Rally for murder victim

January Lapuz - Facebook
January Lapuz
— image credit: Facebook

A rally to support a transgendered activist killed in New Westminster in September, and to bring awareness of lack of rights for that sector of society, will be held in the city Saturday.

January Marie Lapuz, 26, was found in her home in the 500 block of Third Avenue at around 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 suffering from stab wounds. She died several hours later in hospital.

Transtastic Coalition for Equality is organizing a rally for this Saturday that will start at 4 p.m. at New Westminster city hall and then proceed to the nearby provincial courthouse. Organizer Leada Stray said the murder highlights a growing concern for the safety of those in the LGBTQT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit) community and puts a harsh light on the growing divide between it and society at large. Stray pointed out that since transgendered isn’t specifically mentioned in the charter of rights, there is no protection for them if they are victims of a crime committed because of their orientation.

“It seems to have skipped over the transgendered part of the LGBTTQI rainbow,” said Stray.

She pointed out the initial police release did not identify the gender of the person who had been killed, and in the second release first identified her as John Carlo Embo Lapuz, even though Lapuz had legally changed her name in 2008.

“Right from the get go her name and her gender wasn’t respected from the police,” said Stray. “She was identified by the wrong name, and the people who knew her were wondering who the hell John Carlo was.”

“The biggest thing it brought up for me, is it brought up fear. I’ve had my name legally changed, are my friends going to know I had been killed because they don’t know me by any other name. It smacks of a lack of education, or willingness to use the education they’ve been given on the part of the police services … It was the biggest insult you could possibly imagine.”

Stray has found subsequent police releases have used appropriate terminology. What Stray couldn’t find was an apology.

“It’s wonderful they were willing to learn and build on their mistakes, but perhaps they might have wanted to address, for the lack of a better word, the mistake of a lifetime,” said Stray.

In 2009, Lapuz became the first transgendered person on the executive of Sher Vancouver which supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered South Asians. Stray was also upset by many of the comments left on various websites about Lapuz being involved in sex-trade work. Many in the transgendered community, she said, are involved in the profession because of the exorbitant surgery costs not covered by health care.

“If someone is forced into doing [sex trade work] to become something that they are inside, that to me is a glaring problem,” said Stray.

Charles Jameson (Jamie) Neel, 20, was arrested by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Unit on Dec. 5 and charged with Lapuz’s murder. Transtastic is also opposing Neel, or anyone accused of killing a transgendered person, being granted bail until the trial process has been completed.

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