If you follow me on Twitter or pay attention to news about trans people, you’ve probably heard about CeCe McDonald.
If not, go read this: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/05/cece-mcdonald-transgender-hate-crime-murder and this: http://supportcece.wordpress.com/ and this: http://stuffqueerpeopleneedtoknow.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/updates-on-the-cece-mcdonald-case/. There’s more, but I’m going to trust your Google abilities.
Last month, CeCe took a plea bargain (manslaughter) rather than going to trial for murder, and yesterday she was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $6,000 in restitution. There is a lot fucked up about the situation. A lot. Including the fact that since she is incarcerated, the state of Minnesota will make its own determination of her gender to decide where to imprison her.
Everett Maroon quoted the judge in his most recent blog post on the subject: In his words to Ms. McDonald at her plea bargain, Judge Daniel Moreno stated that in introducing scissors into the altercation–which was not the first weapon brought into play, as she’d already been lacerated with a broken beer mug–“You realize. . . you endangered other lives.”
Other lives. Yes. Because as long as it was only her life being endangered, that was acceptable. Because, hey, she was trans and black and that made some drunken assholes angry, and we all know how that’s supposed to end.
Let me tell you a story.
This was either early last year, or late 2010. I could probably figure out the exact date, but I’d have to dig through Twitter and I don’t feel much like it since I have more than 14,000 tweets. (Holy shit.) I’d been on testosterone for about a year at the time, but I still did (and still do) go to work female. If you’re curious, it’s because even though I bind my breasts for cons and other pro SF things it hurts and I can’t do it every day.
One night, this entitled, somewhat off-kilter asshole was aggressively hitting on three Asian, female, college students in the back of the bus. They were giving him every indication that they were so very uninterested, but he didn’t care. I would have said something sooner, but nobody had an escape route while the bus was moving and I am a Seattle-ite to my deep and rotten core. Direct confrontation? Oh, shit no.
When we got to the Northgate Transit Center, he tried to give one of the women his phone number, which she refused. The entitled asshole then turned to me.
“How do you like that? I talk to her the WHOLE RIDE and then she says she doesn’t want my number! What do you think of that?”
So, I admit that my next move was not incredibly smart. In fact, with my 20-20 hindsight, it was pretty fucking stupid. What did I do? I answered his question honestly. I told him that he’d been harassing those women. See… before transitioning I’d always been the unattractive girl. Unattractive cis girl. The type of unattractive that gave me the magical cloaking power of Straight Guys Don’t Want To Fuck Me, So As Far As They’re Concerned I Don’t Exist.
Except that testosterone had given me a more masculine face and my voice had already dropped. I’d just stepped onto the curb when the entitled asshole noticed.
“ACTUALLY, FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING TRANNY MAN-WHORE.”
I crossed the bus lanes to the sidewalk, and I didn’t look back until I had some distance between us. He was still cussing. Cussing and explaining what I “deserved.” He hurried to get in front of me and head me off at the crosswalk that was between me and my car. Then he stopped there and stared at me.
And I thought:
This is it. The odds finally tipped against me. After a lifetime of being lucky, I’m going to die in a mall parking lot.
It felt like everything I’d ever wanted for myself was collapsing down into a number. Trans person #whatever dead for the year. Another name for someone to read the next November 20th. I wondered if he had a weapon on him.
I wondered if I had anything on me that could possibly be used as a weapon. The only thing I knew was that if he came after me, I was going to fight back. Because here’s the thing: when people attack trans people, especially trans women, I have absolutely no reason to believe that they’re not aiming to kill. Because I’ve read the stories. Because I’ve seen the numbers. And right then, it didn’t matter who or what I was, he thought I was trans female.
But I was lucky, and this particular asshole decided that verbal abuse was enough for the evening. I got in my car and locked my doors and watched all the entrances to that floor of the parking garage until I stopped shaking enough that I could drive home.
I was lucky.
But if I’d had scissors or a knife on me and that guy had attacked me? I wouldn’t have hesitated to defend myself. There’s no question.
And here’s the other thing — from the moment this started, the fact that I’m white provided protection. On the bus, I didn’t look “exotic” to this guy, so he didn’t harass me. Afterward, when we were off the bus, it may have factored into his decision to leave me alone after all. And if shit had gone down, it would have made it that much more likely that people would believe me that I acted in self-defense.
So that’s some of what I think about when I hear about CeCe.