Saturday, April 23, 2011

Throwing my hat in the ring on:

I've been following the latest story making the rounds about the trans woman who was severely beaten by two cis teenage girls at McDonald's.. 

I really ought to stay out of the commentary on this one.  For me the wounds are still raw when it comes to this particular form of violence.  I already regret my comments on one blog.. tho they may not even be approved.

But I didn't want to lose the conversation so I'll repost what I had said at Women Born Transsexual in response to the following quote:

The attack is a horrible Hate Crime. I hope the video leads to the capture and successful prosecution of the perpetrators of this horrible attack and I further hope they are sentenced to many years within the Prison Industrial Complex and get to spend the rest of their lives regretting having committed this hate crime.

And it is a hate crime on several levels. It is an anti-transsexual/transgender hate crime. There is a racist element to the attack. There is a gang element to it as well.

The “Thug Culture” promoted by so much of rap music and popular culture is almost like an indoctrination program that encourages black kids to commit violent acts that will result in long prison sentences. Pop culture aimed at the youth demographic encourages both violence and a psychopathic disregard for the well-being of others.

Here was my response:

How exactly is it that you can ascribe the actions of these two teenagers to 'hip hop' music and 'thug culture? As if just by virtue of them being black they obviously MUST have been influenced but all the “gangsta” rap music that “black” people listen to.

The only apparent and obvious motives for this attack are transphobia and cissexism. The fact that the victim is (apparently) white may or may not have influenced the attack.. but only in so much as the victim’s (apparent) trans status marked her as wide open for a beating to begin with.

Excuse me while I get graphic and very personal here:

Make no mistake…. in the very earliest days of my transition I too was attacked in public on several occasions and with varying degrees of injury. I am black by the way. And I began transition at 16-17 and wasn’t deemed “passable” until I was 20. During this period I suffered extreme levels of harassment and violence that I’m still trying to recover from to this day. And my harassers varied in age, race, and class, you name it.

The very first time I was attacked in public, I was chased out of a Denny’s at 3am by a group of 5 black men and women, all college aged. They managed to rip out a couple of dreds before I jumped in my car and drove to safety.

The second time I was attacked in a mall by a mixed group of 6 black, white and hispanic men also colleged aged. They had a disposable camera they had procured for the occasion while following me and took turns holding my arms while they posed me with in the pictures and forced me to simulate sex acts for said photos. Mall security did not intervene for 20 minutes.

The third time it happened I was pushed off of a moving metro bus by three black teenaged girls because I wouldn’t answer them as to whether I was a man, a woman or “some kind of dyke.”

In all three of the above instances, it was clear they were doing this because they thought I was a “man trying to be a woman” or because I refused to clarify my gender to their satisfaction. Transphobia. Cissexism.

In all three instances, bystanders stood by and watched it happen and even cheered my attack on.

The only constant in those three examples was the youth of my attackers and the fact that I was readable as trans to my attackers.

The racism that IS driving this Baltimore story is the racist public backlash against black youth who OBVIOUSLY must be brainwashed by all their rap music to the point that they DARE to do violence to a white person.

Nevermind the fact that cissexist infrastructures will strip even the whitest body of all its privilege when that white body can be read as trans. No, let’s look to tired stereotypes about black culture and rap music to explain this horrible event.. let’s look everywhere but society’s accountability to the hierarchy of bodies that it has created.

As you can see... this incident hits really really close for me.   I wish I hadn't descended into personal anecdote in trying to make my point.. but for me I can't seem to talk about transphobic public attacks without including my own experiences. 

I just wanted to repost my comment here at my own blog because I think the issue of how Race intersects with this incident IS an important element to discuss.  But its only being discussed as if blackness itself is at fault for the attack on this woman.  The  REAL culprit... society's cissexist brainwashing of people to defend the arbitrary boundaries of assigned gender at all costs, up to and including homicide... is mostly being ignored.

If anyone is up for a sensible conversation about racism, cissexism and THIS incident, please comment here.   I wanted to create a space for  what I already saw lacking.... 

If nobody takes me up on it that's fine too.  But as a black trans woman, I just didn't feel comfortable letting white people and cis people control the discourse on this incident unchallenged.

ETA:  The victim of the beating speaks to the media.  Apparently her use of the restroom had little to nothing to do with the incident, and indeed the employees and patrons sat and watched and did nothing to intervene. 


  1. Yeah, this is cissexist violence against a trans woman. Making it about race is so much dogwhistling and so not the point.

    Per Bil Browning, every comment he deleted on the TBP post about this was racist. I reported one with a particularly gross slur, and I can imagine what others posted. This seems like a lot of other white people are taking advantage of this situation to show their asses.

    I have not been attacked for being trans, but I have been harassed and threatened on more than one occasion. On one occasion by a black man, on another occasion by a white police officer. In yet another instance a white woman left death threats for me. In each case, someone felt I was fair game because I was trans. I do not believe that race plays into this attitude toward trans people. It's the dominant cultural idea: That trans people are not deserving respect or a life without violence.

    Hip hop is so far beyond irrelevant there is no valid reason to mention it.

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  3. @Lisa

    Thanks Lisa.

    For me I'd say it's hard to know exactly how race plays into the dominant cultural idea that trans people are game for violence. But I wouldn't go so far to say that race plays NO part ever... just that it's very difficult to tease out except to say that when it comes to being readable as trans... any sort of white privilege that generally protects you from non-white people's violence is dramatically reduced.

  4. Well, I do believe race plays a role in violence against trans people, as the statistics make that very clear. What I was trying to say (and said badly) was basically what you said above.

    And I think that making attacks about race in the way that you quote above just fails pretty hard.