Authorities in Washington State believe that a series of murders of prostitutes in 1990 were committed by Washington resident Douglas Perry. Now Perry has been captured and charged with the murders, but Douglas has become “Donna,” a transgender woman who claims that she is not responsible for the murders because Douglas no longer exists.
Donna’s novel defense is that as a male she was prone to violence so she had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand a few years ago in order to purge herself of those violent tendencies. Further, since she is now a woman, she is a wholly different person and therefore she isn’t responsible for what her former male self did.
Donna was arrested for the murders in 2012 after being apprehended on an unrelated weapons charge. Police found that her fingerprints matched what had become a cold case in the murders of the three prostitutes decades ago.
If Donna’s defense were to be accepted by the courts, it could lead to unintended consequences for the transgender community as their former selves could possibly be universally considered mentally ill. This is a diagnosis that people with alternate lifestyles have been working hard to defeat for decades.
LGBT spokespeople warn against accepting Perry’s claims at face value.
“It’s wrong to generalize from this person’s life–it’s not typical of the transgender experience,” New York City psychiatrist Dr. Jack Drescher told ABC News.
In interviews, Perry told police that Douglas never stopped killing, but “Donna stopped it.”
Donna further told authorities that she would not confess to murder because she didn’t do it. Donna also claimed not to know if Douglas killed the prostitutes in 1993. “I don’t know if Doug did or not, it was 20 years ago and I have no idea whether he did or did not,” she said.
Police cite testimony from Donna’s cellmate who said that the transgendered woman made all sorts of admissions in prison, even once saying she was a “sociopath.”
Donna’s central defense, the claim that becoming a woman helped stem her violent tendencies, is disputed by Jack Halberstam, a transgender professor of American and gender studies at University of Southern California.
Halberstam called the defense a “very sketchy and a desperate defense ploy.”
“Even if we as a person are less aggressive once we resolved a gender disorder, it does not absolve the responsibility of killing three women,” the professor said. “As a legal defense, putting away the science, it’s absolute nonsense.”