By Guy Page
The stabbing death Tuesday in Morristown of Zachary Barbeau, 29, of Hinesburg, also known as Fern Feather, has become embroiled in transgender politics and legislative policy.
After police reported that 43-year-old transient Seth Brunell had been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, a Facebook page affiliated with the trans community blasted media, political candidates and legislators for the “exterminationist narrative” applied to transgendered people and called for personal and community defense of threatened transgendered individuals.
The statement comes as Vermont progressives and a handful of Democrats are under fire for proposing legislation that would allow children of any age to receive puberty blockers and gender-changing drugs without parental consent. As published in Vermont Daily Chronicle yesterday, these drugs can result in permanent sterilization and infertility. Reps. Selene Colburn (P-Burlington) and Taylor Small (D/P – Winooski), both sponsors of H659, appeared angry and upset when asked to speak to Vermont Daily Chronicle yesterday, and refused to comment.
Gov. Phil Scott also published a statement proclaiming the state’s support for transgender Vermonters.
From the Vermont State Police yesterday:
An autopsy was conducted Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington on Fern Feather, 29, of Hinesburg, who was known to family as Zachary Barbeau. The autopsy determined the cause of death was a stab wound to the chest, and the manner of death was homicide.
The Vermont State Police has arrested a suspect on a charge of second-degree murder arising from the death Tuesday morning of a person in Morristown.
Seth Brunell, 43, who is transient, was ordered jailed without bail pending arraignment scheduled for Wednesday in the Criminal Division of Vermont Superior Court in Hyde Park.
Investigators determined that Brunell met Barbeau several days ago, and the two had been spending time together. The Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department encountered the two in a vehicle at about 8:05 a.m. Tuesday, April 12 in the parking lot of the Lamoille North Supervisory Union.
Deputies checked on Barbeau and Brunell and waited for them to leave the parking lot. Sometime before 10:15 a.m., Barbeau and Brunell arrived in a vehicle on Duhamel Road near the intersection of Cadys Falls Road. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Brunell told police he was defending himself after Barbeau made a sexual advance and attacked him. Investigators observed no injuries or evidence of a struggle or an assault on Brunell.
From the public People’s Pride Burlington Facebook page:
“Community, it is with grief, fear, and rage that we have to bring you news of the transphobic murder of a transfeminine Vermont resident.
“Fern Feather, universally adored by everyone who knew her, was taken from us Tuesday morning by a transphobic man who had recently wormed his way into her life and gained her trust.
“Local news outlets have begun coverage, predictably deadnaming and misgendering her, as well as universally avoiding the phrase “Hate Crime”. We urge you to submit corrections wherever relevant, especially if you’re an ally. Links to offending articles will be posted in the comments of this post (and we urge you to add any that you find).
“Her suspected killer, Seth Brunell, has attempted to exploit the age-old transmisogynistic spectre of sexual aggressiveness to wriggle out of taking responsibility for his brutal actions. The evidence does not support his claims, but it doesn’t have to: His claims fit the narrative creeping across our state, our nation, and our world, and as such will be a suitable excuse in the eyes of many.
“In a local and national political climate characterized by the sexual demonization of the LGBT+ population, and especially of the transgender population, this justification will become increasingly common. Even here in Burlington, the supposed progressive capital of Vermont, we have perennial political candidates framing us as a threat to children and (cis) women, calling legislators “groomers” for defending the rights of transgender youths. We have men roaming the streets, armed and distributing vile propaganda. How long until one of them, or one of their associates, crosses the line between rhetorical and physical violence? How long will they be allowed to escalate before they are stopped?
“We are, as a population, under attack. We need in-the-moment personal defense, we need proactive community defense, and we need help combatting the exterminationist narrative being pushed against us. If you consider yourself an ally, an accomplice, or otherwise in community with us? It’s time to bring your A-game.”
This statement was received from Gov. Phil Scott, yesterday:
“Across the country, we have seen disturbing hostility towards the transgender community. Unfortunately, recent events show we are not immune to this in Vermont, and we must commit to continuing our work to make Vermont a more inclusive and welcoming place. Exploiting fear and targeting divisive rhetoric at people who are just trying to be who they are is hateful and can lead to violence.
“I ask Vermonters to do their part to ensure everyone feels safe in our state and to engage in these conversations from a place of empathy and understanding. Legitimate policy debates can and should be had and should be fact-based and respectful. Sadly, data shows transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence and die by suicide so it’s important to realize ‘how’ we discuss these issues matters.
“To Vermonters in the LGBTQA+ community, I want you to know we stand with you and support you but know we have more work to do.”
H659 is in the House Committee on Health Care. It did not meet the crossover deadline to be eligible for passage in this biennium. However, House leaders could employ several parliamentary procedures to move the bill, if they choose.