This will be easier if we pretend that what follows is fiction.
I transfer buses on my way to work each day. Yesterday morning I’d just gotten onto my second bus and was walking down toward the rear to find a seat when someone started talking to me. A deep voice asked me if I was a diva. I hadn’t even sat down yet.
I asked what he meant, and he clarified: “You’re a tranny, right?” I asked him not to use that word, and told him that I was trans. He then invited me to party with him. I refused. He insisted, I refused again. He kept it up, and I pulled the cord and got off the bus. We’d only gone about three blocks by this point.
When I got off the bus the man followed me. He no longer asked if I wanted to party. His requests were much more vulgar. Perhaps I should say much more honest. Frightened and angry, I told him to fuck off. He smiled and punched me in the face.
I ran to the muni underground, grabbing my askew glasses to make sure they wouldn’t fall off. I don’t know how far he did or did not follow. I got on a train and made it to work in time.
If this were fiction, I would provide a moral to this story at about this point. There’d be a reason for me to type all this out. Perhaps I would describe how this is an extended metaphor for something, or an illustration of a greater point. There would be a lesson to be gained from all of this.
I don’t think there’s a lesson here. There’s certainly no news. This is how I was treated the first time I attempted transition, and this is what I was expecting to endure when I made the decision to attempt transition again. Instead of learning something, this has only reinforced the things that I already know: distrust of strangers, fear of cis people, expectations of violence.
I’ve been thinking about microaggressions recently. Microaggressions are the casual, seemingly insignificant ways that people grind away at the humanity of marginalized people on a daily basis. Offhanded comments and unconscious deprecations are common forms of microaggressions.
I have difficulty trying to determine what I should ignore and what I should be upset with. By what standard should I measure the behavior of others? Things like misgendering and calling me by the wrong name are so common that it is impossible for me to consider being upset about it. I simply don’t have the energy. What about the slurs, then? Sexist and transphobic invective I hear directed at me almost every day, loud and vulgar musings regarding my genitals, inquiries into my HIV status, etc. It’s just talk. There’s so much of it. And what could I do about it? Write a post on the internet about it, perhaps? Vent to my lover? Consider violent self-defense? I genuinely cannot afford the time and energy required to be upset at every occurrence. How about threats? Should I ignore promises to rape, mutilate, and murder me? Again- it’s just talk. Right? More of the same. What about attempts to assault me that don’t connect? I’ve jumped out of the way of more than a few gropes and shoves by now. Those have been aggravating, and have certainly gotten my adrenalin up, but do they really count as anything substantial?
At this point it feels like anything short of an actual carried-out murder attempt qualifies as a microaggression to me.
This somehow feels like it might be a problem.
So. Yesterday I was assaulted and hit. It was not a severe injury. I have a small bruise high on my left cheek. For a time I considered not telling anyone about it, thinking that this incident was not a big enough deal to merit the fuss and concern and nonsense that would come.
I feel like people don’t seem to understand the abrasive treatment that trans people endure every day. Cis people often express that they do not understand why we are “so angry.” They shrug in helpless confusion when talking about pronouns- who the fuck gets so upset over parts of speech, right? They become indignant when talking about restrooms. They struggle to hide their bored apathy when legal difficulties, housing rights, and employment nondiscrimination come up in discussion. Listen: I want to be clear.
I want you people to stop killing us without fear of repercussion.
I want you people to stop attacking us without fear of repercussion.
I want to be able to walk down a sidewalk with a reasonable expectation of not being harassed, screamed at, or dehumanized.
I want to be able to feel safe when I go to work in the morning and come home in the evening.
This starts with cis people treating trans people like we are humans, which means treating us with at least a bare minimum of respect. Showing the bare minimum of respect to trans people means using our correct pronouns and names, allowing us equal legal rights and protections, and allowing us equal access in communities. This is not complex.
These desires that I have for the behavior of cis people are not new. Nothing in this post is new. I guess I just hope that if I repeat myself often enough someone might hear.