TRIGGER WARNING: in this post I plan to talk about things that will include sexual assault, rape language. Please be forewarned!
In this post I am planning to share some of my deepest and most personal fears. I ask that you be cautious when leaving comments on this post particularly if you are a straight, cisgender man. (That doesn’t mean don’t comment, but please think through your comments before posting them.)
As someone who holds to radical politics and radical theology, I feel a call to get out in the world and shake things up. I am inspired by the long and great civil disobedience tradition in American Christianity. I consider Martin Luther King, Jr., Philip and Daniel Berrigan, and others to be among my heroes. I am inspired by and feel called to emulate them. However, as a transgender person I also worry about what emulating them will cost me.
One of my biggest fears is sexual assault and/or being raped. There is a long history of queer people being raped because people don’t see us as human. Using sexual violence to show power is nothing new and is often enacted upon queer bodies. And I don’t trust the police to protect me from this type of assault, in fact, I am pretty sure that such an assault would come at the hands of the police. The police have long been abusive to queer people.
I have been following the Occupy Wall Street protests and was saddened, but not surprised, to read this story. And as terrifying and humiliating as his ordeal was it could have been much, much worse. And so I think about the Occupy events that are being planned for my state and I wonder if I should participate. Knowing that arrests could happen at any time, even if people are being peaceful, I could find myself in the hands of the prison industrial complex and be at their mercy. And this terrifies me. I feel like I can mentally deal with the idea of violence being enacted upon me, but I’m not sure how I would deal mentally with sexual assault or humiliation.
As a transgender radical how do I balance my fear with my calling? How do I measure my own personal safety against what I feel called to be a part of? Should I be bold and fearless or is ignoring my fear foolish? I realize that at the moment I can ask these questions from a place of safety, but they are always on my mind. I fear assault every time I have to use a strange restroom, when I have been outed, when I am walking alone at night. The fear isn’t crippling but there is a sense of being hyper aware. I worry that something as simple as a mugging could turn into a sexual assault if I am found out to be transgender. Trans* bodies are often seen as curiosities, freak shows, things to be used or abused. And the police are rarely on the side of trans* and queer people. There are countless stories of police being called who do nothing or, even worse, who make the situation even more violent. My identity and body could be disrespected at any time.
I would love to talk with other transgender/queer people and women who might want to have a conversation about this (online or privately). This is something I have been really wrestling with. How do I overcome my fear so that I am not paralyzed by it?
I want to be able to move past this fear into my calling. I don’t want to be held back. But I feel like I need to acknowledge this fear and this reality. This is something that I rarely see talked about in progressive/activist circles. Civil disobedience is lauded (as it should be) but the ramifications upon the bodies and lives of queer people are once again overlooked. I would love to see this conversation happen more broadly.