanted to bring mental health issues into play in the appeal for clemency. This included physical & sexual abuse, brain damage, and multiple suicide attempts. Judges denied the request.
But it has still become a part of the larger conversation. That puts two kinds of activists at odds with each other.
Activists who oppose the death penalty at all times, in every instance will want to emphasize this aspect of McLaughlin’s story, because it would serve to frame the state as being cold and unsympathetic. (We note that such activists have precious little to say about the people murdered by death row inmates, and their families.)
But the invoking of mental illness in such a high-profile case where someone had only recently transitioned away from gender norms creates a difficulty for trans activists.
There are already conversations about the recent rapid spike of people undergoing gender transition. In particular, there is a high correlation between this population and — in some instances — disorders such as autism, and in other instances one or more categories of mental illness.
It is an as-yet unresolved question whether there is any relationship between these observed instances of mental illness and gender-nonconforming ideation.
Furthermore, if a connection does exist, there is the proverbial chicken-and-the-egg question about that relationship.
For anyone wanting to establish such ideation as normal and legitimate, a story like McLaughlin’s brings up some uncomfortable questions.
As for any last words of the condemned, words were shared with an undefined ‘spiritual advisor’ before a brief written statement was made public:
“I am sorry for what I did,” McLaughlin said in a final, written, statement. “I am a loving and caring person.” –Newsweek
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