Transphobia happens in queer spaces too, unfortunately

Last weekend local trans-identified community member Nik Rapier attended one of our most popular queer nights, Gaycation. While there he had an unfortunate incident of transphobia which he initially recounted on the global web project to combat street harrassment Hollaback. He has also agreed to share his story with qPDX readers below.

We were standing outside Holocene, cooling down from that overheated dance floor, when you reeled out the door, steps unsteady and eyes full of malice. After looking our little group over, you apparently decided that we didn’t pass your definition of acceptable gender presentations, because you stopped right in front of us and let fly some of the more transphobic comments I’ve heard in a drunken slur.

“Pick a fucking gender,” you said, “pick a fucking gender! And fucking stick with it!”

Dramatically grabbing your crotch, you graphically demonstrated the depth of your conviction. “Penis!” Pointing to each of us in turn, you emphatically blurted “Vagina!” and then grabbed your crotch again, yelling “Penis! Fucking pick a gender!”

With this charming display of transphobic pyrotechnics, you rather effectively gained the attention of not only my group but also the entire line waiting to get into the Holocene, startling us into silence. You finally reeled off down the street, a drunken fag in women’s shoes, a small-minded and fearful man. And I know what you’re afraid of: you’re afraid of me. You’re terrified of me – a queer, genderqueer transman who doesn’t often pass, who is comfortable in gay and queer spaces, and who comes equipped with a cunt. Well guess what? I come with a penis, too. Several, in fact, varying in length, width, and color depending on the preference of those I am intimate with.

I know you’re threatened, scared, and act hateful because of it, but it really makes me wonder what kind of internalized homophobia you must live with on a daily basis. Are you even remotely happy in your life? Do you ever genuinely enjoy life without thinking about how you have to live up to someone else’s notions of what is socially acceptable? Do you ever go out and just dance without drinking, just letting the music lift you up, free you, let you breathe and be? Are you always so desperately unhappy?

It’s a funny thing: I’ve lived all up and down the west side of this country and the only place where I have consistently met with queer- and trans-phobia is Portland. I’ve lived here for the better part of six years now, and in that time I’ve been harassed on street corners and walking down the street just for being who I am and looking the way I do. I kind of expect it from straight, cisgendered people – but the thing is that I regularly volunteer for educational panels speaking about being queer and trans, and am regularly pleasantly surprised by the amount of straight, cisgendered folk who are genuinely understanding and respectful. So when I get this kind of shit from within the queer community – from people who are supposed to know better – it’s especially hurtful. And when I get it in the city which prides itself on having an especially large trans and queer population, which loves being weird, which celebrates difference, I have to wonder. Apparently difference is only fine if it fits within very strict standards of a given group – which negates the concept of diversity in the first place.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve gotten shit from within the queer community, but it doesn’t stop hurting, and it doesn’t stop me from wanting to take a knee to that crotch you clutched so tightly. Even though gender and sexuality are two different things, we get lumped into the same category as people who are not mainstream – non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered, non-monogamous, non-vanilla, and so on. LGB has become LGBTQQIAAWTFBBQ as identity after identity is categorized under the rainbow flag of ‘gay pride.’ People call us a community, but the truth is that we’re not – we’re a population of individuals who experience similar kinds of oppression and discrimination from a heterosexist, monogamous, and cisgendered society. Community occurs when people intentionally band together, strengthening the ties of their similarities and celebrating their differences, supporting one another, and working for the betterment of all. What you did, screaming your hate into the night, was not an act of community. It was ignorance, and fear, and violence, and held nothing of respect, or kindness or basic human decency. And it was all the worse because you don’t pass either – you look as visibly gay as I’ve seen, and the fact that you poured out the same shit I’m sure you’ve been subject to onto me and my friends was atrocious.

I feel that when people have been subject to discrimination, to blatant hate and bias, they’re going to do their damndest to make sure it doesn’t happen again. They don’t perpetuate the cycle with vitriolic commentary and suggestion of violence. To do so is to become part of the problem, and to reinforce the idea that discrimination is acceptable. What you did tonight was small minded and weak, and I pity you.

13 comments to Transphobia happens in queer spaces too, unfortunately

  • Brad

    This is very well written. You have managed to turn rightful anger into insightful commentary on this “community.”

    My favorite: “People call us a community, but the truth is that we’re not – we’re a population of individuals who experience similar kinds of oppression and discrimination from a heterosexist, monogamous, and cisgendered society.”

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Brad Forkner via Facebook

    Well written and interesting insight into what “community” truly means.

  • Nicole

    It’s so unfortunate and disheartening that things like this can happen even in queer friendly or queer specific spaces. I think it’s important to talk about though and I’m glad Nik shared this experience.

  • Rachael

    Beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing this, Nik. That kind of behavior is unacceptable.

  • Laura Seeton via Facebook

    I always felt that Holocene and Gaycation was rather hipster, elitest anyway! Now I have a real reason to not support them! This is not tolerable in our community. An albatross should be hung around the neck of that creature who would say such things! NO transphobia anywhere and especially not in Queer spaces. SHAME on you.

  • LauraS

    Hi Nik, this is super sucky news. Thank you for telling your story. I am deeply saddned by this story and what that person did to you. I’m also saddened that you experience this at a higher rate in Portland. Maybe our paths will cross in Queer spaces someday. Until then, I’m totally on your side.

  • LauraS

    PS I am a part of your community!

  • Laura Seeton via Facebook

    Ok, so Holocene and Gaycation have nothing to do with this story…but I never really liked the crowd…and it just seems interesting that this would happen there…places I don’t even feel comfortable.

  • KD

    Great accompanying image.

  • TW

    This isn’t particularly surprising to me but it isn’t the thing that disappoints me the most about the queer community. I don’t know how many dates I’ve went on with lesbians who seemed to like me just fine when talking to me on Okcupid or something and then as soon as they meet me they cut the date short or immediately stop answering their phone when they realize I’m transgendered.

  • As a trans woman, I don’t feel comfortable in queer spaces because of what I perceive as the cold-shoulder treatment from the cis-women in those spaces.

    It’s not that anything gets said per se, but it’s made pretty obvious women like me are not wanted in those spaces if we insist on being treated like women as real as themselves.

  • Pepper

    thanks for sharing this. It is important for the gay/queer community to have a mirror held up to its face!

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katie Diamond, Alley Hector, hardcorps80204, MelbourneGenderqueer, kori and others. kori said: It's always harder when it comes from within. RT: @TransEnough: Transbashing within the Portland, OR queer community. […]