The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to the Gay/Trans Panic Defense.

We live in the land of the free and in a country with laws that protect queer people from being discriminated against in the workplace, housing, and service industry. But did you know that you can still get away from unscathed if you kill a queer person in our country and use the gay panic defense? Yes, there is a homophobic law in our system, which has been banned in certain states, and it is still instated in others where you can go free after committing a hate crime. This law is famously known as the gay and trans panic defense and is where you can kill a queer person and plead that you felt attacked or surprised by their sexuality or gender identity. So, if your conservative relative tells you it is more dangerous to be straight nowadays, ask them to take several seats and educate them on the treatment of queer bodies through American history. So, without further ado, let’s get into what exactly the gay/trans panic defense is.

What is the gay panic defense?


It is a legal strategy that is used to urge a jury to ask the jury to consider that the victim’s sexuality and gender orientation might have played an essential role in the crime. In other words, the victim’s sexuality and gender identity are used as a defense and are blamed for the defendant’s action, which is usually first-degree murder. It means that the victim’s non-normative gender expression and sexuality not only explain, excuse but even validate the perpetrators’ loss of self-control. The subsequent assaults should be nullified because of this.

matthew shepard

The Matthew Shepard case is one of the most popular and mediatized cases where the assaulters and murderers used the gay panic defense. Matthew Shepard was a young college student tied to a fence and beaten to death by two men, and his murderers claimed the gay panic defense in court to defend and excuse their action. As sad as this is to say, the gay/ trans defense panic defense is still used today. However, their defense was unsuccessful, and the state of Wyoming stated that “irresistible impulse” was not a valid reason to torture and murder somebody. This court believed that the gay panic defense was inadmissible for the case of Shepard’s murder.

States where the Gay/queer/LGBTQ+ defense panic has been banned and when:

    • California- 2014
    • Colorado- 2020
    • District of Columbia- 2020
    • Hawai’i- 2019
    • Illinois- 2017
    • Maine- 2019
    • Maryland- 2021
    • Nevada-2019
    • New Jersey-2020
    • New York- 2019
    • Oregon- 2021
    • Rhode Island-2018
    • Connecticut- 2019
    • Vermont- 2021
    • Virginia- 2021
    • Washington- 2020


If you are counting like me, only 16 out of the 50 states have banned the use of the gay defense panic, while 10 other states like Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, and Nebraska have introduced legislation to ban this archaic law, but they haven’t been passed yet. This means that 24 other states believe that killing someone on the basis of their sexuality is completely acceptable, and this is really abject; we live in 2021, and laws should evolve alongside us.

What can you do on the matter?


If you are outraged by this backward and homophobic/transphobic law, then write to your local government body and Federal representatives and urge them to ban this heinous defense strategy. Use your voice, if you are an inference, educate your audience on the matter, if you are a writer like me, write on the matter and if you just come across this article hared it with your loved ones, Make your voice be heard. To quote Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay man to have been elected into a high profile public office:

“All men [people] are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.”

Love is love
















Finally, donate and help your local queer organization; we need to uplift the voice of our people because we have been silenced for too long and have been erased for the majority of history. We are not just our sexuality, and though it does shape how we view and move in the space we inhabit, it is not permission to kill us. We are as human as any other cis or straight person and we deserve the same respect as them.

Sound off in the comments section below and tell us if you want to read more about queer laws or issues in the US or around the world.

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