Ethan interviewed Mitch Graffero, who with his friend Jamie, were in a gay bar in Washington, DC over a month ago. When some of the patrons realized that Mitch and Jamie are transgender man, they physically assaulted them.
When Mitch Graffeo entered Dupont’s Fab Lounge shortly before closing on Feb. 28, he hadn’t been to a lesbian club in more than a decade. Graffeo, 40, was only stopping in to pick up a friend, 29-year-old Jamie, at the conclusion of the gay bar’s weekly lesbian night. Graffeo and Jamie, both transgender men, were two of only a handful of men in a club full of women. As the lights went up, a group of women took a sudden interest in Jamie. Slim and boyish, Jamie had only recently begun to transition from female to male, and they wanted to know what he was.
Graffeo watched the women surround Jamie. “They were grabbing him, saying, ‘What are you, a boy or a girl?’” Graffeo says. “They were very interested and excited, grabbing his crotch and his chest,” says Graffeo. When Jamie asked the women to leave him alone, they closed in tight around him. Jamie “wiggled his way out,” and the two men funneled toward the door with the rest of the last-call crowd.
The scene grew even more violent,
Once outside, one of the women refused to let her curiosity subside. “She jumped on his back a bit and put him in a headlock,” says Graffeo. Then, she reopened the line of questioning. “She was saying, ‘What are you, come on, tell me, what the fuck,’” Graffeo says. Jamie wiggled out again. The woman persisted.
When Graffeo stepped between them, the woman “tried to punch around” him. Graffeo pulled out his cell phone and announced he was calling the police. The woman grabbed the phone from his hand and used it to pound Graffeo in the head and neck. “She said, ‘You’re not calling anybody,’” Graffeo says. Meanwhile, “a second gal was just pummeling Jamie, hitting him on his head, his neck, his arms.” Soon, a car pulled up, and the women jumped inside. Jamie was left with bruises and a concussion. A week later, “he’s still purple,” says Graffeo. “He’s not black and blue, he’s purple all over.”
Read the rest of Amanda Hess’ article that appeared on March 18th in the Washington DC City Paper.
Compliated story of men in women’s spaces? Yes, some have argued this, but even if that were the case, (which sounds to me like a rationalization to blame the victims) it that does not warrant this type of irrational and unacceptable violence.
Isolated incident? One can hope, but for years the Michigan’s Womyn’s Festival, which was created back in the mid-70’s “as a response to perceived misogyny, sexism and homophobia,” has denied access to trans women. (Creative transgender individuals responded with their own inclusive Camp Trans held right across the street from the Womyn’s festival.)
The discrimination and oppression of trans people within the LGB community is in no way limited to women’s (or womyn’s) spaces. For years I have met non-trans gay men who have propagated misinformation about trans people and expressed shockingly negative and even violent reactions to transgender indviduals and groups within the LGBT community and particularly in LGB(T) churches.
Yes, I do meet affirming LGB non-trans folks who really want to understand and truly work toward an inclusive community (some of you read this blog.) Some folks are doing great work at educating themselves and getting involved. But we need to ramp up our efforts.
We can’t sit silently when gender identity and expression get removed from employment non-discrimiation and hate crime legislation. We need to speak out about the verbal and physical violence against trans people within our communities and exclusionary practices. We need to share these stories on our blogs. I am so surprised it took over a month for me to hear about this particular story.
It’s about justice. It’s about standing up for anyone who experiences oppression and injustice in the world around us. It’s about moving past our own fears that our needs will not be met (gay marriage, ordination, job protection, etc) to the place where we actively engage to see that everyone’s needs are met.
I think of John Henson’s Good As New, a brilliant translation of the Christian scriptures,
It’s time to stop vexing yourselves with questions like, ‘Where shall we eat tonight?’ or ‘Have we ordered the right wine to go with the meal?’ or ‘Is this dress suitable for the occasion?’ People who are bothered by such questions don’t yet know God. God loves you and knows what’s best for you. Center your minds on God’s New World. Use your energy to create a just and fair society. Then you can live it up! (Matthew chapter six, p 133)
You can isten to Ethan’s interview with Graffeo here.
Looking for more media resources about transgender people and their stories? Check out my blog post Learning Through Listening.