I’m very aware that my transition here in DC isn’t indicative of every trans woman’s experience and although it hasn’t been completely void of turbulence, for the most part I’ve had it much easier than many of my trans sisters. I can’t speak to unemployment or homelessness and in general things have gone pretty smooth with the exception of a few road bumps along the way.
Last summer, in my not so blissful ignorance I remember saying something along the lines of —I think a lot of the trans girls that are attacked it’s because they’re looking for trouble—. Essentially I did what many people do; I blamed the victim. Because as a trans woman I had never been attacked, I said to myself “surely these girls must have been cat calling a guy or trying to lure some foolishly oblivious dude from the club, they must be doing something”.
This is something you often hear. As I used to do, when there’s an attack on a trans woman many people ask “what did she do?”; the consensus is: we must have been doing something. This way of thinking is not isolated to just trans women, but is a systemic issue within our society that our cis-gender counterparts experience as well. Whether it be a rape victim or a victim of domestic violence, society tends to re-victimize the person that suffered the attack by blaming the victim, we saw this in many social media outlets in the wake of the Chris Brown & Rihanna scandal. As a society we need to come together and stand in one accord with the message that this kind of double victimization is not acceptable.
Laverne said once “passing is about survival” that statement is so true on so many different levels. Part of the reason why community leaders like Andy Bowen have been fighting relentlessly for trans-inclusive health insurance that covers hormones, gender confirmation surgery, and facial feminization surgery is because one’s ability to pass is inextricably linked with one’s quality of life, whether that be being able to find employment, housing, or a partner and, most importantly, not being a target for violence every time you walk out your front door.
Although I’m not the most “fish” t-girl out there, for the most part I am easily able to go around town and do my errands with no one looking twice at me. But of course I too have had my share of insults thrown my way, mostly earlier on in my transition. One night, before I started dating my boyfriend, a guy I was seeing invited me to hang out at his house. What would transpire later that night is something I have yet to tell anyone except to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Everything began very cool. For the purpose of this post I’ll refer to the guy I was seeing as “Ace”. Ace and I were hanging on the couch, and later Ace’s older brother joined us. Although Ace had never brought a trans girl home, his brother was cognizant that Ace fancied trans women because of a few adult sites left on Ace’s browser. As we all sat in the living room, Ace’s brother kept looking at me; I could tell by his stares that he was policing my femininity, trying to profile me. I could also tell that he was plastered. As he continued his stares Ace whispered in my ear “don’t worry about him, he’s just drunk”.
That is until he just came out with it… “is this a chick or a n*gga!” he spouted out in disgust. Almost instantly Ace got up to defend me and said “you need to sit down & shut up, you’re drunk!”. As I sat paralyzed with fear pulsating through my veins all I remember hearing was “answer my f*ck’n question!” “I don’t owe you an explanation!” “Tell me what IT is!” “lets go outside, I’m not going to have you disrespecting her like that”. I sat motionless, in my state of disbelief, I decided to gather my things and try to get out; but how? I couldn’t leave, they were right outside the front door! Ace was blocking the door, stuck between protecting the girl he was getting to know and trying not to beat up his brother.
As his brother grew more and more irate I found myself locked in Ace’s room dialing 9-1-1 —“9-1-1 what’s your emergency?”— As I recounted what had just happened I couldn’t help but think to myself “I didn’t do ANYTHING”. Luckily I had Ace there who was more than willing to physically fight his own flesh and blood just to defend me.
That night I vowed to myself to never put myself in a situation like that again; but how? Was I supposed to not date? Was I supposed to not watch a movie at a guy’s house if he has roommates? What if he lives alone, would that be any safer? Should I invite them to my apartment? That couldn’t possibly be any safer either. The thing that perplexed me the most was the fact that I was simply sitting on the couch with a guy I was getting to know watching TV; my presence alone was enough to provoke an attack.
That night will forever be engrained in my memory. It was the night that I looked straight into the eyes of transphobia. I don’t think “phobia” is even the right word, he wasn’t scared of me, just the opposite, I was scared of him, instead I came face to face with pure, undiluted, hatred. As I rode home I began to think about the paralyzing fear that engulfed every pore of my being, and I began to sob uncontrollably. I started to think of all of my sisters who came face to face with hatred and weren’t as lucky as I was to have someone there defending them and were met with their mortality.
Deoni Jones, murdered during a hate crime Feb. ’12
Sitting in my cushy apartment, in my nice little Northwest DC neighborhood, I had become so disconnected from the plight and pain that my sisters all too often experience on a daily basis that I just couldn’t comprehend why someone would just want to attack a girl for just being who she is. And what disappoints me the most is that I shouldn’t have had to endure what I went through to feel for my sisters, why did it take me going through that to feel compassion for them?
Laverne’s statements about passing being about survival are very true. But we as a community need to be in agreement that you shouldn’t have to be passible to be able to live your life without harassment. Not all trans women can or want to look like Janet Mock or Amiyah Scott. If you transitioned later on in life, and you’re 6’4” you’re going to be a 6’4” woman, and if you have the shoulders of a linebacker hormones won’t change that, and that’s ok; because that is who you are! Like I said in my very first entry to FBTG “we are trans women and there is beauty in that”. So the issue shouldn’t be “well, they called her a tranny because they clocked her” the issue should be with the a**hole that called her a tranny. Regardless of what you look like, everyone is deserving of respect and living their life without fear of violence and persecutions.
Last week our fierce sister Cece McDonald was released from prison after serving 19 months in a men’s facility for pleading “guilty” to a plea bargain after defending herself during a racial and transphobic attack that left her with eleven stiches across her face and her aggressor lifeless.
Cece’s story is inspiring because we rarely hear about a trans woman surviving a hate crime and the resilience and strength that she showed in the aftermath even in the face of a skewed judicial process. Is something many people could draw strength from. However, let me be clear I’m not praising what happened but in a society where everyone is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty you should be able to claim your case and have it fairly heard. We will never be able to re-trail Cece’s case but there should have never been a case to begin with. What happened to Cece and to so many other girls like her should have never happened. Cece should have never been in a position where she had to choose between her own life and that of her aggressor.
Laverne is right, passing in a “transphobic” society is about survival, but we shouldn’t forget that that doesn’t make it ok. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in. The way a person—any person—looks like should not determine their ability to survive & thrive. If you are not “passable” you are NOT “asking for it”; no matter what you look like, you are NEVER “asking for it”. Transitioning to a more tolerant, inclusive, respectful and just society is a much harder, slow and painful transition, but maybe we should start focusing on that.