Transgender actress and lawyer Laverne Cox revealed in an Instagram post that while walking with her friend, they were accosted and attacked in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. She said the man aggressively asked for the time. Then the man asked Cox’s friend, “Guy or girl?”
Cox’s friend, who has not been named, told the man to “[Expletive] off, ”then the man started hitting Cox’s friend.
“It’s not safe in this world,” Cox said. “It’s not sure if you are a trans person.” She spoke of the long history of street harassment she has endured. She added, “This guy was looking for trouble because I’m a trans person in public.”
So many black trans and gender non-conforming people like me know all too well the street harassment Cox faced. A 2020 LGBTQ survey from the University of Chicago’s Center for American Progress and NORC policy institute shows that nearly half of all LGBTQ people have been targeted for their identity in public.
The trans community faces the height of this violence. Data shows that at least 62% of trans people have experienced discrimination at work, in public or in their personal lives in the past year,
A few days before Cox alerted his supporters to his attack, I was faced with a similar incident on my way home. A cisgender man stopped me to ask for directions. Then he gestured and showed my chest, and wondered if I was a “dude or a lady”.
That night, I should have taken Cox’s initiative and not responded. I protested to the man that I was a guy. Still, he continued to point his finger at my chest and tell me that I wasn’t.
This is not the first time that this has happened to me. Earlier in my transition, I remember the cashiers at Popeyes, the fast food restaurant, calling me ‘sir-madam’ and customers staring at me as they ordered take-out.
For a long time, using the men’s bathroom was a battle. Not only did I endure double take, but security guards and people watching my body and shouting, “This is the men’s bathroom!” or the washroom attendants marking me as trans and stating, “Oh, you have to use a stall on the right.”
People often tell me, “How does this happen? You have a beard. But the point is, no matter what I look like, the reality is, I’ll never be a cisgender man. These people who know my transness often use this information to waste and demean me.
On the day of the incident, I was not binding my chest. But I shouldn’t always have to. Like Cox, I wore classic quarantine outfits: a gray hoodie, sweatpants, and a mask. I felt I looked pretty masculine, but the public’s perception of me is unreliable.
That one day the public and doctors saw me as a cis man, a cis woman, a gay, intersex man – but no one ever assumes I’m a trans man.
Data from the Center for American Progress and NORC University in Chicago show that high levels of discrimination weigh even more heavily on a person’s physical, spiritual and psychological well-being.
“As a black trans man, I face a mixture of invisibility and hypervisibility.“
This violence often becomes fatal. With 39 trans and mavericks murdered so far this year, the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reports that it has seen a record number of trans deaths since it began tracking this data in 2013.
While black transgender women are often the most affected by these violent attacks, trans men and non-binary people are also targets.
As a black trans man, I face a mixture of invisibility and hypervisibility. Our society assumes that trans men have the same access to male privileges as cisgender men. This is not true. I have never met a trans man who has male privileges in the gynecologist’s office.
We are often denied the services we need, including housing, school, work and health care. Likewise, we are sometimes forced to sacrifice our male sex to access these resources. It is an oppression that I cannot escape. People rarely make room for our complicated experience. As a result, many trans men struggle in silence.
Basically I can’t win. Therefore, I resorted to stealth and hiding parts of my identity to survive. Last week, a provider refused me medical service. Then, when the problem got worse, I headed for emergency care. I have decided not to reveal that I am trans. Instead, I lied and said I was an intersex man. And I got the care I needed.
Most of the time, I feel at the mercy of my secondary sex characteristics. If there is something about my appearance that is gender non-conforming, I often feel like I have to fight against it to blend in. It means lowering my voice and tying my chest because it always attracts too much attention. What makes it even more complicated is that I don’t always have a masculine gender expression. And because of that, some cis people mistakenly assume that I’m a trans woman.
The bottom line: Cisgender people are not ignorant. Many of them are selfish. Many cis people feel empowered by binary sex and its benefits.
The really cruel cis people in this world are not just the ones who look at me and others as trans, and curse us, harass us and attack us on the streets, they are the cis people who shed light on our experiences every day. These are the cis people, who have their pronouns in their bio but watch us die because of their language. It was the cis people from my old high school who burst out laughing at the thought of a man getting pregnant.
A cisgender person could never truly be an ally for trans liberation because many are complacent in the systems that lead to our injuries and deaths. As long as I live I will never be fully trust a cis person because in my daily life their power is the reason i am treated like a second class citizen.
Laverne Cox was incredulous as to why she had been attacked while doing something as simple as walking in a park. “Who cares? How does that affect your life?” She wanted to ask her abuser. Every trans person knows what they mean. We want to ask the same of a relentlessly hostile world.
#Laverne #Cox #Antitrans #harassment #rife