February 19, 2012
Always put yourself in others shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too. ~ anonymous~
This quote is a reflection of diversity and the negative views associated with it just as the protagonist felt the pain as she dealt with closed minded people.
It was like being a jet black social creature, a tiny ant following the trail of hundreds of other ants, or should I say gays, straights, transgenders, bisexuals and lesbians. We crawled through an overcrowded parking lot where they led the way to the Van Wezel, a giant purple building that holds events like plays, musicals and on this day, the Gay Pride celebration. The festivities included drag shows and a performer that was transgender, a she who was now a he. People were different here in Sarasota, Florida because when they pushed in front of me at least they smiled when they did it, not like in New York City where they just pushed. I remember those days well in the crowded trains, buses and jam packed city streets. I waited patiently in a long line that ran outside the door to purchase two tickets to enter this wonderland of sights and sounds. I waited with the young and old, male and female, couples and singles, all who gathered for this event.
Three years have passed since the almost hate crime, at least it could have been in my eyes. Since my divorce with my transgender ex-husband my friendship list has grown thanks to the World Wide Web. I have ventured into chat rooms, blogs and websites to try and fully understand the inner and social fights of the transpeople.
Hate crimes are a main topic. I’m in school for cultural studies in writing to become a better writer and critical thinker because I want to write about what the world needs to know about. One can only write from experience, right?
It was on May 10th 2008, a beautiful ninety degree spring day with the wind puffing gently as the sky filled slowly with light billowing clouds. My transgender boyfriend, Peter, a handsome red head and I had attended a once a year Gay Pride celebration and drag show. There must have been five hundred people, drinking, laughing and enjoying the entertainment. Drag queens/men dressed up in glamorous evening gowns, brightly colored Crayola crayon poofy hair that walked graciously around in their high heels and packed on makeup which consumed their faces, a definite sight to see. It was all in the name to promote their shows. Some of the queens were wearing stilettos; I envied them because I would fall flat on my face if I attempted that feat, no pun intended. Music was blaring out of the eight foot high black boxes as I made my way through the masses. Gays and lesbians and transgenders, oh my! People were talking, smiling and singing along to a popular song, What a shame.
Concession stands for safe sex, beer, auto insurance and t-shirts were overcrowded as people flashed their dollars in the air. Then I saw food. The smell of burnt coals and meat slapped me in the face. As I passed the food display of hot dogs and hamburgers my stomach screamed out, “Feed me,” but we couldn’t stop as Peter was on a mission.
We found our way to a small patch of grass and sat down. In front of us was a huge stage surrounded by posters promoting diversity with rainbow flags moving leisurely in the breeze like small sail boats on a lake. I watched a man perform a song that brought a tear to my eye. Fifteen minutes later we met up with Peter’s newly found Trans buddy, Ronny. He was blonde, “six-pack”, hence his stage name and a little on the short side. He just finished performing on stage, What a shame by Shinedown. He was wearing angel wings as he flashed names of transgenders, gay men and lesbian women that have died from hate crimes on small pieces of colored construction paper, blue, green and yellow:
“What a shame, what a shame
To judge a life that you can’t change
The choir sings, the church bells ring
So won’t you give this man his wings?
What a shame to have to beg you to
See we’re not all the same, what a shame…”
After the performance Ronny introduced us to a couple. They were a cute happy couple, a transman, Hank Canster with short brown hair who had a dry sense of humor. His girlfriend, Vainita Smith was the typical blonde bombshell with the attitude to match in her bling bling shiny pink metallic tank top and tight blue jean shorts, “Nice to meetcha,” she screamed over the music. We spent the entire day and most of the night together. The sun had gone done hours ago and the lights from the building exterior were blindingly bright. It was late, we swapped phone numbers and parted, “Don’t forget to call tomorrow,” Hank said as he shook Peter’s hand.
Our Gay Pride celebration evening should have been a continuation of our day, fun and care free with a sense of being unified. It was about 11:30 pm as we drove home on that warm clear moonlit night. In the distance, there was an all-night restaurant with a neon sign, it flashed, blinked and lit up the sky. Both of us were hungry so Peter pulled in and we walked hand in hand to the entrance. After being seated, he excused himself to go to the bathroom.
There are many stories out there that depict the biggest dilemma when a transgender is considered in “limbo.” At that very moment, he was passing as a man, one hundred percent of the time with the goatee and no female breasts due to surgery and testosterone. He had an “M” on his driver license but, with the name Peter Marie, a feminine name that lingered along with his birth certificate that stated he was still a she. He did not have his name legally changed yet and it concerned him deeply in the recesses of his mind. It was the thought of a potential altercation with another man could take place in the men’s room so he felt he had no alternative, but to enter the ladies lavatory. Timing can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Five minutes later a group of young Spanish men wearing t-shirts, leather jackets and blue jeans came into the restaurant with their voices raised as they spoke in a vulgar manner, “Fuck this and fuck that.” They sat catty corner to our table. Men like that I have passed in the street and usually they would whistle or make crude comments to me, “Come here girl, you are so pretty.” I would hear them say, “Vienen chica que son tan bonitas!” It was a large group, eight to be exact and in my opinion, they held an air of a street gang. They were loud and obnoxious. I paid no attention and proceeded to read some of the pamphlets that I picked up earlier in the day. I tried to look interested in something other than their major outbursts.
I had never before been so aware of restaurant noises, the extremely bright lights, the waitresses talking and giggling in the kitchen, the clanking of dishes being piled up as the tables were cleaned and the commotion of twenty five people all in conversation, I counted. In the distance I heard two young Spanish women as they walked down the aisle and approached their table speaking in their native tongue while snickering as they walked passed me. “El hombre en el baño de mujeres!” a young woman shouted. I understood the words that were spoken, a man in the ladies bathroom. As they sat down the story of a man in the woman’s bathroom had begun to flow around their table and it seemed like it ignited an uncontrollable fire that blazed from their eyes as the men glanced around feverishly.
I became anxious and wondered where he was. Another five minutes passed and I stood up in order to locate him when he turned the corner. We both sat down in a pit of silence for a moment. He didn’t have to say a word since we both knew the events that transpired just moments before.
Neither of us wanted to move at that moment. Peter was facing them. They were staring at us. My hands trembled, but I tried to hide it by keeping them under the table in my lap. What else was said between those Spanish individual’s I will never know. On the one hand, I did understand the confusion and anger at first glance of the situation. Peter did look like a pervert, a man in the ladies bathroom. It could have been cause to call in the police, but they had no clue what led up to that incident and why a man was using the ladies restroom.
We were both frightened. Could this be a hate crime waiting to happen?
It would seem the definition from the dictionary.com web site reported that the verb “hate” is another word for “loathing,” or “disgust, possibly what the ethnic group felt. “It means to feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest.” The Merriam-Webster web site defined it from the Old English “hete,” it was first used before the 12th century. The thesaurus web site explained that the noun means “intense dislike.” It means “to hate the enemy.” Were we the enemy? The verb also can mean “to provoke; to be diabolic.” The fear I felt was instilled deep within me to the point of never being able to release it. US Legal stated that, “A hate crime is usually defined by state law as one that involves threats, harassment, or physical harm and is motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability.”
We ate breakfast quickly, not even once did we acknowledge one another. I know I had scrambled eggs with ketchup on them, toast and bacon, yet I don’t remember the taste of anything, not even my buttered browned bread as I woofed it all down within record time. Prior to our departure I will be honest, for a brief moment I glanced at the unused stainless steel knife that sat quietly on the table. “Maybe I should take it for protection. I could slide it into my purse and no one will notice,” I thought.
I remember watching several transgender movies, some good and some were pitiful. One that always stuck with me was The Soldier’s Girl and how a male soldier died in a hate crime by his own people, his so called army buddies, because he loved a woman who was different, a transgender. I cry every time. That was me, I loved a woman who transitioned into a man.
Definitely not the norm in our society, he was a man that few recognized as having an inner struggle between two souls, male/female. The Native American’s referred to transgenders as Berdache because they are considered to have two souls, male and female. They were touched by the spirits of the ancestors and had powers on the order of the shaman. (The Two-Spirit Tradition).
My mind wondered for an instant to flashes of a horrific nightmare that unfolded in my confused brain, blood was everywhere. Peter and I lay on the ground. And then I got a grip on myself. As we stood up to leave a small voice told me to take it. I looked to the left and then slowly the right. When no one was looking I grabbed the gleaming knife from the table and slidit into my black leather purse. We proceeded to walk to the front to pay our bill. I was extremely paranoid and will be the first to admit it. Being the Scorpio that I am, I thought the worst. Could we make it to the truck safely? Would the group of men follow us outside? Were they carrying weapons?
We walked out of the establishment, looking back every so often until we were half way to the dark truck. And then, there they were. Eight mean looking guys with kick butt in their eyes stared right at us. I don’t believe that I have ever been so petrified in my life. I know that Peter was affected by this incident because his hands quivered. My right hand slid into my purse and my fingertips touched the cold metal. At that moment, he grabbed my left hand and pulled me to double time it back to the black SUV. I could hear the sound of what seemed like wild horses as their hooves galloped behind us. “Faster, come on,” he yelled. The doors unlocked and I jumped in like I was in search of a long lost sanctuary because if I didn’t fate would have taken a different turn. We took off speeding and the truck was like a “Bat out of hell” as Meatloaf would have said leaving screech marks on the gray pavement. Words were not spoken while, What a shame by Shinedown played on the radio.
On November 20, 2011, the LGBTQ Nation held a ceremony called the, “13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance around the world, a day when the LGBTQ and allied community honor those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice, and seek to raise awareness of the ongoing threat of brutality faced by the transgender community.”
Today is a day to remind ourselves to love because in reality, that’s all we have. Many have lost their lives at the hands of another due to hate. What makes people kill?
What makes people physically and emotionally injure innocent victims and why? The reason is because they are different? I live my life each day and can remember the fear that they felt before leaving this earthly plain. To feel trapped in a place of no return. LGBTQ Nation reported, “In 2011, there were at least 23 more lives lost to anti-transgender hate, including seven in the United States.” I am grateful that Peter and I did not become a national statistic because in 2008 as the FBI National Press Office reported, “There were 5,542 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons…” And according to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report for 2010, “The 6,628 hate crime incidents reported to us by our law enforcement partners stayed consistent with the 6,604 incidents reported in 2009.” I see a pattern that the numbers are increasing each year, do you? I have always been a fighter for the underdog and will continue to do so. I have learned that there is plenty of work to be done in getting word out about diversity. People’s fears need to be addressed head on to realize we really are all the same.
Take a good look because this means that in 2008 at least 5,542 were the assaulters, in 2009 at least 6,604 were the assaulters and in 2010 at least 6,628 were the assaulters. What does this say about our sense of humanity? Are we as tiny in thought, love and respect as those little jet black creatures that roam our earth?
Community, allies remember victims lost to anti-transgender hate crimes. 2011. 20 Nov. 2011 <http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2011/11/community-allies-remember-victims-lost-to-anti- transgender-hate-crimes/>
FBI Bureau of Investigation. Hate Crimes Remain Steady. 2011 14 Nov 2011 <http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/november/hatecrimes_111411/hatecrimes_11141 1>
FBI National Press Office. FBI Releases 2008 Hate Crime Statistics. 23 Nov. 2007. 29 Nov 2011<http://www.streetgangs.com/news/112309_hatecrimestats>
“Hate.” Dictionary. 2011 <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hate>
“Hate.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2011 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hate>
“Hate.” Thesaurus. 2011 <http://thesaurus.com/browse/hate>
Meatloaf. “Bat out of hell.” 2011 <http://www.elyrics.net/read/m/meat-loaf-lyrics/bat-out-of- hell-lyrics.html>
Shinedown. “What A Shame.” Elyrics. 2009 <http://www.elyrics.net/read/s/shinedown- lyrics/what-a-shame-lyrics.html>
The Two-Spirit Tradition. 1 Mar. 2007. 2011. 30 Nov. 2011 http://androgyne.0catch.com/2spiritx.htm