Trigger Warning for transmisogyny and discussions of violence against women
In September, Kristina Muça was brutally murdered in Tirana, Albania. Her neck was slit, allegedly by a man she had only just met. The alleged motives for the crime were, according to prosecutors and to defendant Sefedin Hoxha’s now recanted confession, transphobic hatred towards the victim.
I’ve learned of this story through reader Kim Burton, who translated the local media reports into English and forwarded them to me, among others. She has verified the translations with a colleague and friend. All links in this post are to google documents of Kim’s translations, with the links to the original articles at the bottom of each. Please note that she has translated them faithfully, including the extremely disrespectful and ungendering language that so regularly accompanies reports on violence against trans people, and use caution when clicking through. The reports generally refer to Kristina as a “man,” “homosexual” or “transvestite,” complete with use of an incorrect name, though her boyfriend has strongly indicated that Kirstina identified as a woman, and prosecutors seem to be referring to her correctly. In the sections I have copied into the post, I have redacted Kristina’s male name, changed the pronouns, and altered or deleted some other disrespectful language when not used in direct quotes or noted otherwise by me. The original documents, however, are unchanged.
In Hoxha’s initial confession, he used the trans panic defense. Police initially, though differently, also attempted to construe Kristina’s murder as her own fault, and the result of an act of self-defense by Hoxha:
“I took him for a woman, but it turned out to be a man and in the heat of the moment I killed him and I don’t know what I did”, claimed Sefedin Hoxha, arrested two days ago for the murder of [male name redacted], known by the name Kristina.
The police, on the contrary, suspect that the victim and the perpetrator might have clashed following a possible attempted theft. Sources say that so far the strongest suspicion is that [Kristina] wanted to rob her client but, they say, the opposite cannot be ruled out.
Kristina is alleged to have been a sex worker, with Hoxha as a client who was unaware of her trans status, and who murdered her in the “panic” of discovering it. Whether or not Kristina was actually a sex worker, I do not know — I do, however, imagine that regardless of whether or not it is true, prejudice against sex workers is being employed to rally sympathy for Hoxha. Phobia of sex workers only works to compound the trans panic defense — the bigoted and bullshit argument that of course no cis man would want to engage in a sex act with a trans woman, and of course a woman not explaining her trans status is therefore lying, and of course trans women regularly fail to inform potentially violent sex partners of their trans statuses, and of course any heterosexual cis man in those circumstances would react violently — as both trans people and sex workers are regularly portrayed as “deceptive” and out to prey on poor men. Then, police dismiss the admission by Hoxha, and introduce new prejudice against Kristina by portraying her as a thief who initiated the violence.
Some news outlets have also jumped at the opportunity to portray alleged murderer Hoxha as the victim of a deceitful trans woman (please note: original, triggering language retained in this quote to convey the full effect of the apologism):
According to [Hoxha], he had been drinking on the night of the crime and was in a state of intoxication. On the street he came across the transvestite, who offered him sex in return for 500 lek. Being drunk, he agreed and went to a dark place to have sex. At that point the transvestite turned round and prepared for the act. The vagabond from Kosovo turned round right at the point when the transvestite was half undressed and he realized that it was a man. Safedin Hoxha was leaning in a corner and surprised and disappointed, he asked for his money back so that he could leave, but the transvestite said that they could carry on, that there was no problem, and approached the Kosovar. The latter, unable to cope with the situation that had come about, drew a knife from his pocket and stabbed him in the throat.
Hoxha’s drinking has been emphasized here, seemingly to reduce his culpability rather than increase it. In this account, he only paid a sex worker because he was intoxicated, and thus being taken advantage of. In this account, Kristina is also not portrayed as a woman, or even as human — in addition to being referred to as a man, she is also called “it” but as “really” a man.* And, in this account, Hoxha responded calmly to the “surprise” and only upon further deceit and manipulation did he react violently, due to being “unable to cope.”
In other words, male violence against women is stated over and over again to be not the man’s fault, not the man’s fault, not the man’s fault. As always, it’s seen as the victim’s fault for being a woman, for being transgender, for (allegedly) being a sex worker, and for therefore being perceived as not fully human.
And speaking of which, police have apparently used Kristina’s murder as an excuse to persecute trans people and sex workers in the area — with, again, the media portraying cis people and non-sex workers as the real victims:
After the shocking killing of Kristina, the police of the capital city have decided to impose “order”, checking the entire area which is known as a haunt for drug users, prostitutes or transvestites.
The area behind the Palace of Culture is known as a place where transvestites and prostitutes congregate, causing serious disturbances for all the inhabitants of the area or for passers-by. In the case of the latter, because there have been no small number of attacks by the criminal gangs, bent on theft. As seen in the photograph above, the police are taking no action to send the lawbreakers to the cells, but think it enough to move them on from the deserted buildings in the centre of the capital, opposite the General Administration of Prisons. The entire “tragicomic” scene unrolls before the eyes of dozens of curious onlookers and the DPB (General Administration of Prisons) security guards, entirely powerless just like their colleagues, to detain the many drug users, transvestites and prostitutes who have found refuge in the deserted buildings. Their freedom of movement has become a major concern for the people living in the area, while anyone might find themselves endangered if for their own reasons their journey takes them to the “heart” of the capital.
The area where Kristina was killed is frequented by sexual deviants as well as prostitutes. Police employees have been “patrolling” and inspecting this area for years, but not only do they fail to arrest lawbreakers, they often become the victims of their insults and beatings.
So a trans woman is murdered, and general, cis dominated society not only takes this as a cue to heap abuse on the trans community, portraying them as criminals and “sexual deviants,” but the government uses it as an opportunity to enact more violence against trans people, too. A highly typical story, but a no less disturbing one.
Hoxha has recanted his confession and pleaded not guilty. There is no further news, and the case is presumably working its way through the courts. Kristina has also been buried by her friends.
Everything above is incredibly distressing. And there is no larger message that I have found, other than a reminder of how hostile, dangerous and violent our cissupremacist world is to trans people, trans women in particular. But Kristina deserves to be remembered, and to have what small part of her story we know told. With the Transgender Day of Remembrance being commemorated this Friday, now also seems like a particularly apt moment. May she rest in peace.
*ETA: Kim has emailed me to clarify that she believes her translation was off, and the phrase “he realized that it was a man” should actually be something closer to “and there emerged a man.” Still, of course, extremely offensive and ungendering, but not in the way I had originally understood.