A Warning Sign in Easton

I was out tonight, attending Cedar Crest College’s GSA, OutThere. I’ve been a part of their group for the past month or two, and I’ve probably mentioned them a few times before. It’s a really amazing group.

I got home tonight at about 11:30 PM. I live in the city of Easton, so I know to be careful, and always keep an eye on potential hazards. As I parked my car,I noticed one of these signs. There were a group of men, about 10-20, huddled in a small group just a few cars away. They were watching me, I was watching them. There was nothing ‘safe’ feeling about it. I knew, immediately, to be on my guard. My gut reaction was to wait for them to leave, but after a few minutes, they didn’t. So, with one hand on my keys and the other holding onto my pepper spray in my pocket. Better safe than sorry.

So I got out of my car and started walking towards my apartment completely casually. I didn’t turn to look at the group of men, but I focused on listening to their conversation. They were drunk, but I could tell they were talking about how God was real and God was more powerful than the devil. Something about how God could kick the devil’s ass.

At this point, the situation went from risky to dangerous to me. I realize now, for most people, hearing this would probably make them laugh or feel at ease. For me, my gut clenched, and I went from alert to ready to fight. Images from films like Boy’s Don’t Cry, where conservative, close minded men attacked a transman to prove he was really a woman. I thought of the hundreds of times I’ve heard religion used to condemn me as some terrible person. I remembered standing at the steps of the capitol building in Harrisburg during the Transgender Day of Remembrance, reading of the name of a dozen transgender people ruthlessly slaughtered for nothing more than being transgender, their murders often going unsolved. As I walked away, I kept a close eye on the shadows cast from the lights behind me, making sure none of them followed me.

It took me a while to realize that, to most people, this would have seemed like no big deal, the talk of God and religion would have been relieving to most. To a queer person, a transgender woman, and someone who has been the victim of religious violence, that was a giant flashing red warning sign.

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3 Comments

  1. One of my good friends just messaged me, very worried about my safety. I hadn’t realized I didn’t explictly say, in the end, nothing happened. I got into my apartment totally safe and sound, though significantly more tired than before. Thank you so much for being so concerned, you’re a sweetheart, friend šŸ™‚

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  2. As a good friend, I hesitated to respond to this post….but in the understanding that I am your friend – I will express my reaction to this post.

    First of all, just because a group of guys are standing around talking about God, drunk or not, doesn’t mean they hate transpeople. In fact to think that is as prejudice as the guy that DOES hate transpeople, therefore you are doing the same behavior they are. As a transactivist you must raise yourself above this prejudice and stand strong and tall, and realize that just because they are men talking about God doesn’t mean they hate you or will kill you. You need to find common ground and bring us together, that is what an activist does! I know your answer about – well often they are or in most cases. Well that’s like saying every person with a penis is a pervert, there are people that think that. Therefore you would be seen as a pervert and they would pull their children from you in a shameful way as if…..silliness really from this POV, isn’t it? Well from their POV it is really that way because most people with a penis that wear women’s clothing are often perverts, I could show you hundreds of them!! So in some ways, they are right… There are many “super christians” that feel they must beat up on transpeople to help them find Jesus or something….not really sure why they do it since it doesn’t really follow the Christian guidelines…but they do. Just as we know that a person with a penis wearing a dress is likely exploring their gender variance and often it comes out sexually because that is where it is mostly accepted. Sexuality and gender are related but not the same. So again, it really makes no sense that we would assume a crossdresser would be a pervert either…. SO here we are in reality now from a fulll POV and we realize that there are Christians that don’t want to kill you, I work with tons of them. Especially young progressive Christians, and there are even gay and trans Christians. There are tons of religions around the world that have extremists that do stuff that doesn’t represent the entire religion – terrorists are a great example. For instance, do you assume all middle eastern people are going to blow up some building? The people that blew up the WTC in NYC were extremists from the middle east. There are also christian extremists whom do shit like beat up GLBT people. There are also Pagan extremists who burn down churches and kill priests. Now I am not Christian because the religion just doesn’t work in my head, but I don’t hate them for their religion… That’s silly. That’s just asking for the same prejudice to someday be turned back on me.

    I personally struggle with certain cultures and I know that sometimes I get nervous on the streets…for sure. You should certainly take precautions, but never assume just because a person is black, has a hoodie, is Christian, is drunk, or is latino that he/she will attack you. Just be ready if they do. Do what you need to do, go where you need to go, and take basic precautions. I don’t want that prejudice karma back, do you?

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  3. Hollis, I consider you a close friend as well, so I won’t hesitate to respond back honestly.
    I disagree with your premise. What I advocate for, what I talk about when I do coalition building between various minority communities, is that noone should be judged based on who they are. Every person should have the same opportunities and rights as the person next to them. What color their skin is, whether their genitals match their gender expression, whether they love someone, or want to live alone in the woods worshiping the bear goddess, they should be given the same chance as anyone else. To deny them this right or to imply they are lesser because of these attributes is wrong. Absolutely. That is discrimination.
    What happened last night had nothing to do with denying rights. It had nothing to do with saying I am better or I am worse than anyone. It was about recognizing red flags that show the situation might not be safe. Reacting to the choices made by people around you is logical and safe. If you look around and see someone carrying a glock under their shirt, you react to that by not going and making light conversation with the person. Last night, I did not react to their skin color, their clothing, or the fact they were Christian. I reacted to their choice to be standing in a little alley at almost midnight, huddled in a circle, standing tall, trying to make themselves look macho and strong. I reacted to the fact they were talking loudly, almost shouting, despite the extremely late hour. I reacted to the fact I knew the street light on the way to my apartment has a tendency to randomly shut off during the night. I reacted to their dialog, highly heated and bombastic dialog, based in a highly conservative language, not peacefully expressing their faith. Anyone walking in a situation that might not be safe, but especially women, absolutely NEED to keep an eye out for what makes a situation safe or dangerous. I did not think these people were lesser than me, but a woman walking alone at night should absolutely watch for red flags, look around for escape routes, other people, and be ready to defend herself.
    In fairness, I know I likely over reacted to this personally. I’ve been the victim of violence, I’ve stood at the front lines against the most conservative, biggoted hate preachers, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been assaulted. I reacted strongly to this, but I reacted safely, got myself out of what may have been a dangerous (but just as well could have been entirely safe) without making a scene, without affecting anyone, and I went home safe.

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