By Maria Padhila
Couples gossip when they’re alone, you know. As do triads and quads and any other sort of polycule you might run into. We chat about our friends’ makeups and breakups and what happened at that party. Monogamous couples have discretion built in, as their chat is confined to a group of two; polys need to be more aware and circumspect.
I don’t think I’d do that coming-home-in-the-car did-you-see-that type of thing with anyone I was casually dating, for instance. You have to have a level of trust that they won’t spill the beans to anyone they happen to be dating. And there are, of course, certain confidences I keep in the vault, and don’t share with anyone.
Outing, for instance. Not gonna do it. Maybe it’s because I’m self-centered or socially awkward, but I just figure people are going to present themselves in whatever manner they please at a given time and place, and that’s their business, and let’s just play from there. I really hope this isn’t the equivalent of the person who says “I don’t see color — I didn’t even notice you’re black!” which is both hilarious and heinous.
Because recently, when a woman I know (who is also polyamorous) came out publicly as transgendered, my first reaction was, yeah, OK, so when is your band playing next, because I might actually be able to get a babysitter. Then I read the rest of what she’d written in her ‘out’ statement, and I thought: how could I have forgotten the real stakes here? Luckily, my friend is as good a writer as she is a musician, so she makes it clear:
Being out and trans was dangerous in the late 90s/early 2000s, and it’s still dangerous now, if somewhat less so. By being outed I have literally got a target painted on me. Not by anyone reading this, obviously, but what happens now is someone who does know is at a gig and makes an offhand comment, and the wrong person hears it and follows me to my car, or some such situation.
I am not exaggerating. Google the words ‘transsexual’ and ‘murder’. I knew trans people in DC and Northern Virginia who were killed just walking home from a bar, or walking to their car from someone’s house, etc. There’s a reason that there’s a Day Of Transgender Remembrance. (There’s also a staggeringly high percentage of trans people who commit suicide before they hit their mid-30s that this day honors, but that isn’t relevant to my larger point).
So now that I’ve been large-scale outed by a number of friends, the chances of this get more really real.
I’ve been beaten up before.
I’ve been raped before.
I’ve had guns in my face before.
And I’m fucking lucky to have come out of any of that. I certainly don’t want those experiences again, and I sure as hell don’t want the woman I love to be either collateral damage or stuck with the aftermath of something like that.
I’ve spent the large portion of my life in Washington, DC, which is both home to many transgendered people, and the scene of some of the most vicious transgender hate crimes, violence and murders. Still. In the year 2012.
It’s been ten years since this happened, but it’s still a catalyzing event: the execution-style murder in DC of two transgendered teenagers, Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis, best friends, sitting in their car, waiting at a stop sign one evening, shot to death by a semiautomatic weapon. A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center points to the 27 murders of transgendered people in 21 months that followed, imprinting trauma on the area and leaving countless mourners. As the SPLC says, it shows the extreme brutality, or “overkill,” that characterizes hate crimes.
The report goes into some of the motivations behind such crimes — please let’s not call them ‘reasons’ — and I was going to summarize some of them, but really, do I have to? The people who do this are murdering bastards, and is there really much more to say? Even to tread close to motivation brings up the notorious and, to me, indefensible ‘panic defense’, which is becoming more discredited.
Yes, I want it both ways — prosecute it as a hate crime, and disallow talk about motivations. A perceived insult to your fragile sense of self and sexuality is not justification for violence. (Don’t even get me near the ones who say that those in the street life are living on the dangerous edge and need to ‘expect’ this sort of thing. A woman thrown out of her home for transitioning and getting by whatever way possible should not be up for a death sentence, nor should any sex worker. So-called ‘prostitution-free zones’ only serve to give discrimination and selective enforcement a veneer of legality and justification.)
So, my friend is stable (as much as any artist) and has a home and relationships and a nice family and works, etcetera (as much as any artist). But the danger is still there, because the hate is still there. Last year around this time was another wave in which three transgendered people were violently attacked, two murdered. And there were at least two this year. The attacks don’t always come in the kind of clusters that grab attention, headlines and vigils. But they leave trauma and mourners all the same.
Recently, the city started a PR campaign, the first ever of its kind, to promote respect for transgendered and genderqueer people. In one, a fiercely fashionable woman is quoted: “I love wandering through the Smithsonian museums, eating on H Street with friends, and going to shows at Howard Theatre. I’m a transgender woman and I’m part of DC. Please treat me the way any woman would want to be treated: with courtesy and respect.”
Many individuals in the transgender community (including the models!) have expressed their support for the campaign. I think these types of things can be effective because they impress upon the subhuman hate brain of criminals that the tribe publicly proclaims that we not only tolerate but respect all people (and that there will be consequences among the tribe for not doing so). There’s also just a basic warm feeling in seeing people stand up and be who they are, and I admire the bravery and strength in doing so. At the same time, I can’t stop wishing all this were unnecessary. I have to quote the website The Frisky, in its commentary on the campaign: “Other human beings — they’re just like us!”