trigger warning: physical violence
i’ve been on the wrong end of physical violence for being trans once.
i can tell you where i was. i was on the N-Judah streetcar in San Francisco where it makes that jerky turn onto 9th…it was about 1 in the afternoon, a July day in a nameless year in the early 00s. i was in a two-seat at the end of the second car, and yes, i admit that i was holding hands with my partner and she might have pecked me on the cheek once. my friend L was sitting in front of us on the sideways-facing seats. we were giggling, being stupid as people in their early 20s are wont to be, and life was pretty good. i’d had a breast reduction after finals about four weeks hence, and i had healed enough that i could almost raise my arms above my shoulders!
i know it sounds cliché to say this, but i was happy. my partner randomly took me to San Francisco for a few days, since she had money and could do that sort of thing, and i hadn’t seen my friend L in forever. my breast reduction had reduced my chest from horrifying to reasonably cute and perky, and my weight was about as controlled as it’s ever been. i had an understanding source at my school’s health services office for medical care and though i was pretty much in denial things were otherwise fine. i’d been playing college soccer and had three great years with my team under my belt, and my mother actually managed to accept that it was okay for me to be gay if i had a rich partner, so my life might have been at its best point thus far.
and then, it all went to shit. an older trans woman, whose circumstances i know as little as possible about because of the anger i still possess toward her, apparently read me. it started with that icy stare, and i was a little bit scared, but i ignored it…and then at that second jerky turn she came running at me and stabbed me in my right breast screaming “disrespectful, disrespectful, disrespectful”. needless to say, since i’d just had a breast reduction and had nice slow-dissolving sutures keeping things together on the inside, there was a horrible tearing sound, since the blade went almost clear through my breast.
i’d like to tell you that everything was okay and that the cops were super. they weren’t, especially after she kept calling me “it” and “tranny” and the cops wanted to know what was in my pants more than they cared about the fact that my boob had been ripped apart. the Muni cops who were first on scene did not understand what a “breast reduction” was and why a transsexual would have one, of course believing her that i was one… and they assumed i had picked a fight with her even though eight witnesses said otherwise. i also wasn’t getting taken to the hospital which is kind of an issue when you’ve been stabbed. eventually a nice SFPD cop came by and she made sure i got to the hospital, putting me and my friends in her squad car and taking us over because “this is a clusterfuck, honey.”
i had the choice whether or not to press charges for assault…unfortunately, as my assailant was a self-appointed “transgender leader”, she used the threat of outing me to my college, as she now knew my name. she ended up being charged with some stupid minor misdemeanor about a weapon on Muni and paid a fine and did something like 3 days of community service. you want a case where impact on a victim is disproportionate? this is a good one, folks.
i had to have two surgeries to fix my compromised breast. i lost three weeks of work. i couldn’t even explain why i got attacked. and in the kicker to end it all, the “transgender leader” in question outed me to the dean of my undergrad school anyways. good thing she already knew i was trans…the letter claimed i was the aggressor. all this shit with Cathy Brennan outing trans people and then claiming they are the aggressor that’s been going down lately is actually completely redolent of this kind of abuse. it’s the ability to claim you have a moral high ground and that other person is disposable.
i crawled out of denial a year later, as my relationship was crumbling. i found a few people but that for the most part trans world didn’t think i was good enough. years later, i’m still living with the nightmares about what happened, but i’ve gone back to San Francisco, i’ve managed to crawl out from under the trans rock a little more, and i’ve been reminded that we’re more than things like this, so i will talk about it, and i will not accept shaming for speaking up about being on the wrong end of violence. after all, the story is written on my body every time i take my clothes off…my right breast is a little smaller than the left, and it has a nice nasty knife scar and is stitched up from underneath as they had to make a small but visible cut to successfully repair the damage. i’m never going to be okay with it, but slowly i am learning to figure out how to live with it the best that i can.
mostly, though, i wish i knew why i was “disrespectful” for existing.