Year of Graduation


Document Type



Gender & Women’s Studies

Directing Professor

Professor Courtney Chenette, Esq.


As of April 2022, sixteen U.S. states ban Gay panic and Trans panic criminal defenses. These state-law prohibitions stemmed from several high-profile murder trials, focusing on the identity of the decedent, including the killings of Matthew Shepard and Latisha King. Between 1970 and 2020, criminal defenses interrogating the gender identity or sexual identity of victims of violence were used at least 104 times, with nearly a third of those cases resulting in reduced criminal charges and penalties. Today, in thirty-four states, the same tactics remain legal. Applying a feminist and outsider legal lens, this study engages in a textual analysis of state legislative ban language and trial orders to explore how identity is defined and conflated in existing state bans and their legal consequences, to frame an argument for novel, comprehensive federal legislation. This study critically challenges ubiquitous conflations of sex and gender in codified state bans, which miss subtly implied Gay panic or Trans panic defenses in practice. Through this examination, the paper remedies these gaps in legislative recommendations for both amending existing state bans to more effectively preclude the usage of the defense, as well as looking at possible language that could be used in creating an effective federal ban.