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Author Topic: Violence and not passing
Djuna
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For some reason this evening I've gotten on to fixating on transphobic violence - I was reading about the shooting in the Castro on Saturday, and then a new article on Feministe. I've been hit by a stranger in a nightclub before when I was kissing the guy I was dating at the time.

I'm starting to have a bit of a panic attack about going outside crossdressed - I had been really looking forward to it tomorrow, but now I'm terrified. I feel like if I try to transition it would make me some kind of freak (although I don't like that word). I keep imagining my mother accusing me of doing this for attention (which isn't something she's actually said). I don't know if I don't like myself as male or if I just don't like myself. I feel like I have no good qualities besides my work.

I also know that all of the above is stupid, which doesn't help. I could really use some support right now - I'm OK, but I'm not in a wonderful place.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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eryn_smiles
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I'm so sorry you were hit in a nightclub while kissing someone. I don't think these kind of fears are stupid at all. When we think of the kind of discrimination and violence that trans and GLB people can face on a daily basis, it's really understandable to feel afraid sometimes. I haven't read all of your history but am wondering if you have any trans friends or belong to any such groups? I feel that safety in numbers can be really helpful and supportive. Also, there's no rush to transition, you know. You get to take as much time as you need. You don't have to do this tomorrow if you're not ready yet.

I'm sure that you have some good qualities as well, but I can understand finding it hard to like yourself right now. As I've been coming out as queer, my self-esteem has taken a battering.

PS- Have you watched this year's IDAHO video "Great global kiss-in", I find it uplifting sometimes - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2ca_FUJIHI&feature=related

Take care [Smile] .

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Bonnie.N.Clyde
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(Great video, eryn_smiles)

patrickvienna,

I am also sorry that you had that experience. And although it is good to be aware of the violence that goes on in the queer and trans community, it can also be overwhelming, frightening and like you said, can become a negative fixation. I would recommend still being up on the news but also trying to find positive articles, films, stories, and support in/about the community. Also, are there any youth groups or groups in general for questioning/queer/trans in your area? That might be worth a try.

You are not a freak. It sounds like you are having a tough time right now just being you, and I really do think some support will do the trick.

Just so you know, you sound like you are doing the best you can do, and really, that's a lot. You have a lot of stress right now. Keep coming back to Scarleteen.

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Heather
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Joseph,

I can't relate to this when it comes to being trans. I certainly can when it comes to being queer, and I also can when it comes to being female-bodied.

Now, I don't think all of those threats are identical, and I think some of their differences are complex.

And when we're talking about woman-identified trans people, I think we're looking at a double-whammy: you're faced with the potential threat of violence there is in being a woman AND the potential threat of violence there is in being trans. If you're queer on top of that, make that a triple-whammy.

That said, I think there's always a very tricky balance to manage with being who we are, and looking like who we are (both in the ways we can control and the ways we can't) and also in being safe. I think we also have to recognize that any of us only has so much control over that.

I'd hate for you to be getting the message that you can control who does what TO you by acting or being a certain way, counter to who you are and want to be; that it's not up to other people who are violent to control their actions, but up to you to try and control them. You've been privy to a lot of the conversations we've had in that vein here around rape, so I know you know what I'm talking about. It's not up to us to try and keep other people in control, and while we can keep ourselves safe, we cannot control other people based on how we dress, what our orientation is, etc.

That said, what do you want to talk about here. How to do things to help you be safe in all of this? Or do you need to unpack some more about how any lack of safety you may have because of who you are or how you present isn't about you, but about others who would make you unsafe? Maybe talk some more about how any of us at risk of potential violence or hate crimes can really deal with knowing we are at actual or potential risk, or process having been earnestly harmed because of our sex, gender or orientation?

[ 06-29-2010, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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I do just want to catch something I think was probably a typo, but still:

quote:
that goes on in the queer and trans community
While queer and trans communities are not any more immune to violence within them than any other groups, most of the violence that happens to queer and trans people comes from OUTSIDE those communities. Not always, for sure (for instance, partner violence rates in LGBT partnerships are the same as in hetero/cis relationships), but by and large, things like being gay-bashed, being hit for kissing someone of the same or similar sex or gender ID, the sexual assaults on trans people is coming from outside our communities, not from within.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Bonnie.N.Clyde
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Yeah, sorry, what I meant was- that HAPPENS to those in the community. I totally didn't mean that queer ID'd folk are responsible for the violence that occurs.

[ 07-01-2010, 01:17 AM: Message edited by: Bonnie.N.Clyde ]

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Djuna
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Thanks everyone for your comments [Smile] - I think what bothers me is not so much the threat of violence - someone hits me, I get up, and I'm not the kind of person who has a problem walking away from that or who is going to get drawn into a fight and make a worse situation for myself. I think I'm just feeling really othered when that happens. It's not the physical thing of being at risk of harm (and I guess I'm lucky, not that luck is the right word, that I've not encountered violence that's serious with respect to my health), it's more the social pain. I've always felt like I could walk around at night or take public transportation by myself, and I don't want to get to a place where a there's some kind of geography of limitation that prevents me from doing that.

As for groups, what would be useful is details of LGBT groups in Portland, OR, where I'm going to be studying this fall (I gather that's a good area for that anyway). I'm also trying to find out about LGBT groups in Nanjing and Shanghai, where I'm studying this summer, so if anyone knows anything about that it would be greatly appreciated.

(eryn: I love those videos, I think I've seen one from 2007 or 08 before. Awesome stuff. [Smile] )

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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quote:
I've always felt like I could walk around at night or take public transportation by myself, and I don't want to get to a place where a there's some kind of geography of limitation that prevents me from doing that.
This is a toughie for me to know how to respond to for a few reasons.

For one, I don't think I've ever had that. I mean, I have done those things all of the time, but with an acute awareness that I might be unsafe or at risk of an attack.

As well, from the standpoint of someone who has taught self-defense (and who, when attacked in her life, has also been attacked in places identified as "safe" and yet often safe in places identified as "UNsafe"), I'm not sure anyone has that, and if some folks do, it's a pretty limited group in pretty limited settings. For sure, what groups we're members of -- or, when it comes to violence and harassment, more accurately, what groups OTHERS may identify us as being members of -- impacts our privilege in this way, and some groups of people are safer than others, either in general or in specific areas and settings.

That all said, I wonder if part of this might just be an awareness piece. IOW, I'm willing to bet that in the past you were not as safe as you have felt, if you get me. For sure, if other people will soon or do now identify you as female -- or more to the point, as something other than male -- that will likely decrease your overall safety. But...

...well, like I said, it's just hard for me to "get" this, never having had the feeling you describe yourself as having had in the past where you could go anywhere at no risk or very limited risk. Does my huh? make sense to you?

(Or maybe I'm missing something major here? If so, my apologies, and please fill me in if you like.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Well, there really don't seem (to me) to be that many sources of violence for masculine-looking men. Assuming I don't go around getting people narked at me, then out in the open it only really leaves you susceptible to nonsensical, random violence. I've been assaulted once in a club with my boyfriend, but when I'm by myself, homosexuality isn't particularly visible. There isn't the threat of sexual violence either (or, OK, there is, but far less of one).

I'm not saying that when I'm walking around alone at night, I'm not keeping my wits about me, knowing who and what is around me, but I tend not to get too worked up about it, because I don't really perceive an actual threat. Maybe that is me underestimating the danger, I don't know.

I suppose I have tended to underestimate risk - I've taken a free ride from a cab driver before, and in NYC I ended up living in a twin room with a lady I met in Times Square (which is really a whole other story) - and I only really realised later that those were potentially dodgy situations. I guess what bothers me now is that if I have an outward appearance some are going to find offensive (or, hell, attractive [Razz] ), I don't want to have to be worrying about my safety all the time. I have GAD and I could use not having an extra thing to worry about, really.

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Djuna
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Oh - too, I'd been reading about use of trans panic and gay panic defences in law, and although those defences aren't terribly successful, the fact that the reaction happens hadn't occurred to me. I mean, at the moment I think I want to genderfuck a little, but appearing as a girl doing that if I can manage it. Is gay panic as much of a danger as I'm led to believe, or is it largely a media invention, if you see what I mean?

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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Like I said, for sure, men who read as men to other men can, in many situations, be safer than women or anyone who reads as others to women (or who someone just decides is a woman). At the same time, men being violent to other men is also a profound problem, and a LOT of violence in the world is male-male.

I do think this sounds to me like a shift in awareness and/or about a shift in privilege or perceived privilege. Mind, that doesn't make it easy. You may have noticed on the boards, for instance, with many rape survivors, how one thing that comes up a lot if the shock and sadness and fear of then feeling like it's been made clear the world wasn't a safe place when someone thought it was.

We can talk some about how to deal with this if you like, and certainly about how to choose -- even though it sucks anyone has to -- safer places to present as feminine versus less safe spaces, and about safety in general if you want.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Yeah, I'd like that - and, for instance, how safe is Portland seen to be?
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Heather
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I grew up in Chicago. On the whole, by comparison, Portland and the whole Pacific Northwest is exceptionally safe. And as cities go, in general, it's a safe one, especially if you're taking care of your basic safety well.

For example, and to start talking more about safety, things like identifying neighborhoods and spaces which are more or less populated at certain times of day, and not going to those alone, but in groups.

That and some other things I say here may be more basic than you want, but I figure it's always best to start with the barest stuff, since a lot of people do NOT actually know it.

Cell phones: so many of you have a cell, which is about the coolest thing to happen to personal safety since sliced bread. So, you have an emergency number of autodial. You don't, of course, try and walk somewhere alone in a sketchy area while texting or gabbing, so you can't be paying full attention (though pretending to talk to someone on the phone while you're in a space like that can be a good help).

Neutral walking is another thing I'm big on. In other words, when we're out alone, try and walk in a way that's both really gender and emotional tone neutral. Nothing to aggressive, but something clearly centered and to-task, if you get me.

It's very old-school, but having a whistle handy really can be a good thing, and is, IMO, a lot smarter than mace or a weapon which can be used against you. In high school, when I lived in a really bad neighborhood, I was studying classical voice, so mine lived in my lungs. [Smile]

I always suggest people see if they can't find a self-defense course. Even if you never have to use it, it can make a big difference in how safe and unsafe you feel. As well, people who have had it seem to carry themselves differently, and sometimes even just the way it can cause us to approach threats -- direct eye contact, a sold stance, ready to fight back -- seems to be able to make them reconsider without any action at all.

When it comes to being feminine-identified or presenting -- or, again, someone else IDing YOU as feminine, which is the real issue -- you really can, I think, take a lot from women's self-defense tips. There are some good ones here: http://www.safetyforwomen.com/tips.htm

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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(I've just realized, by the way, about what tripped me up so much about this post from the onset. In a word, the issue here isn't really NOT passing, but it both IS passing and NOT passing. In other words, it's about passing as someone feminine, which creates a higher risk and also about NOT passing as male -- rather than female.

Know what I mean?)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Ugh.

When I first wrote that, I was thinking about not passing as female - ie being obviously trans, and the violence that might happen as a result of that. I don't think I'd really thought too much about the violence that would come with passing as female.

I guess the next opportunity I'll have for a self defence class will be when I get back to university in the US, but I think I will definitely go for that. Do people tend to mind guys turning up to women's self defence?

I'm in a bit of a shock, I really hadn't thought about this. I had imagined pointing, weird looks, maybe a shove in a crowd. I'm really scared. It can't be worth this.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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I want to make something clear: you having an elevated risk of harassment and violence does NOT mean it will be lurking around every corner and something you have to deal with all the time. Really.

Especially in places like Portland. (I'm actually glad you're taking a Portland trip. It's a very cool place, a very queer and trans-friendly lace, and I think at this time in your life, this is excellent timing. Plus, amazing food there. [Smile] )

Self-defense classes are available not just for women, but no, it's usually okay to come to a women's class, too, especially for people who identify as women. [Smile]

Per passing/not passing, again, I think a lot of this boils down to the fact of being and being perceived as simply not male. Whether that's read by an attacker as female, not "real" female (not my thoughts, mind, but from an attacker's view) or "real" male, or not-male-enough it's all not-male when you boil it all down. Again, that hardly means men aren't at risk of violence, men are. But it is a smaller risk in some ways, and certainly, people socialized male are generally not taught to cultivate the same awareness about safety and risk as those socialized differently.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Thanks for your advice here. I'm feeling a little better about this and I definitely will look into the self-defence thing in Portland, but I don't think I'm freaking out too much any more. [Razz]

How open do people (of any gender) tend to be in the US to the idea of trans women or female-identified people (with, you know, penises and such) sexually? In the UK there's, in liberal society at least, a sort of general acceptance/indifference, but there's a desexualizing sort of thing that comes with that. You're off in your little box, and you don't get much abuse, but you're definitely Other (this is my impression). And in the US, well, most of what I know about this specifically is from TV, which is less than encouraging (or true).

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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Well, the US is a BIG country. On many arenas, comparing things in one state to another can be a lot like comparing, say, Spain to Scotland.

Because I'm not trans, my perspectives on this will necessarily have limitations, however per what I know, and from input from trans people I know, there are places where that's a lot better and places where it's worse.

Somewhere like Portland is pretty decent, as are plenty of more progressive cities, whereas many more suburban or rural communities are less great. But even then, it's going to differ plenty from community to community. For instance, I just moved rurally and having observed a couple interchanges with non-trans folks and trans folk there, people were very chill and didn't behave any differently than they did with anyone else.

Even with the big cities, I think this goes a lot like racism does. In other words, for sure, in many cities and other areas, it's very integrated and the prevailing attitude is that it's not okay to be racist and many people don't behave in racist ways. However, one can still wind up meeting/interacting with racist people. Know what I mean?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Hmm, I definitely know what you mean. Halfway through my trip to China at the moment (sending this from a Mac in the lobby of my hotel in Shanghai!), and having to deal with a somewhat fundamentalist Christian's take on my sexuality. The other students in my group (only one of whom I knew beforehand) mostly seem to think that if it's to do with his religion, I have to accept his views and put up with his comments. While I'm really trying not to be antagonistic myself, it's difficult.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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