05/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tragically, Transgender Identifiers Have a New Martyr

The Civil Rights Movement in America has, unfortunately, never been short of martyrs.

Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Dr. King, Vincent Jen Chin, Matthew Shepard... Just a sampling of those who, in dying, helped push America toward greater social acceptance of "others."

Add to the list 18 year old Angie Zapata. A transgender individual, Zapata was born male but identified as female. On July 17th of 2008 Zapata was brutally killed by Allen Andrade in a particularly grisly murder. The pair became acquainted on the internet and arranged a sexual encounter. After discovering that Zapata was born male, Andrade "lay in wait" for her, beat her with his first his fists, then a fire extinguisher. When Zapata seemed to revive from the assault, Andrade beat her again with the extinguisher until Zapata was dead.

Andrade was charged under hate crime laws, and on April 22nd a Colorado jury needed only two hours to find Andrade guilty of first-degree murder. Andrade is believed to be one of the first individuals ever convicted of killing a transgender individual under a hate crimes law. Andrade was quickly sentenced to life in prison.

While the loss of life is tragic, the fact that with due process a trial was held and a conviction obtained speaks to how greatly America is altering its nature with regard to acceptance. This is exemplified by the belated but welcome rush of same-sex marriage laws across America.

There's much work still to be done. With regard to transgender rights, expect considerable consternation over the many "bathroom bills" in play across the nation. But there's reason to hope that Angie Zapata may be Civil Rights' last martyr.

For more perspective, please visit That Minority