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Transgender assault victim barred from entering court as Magistrate dismisses case

Petronella (in blue) stands at the door of Magistrate Bess’s court before the door was closed.

City Magistrate Dylon Bess, this morning, dismissed a physical assault case where transgender woman, Ronnel Trotman known as Petronella, was the victim.

Bess, before handing down his decision, asked the public to leave the courtroom. Just as the assault victim, Petronella, was entering the court, she was barred by the court’s officers. The decision was read in her absence.

Petronella was informed of the Magistrate’s decision by the defendant, Jamal Johnson, who exited the court and informed the victim of the ruling made in her absence.

Petronella told the press corps after the ruling she was upset by the decision since she was not allowed inside the court.

An attempt to obtain Bess’s decision from police prosecutor Tracy May-Gittens was unsuccessful. The prosecutor told Demerara Waves Online News to check with the court’s clerk. The clerk informed Demwaves he was not paying attention to the decision, since he was completing court documents.

This is the second time Bess has barred the public from entering the court when Petronella’s case came up, although the matter was neither a sexual offense, domestic violence, nor a juvenile matter.

Bess’s first decision to bar the public from his court while Petronella’s matter was heard on Monday was called unconstitutional by attorney Arif Bulkan.

Bulkan was the lead attorney on a recent appeal case at the Court of Appeal, which sought further clarification on a ruling made by then-acting Chief Justice Ian Change in 2013 that cross-dressing was legal unless done for an “improper purpose.” It was unclear what “improper purpose” meant.

The appeal, headed by transgender women associated with two major LGBT rights groups in Guyana, was dismissed by the Appeal Court. As part of the decision read on Monday by then-Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh, then-acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Brassington Reynolds, the court found that it could not interpret what constitutes an “improper purpose” since Parliament had not defined it.

Bulkan had said Monday that the decision of the Court of Appeal regarding what constitutes an “improper purpose,” allows for case-by-case interpretation from magistrates.

In January, Bess reportedly barred Petronella from accessing his court because she presented herself dressed in female attire. Bess reportedly told the transgender woman he only knows about two genders, which are male and female.

SASOD and Guyana Trans United (GTU) had wrote to Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh concerning the actions of Bess who, on multiple occasions, barred transgender women, denying recognition of their gender identity in his court.

A formal complaint had also been issued in March last year when Bess refused to hear matters for three transgender women, all in the same month. A protest action was held outside the court then by the Guyana Trans United, an organisation representing transgender women.

  • Gtloyal

    Like the magistrate, I only recognize two sexes: male and female. However, unlike the magistrate, I do not think he has the right to tell anyone how to dress just as long as the person is not indecently exhibiting parts of his/her anatomy. I do not think that being properly clad means that one should be dressed as the whims of his culture determines. Would he be willing to try convincing the Scotsmen that a kilt is not a skirt for men? Or convince the true Amerindian that when wearing a loincloth one is not properly dressed?
    If what is reported here is correct, this magistrate is biased, guilty of discriminatory acts and ignorant to the realities of today’s world.
    I certainly don’t feel that crossdressing is itself a problem in need of a solution, or an illness that needs to be cured. The entire problem seems to be a lack of acceptance. The only cure, therefore, is acceptance.
    Problems arise when a person applies his or her morals to another.
    Cross dressing has nothing to do with a person’s behavior, mind you.

    • Col123

      Agree GT…..but “Cross dressing has nothing to do with a person’s behavior, mind you.”……what do you mean…I am serious..not kidding around as I would normally do..

      • Gtloyal

        I was just alluding to the way many who cross dress in Guyana would behave on the streets.

        • Col123

          Thanks…OK… with your expanation…but it was subjective…in a way…

          • Gtloyal

            Subjective? Raised your interest? We can’t help you here.
            Being on the opposing side of the aisle, you should know who are being influenced by personal feelings and tastes.

          • Col123

            That’s funny GT…we may have more in common opposite that demarcation line of FAITH..mine allowing me to extend creatively beyond that line…yours?..I don’t know!…I know that we are on the same page on this issue, as you said it well in “unlike the magistrate…I do not think”…

          • Gtloyal

            Coming from you, I can accept that “unlike the magistrate…I do not think”…
            Maybe that’s what you refer to when you say “… we may have more in common opposite that demarcation line of FAITH …”

          • Col123

            I think it is stimulation to the neurons in most cases…it is healthy for older folks like me…

  • Gtloyal

    If the Constitution upholds this nonsense then something is really wrong somewhere. And I would say that that somewhere is the Guyanese mentality.

  • RP

    In any decent democracy, the magistrate would have been sacked. Uncle sam will take his visa away watch and see.

    • Col123

      not with trumpie…those religious folks grab at female genitals also …so they voted for him…

  • Col123

    Without any doubt…this magistrate is totally biased and discriminatory…period!…What I find troubling about religious folks is they have the right to their own beliefs…but they have no respect for others…We have witnessed religious folks voting for those who would grab at female genitals, their wife posing nude providing photo pleasures to teenage boys with raging hormones…Guyana needs to move forward with its human rights!