I got called a faggot to my face today.
Nevermind that I am not the first to have this epithet hurled at me; nevermind that this is hardly the worst thing that I have been called or the worst thing done to me; nevermind that it is not even accurate. I know these things, and they change nothing about what I have to say, or how threatened I felt.
Allow me to set the scene:
Right now, as a mid-transition trans woman, I have obvious breasts that my t-shirt almost hides and are just shy of needing a bra. I have longer hair which naturally curls out, and I have a womanly sway to my walk.
It started at Wal-mart dropping off my progesterone prescription, where I had just gotten done explaining “Yes, that is really me, and yes, my doctor is prescribing progesterone for me.” I return to my car. I check my pocket for my keys and realize only my phone is there. I had locked my keys in my car.
I am only about a mile down the road, and I did a hell of a lot more walking in Chicago, so that is no problem. I figure it is a great excuse to walk a couple miles now instead of later in the evening. Things go fine at first.
A car rounds the corner up ahead. There is no sidewalk, so I am walking down the shoulder of a four lane road. My other option is to walk through the unkempt field, and I’ve walked and jogged down the road a thousand times. There’s plenty of room on the shoulder, so I don’t think anything of it when the car doesn’t move over to the middle lane.
I’m only a block from my home.
Then the car slows down. Strange, but they might be turning so I think nothing of it. First a head, then shoulders, then an entire torso emerges from the passenger window as it comes toward me. A young man, late teens, early twenties hangs out of the car and makes eye contact with me. Whatever this is, it is about me. I can’t see if he’s holding anything, I can barely see his face with the silhouette. As he passes, he shouts “Faggot!”
I can hear the laughing as the car accelerates away, but I don’t turn around. I’m too startled to even look back for the license plate.
I reach my house, and I close my door. I get my spare keys. I know I need to go back out there and walk down that very same road. Toward Wal-mart where my car is, but also the largest concentration of people who think “faggot” is just what “those queers” are called. I just stand there with the door closed behind me.
Now, I know what you are thinking; I thought the same thing myself:
Was this just some kid who was probably going to say that to anyone who was walking down the street? Yes. They had committed to hanging out the window well before they could tell who I was or see any distinguishing features.
Was this completely harmless and juvenile? Yes.*
And there is the problem: the asterisk. It was harmless this time.
Anti-transgender hate crimes account for 1 in every 1000 murders per year.
This list comes to mind.
Or more recently, the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis.
This didn’t happen on the internet. This wasn’t some 12 year old on XBox Live. This was live and in person.
When you are visibly gender variant, and someone shouts “Faggot” at you from a moving vehicle, it doesn’t matter that it’s totally the wrong slur for the moment. It doesn’t matter that for the people in the car, it was just a cheap laugh. It doesn’t matter that slurs are rarely coupled with violence in practice.
When the slur gets hurled at you by a complete stranger, presumably based on your appearance, and you’re alone, what can possibly cross your mind in that instant other than, “Is this time my time to be the target of hate violence?”