Living openly as a transgender or nonbinary person is a radical, political act. Our lives are steeped in danger, as we constantly dodge both blatant violence and a more subtle, insidious bigotry. Many of us aren’t out, as it would risk our careers, our health care options, or our housing. That doesn’t make those who live a shadow life any less valid or legitimate.
I would be remiss not to mention that Transgender Day of Remembrance fell last week on a Monday (November 20). There have been 25 reported murders of our community members this year, making it the deadliest on record. The number is likely higher, as we are a notoriously difficult demographic to map. The vast majority of those murdered were trans women of color, as white supremacy often intersects with patriarchal oppression.
I did a poor job of sharing my story at Monument Square last week, on a particularly frigid Sunday night vigil. We had good attendance though, and the Press Herald didn’t even deadname or misgender me in their quotes. (They have previously, despite my corrections.) I’ve been out as transfeminine for more than a year now with friends, though I’ve weighed carefully when it’s safe to be out in public.
Six months ago I was walking home from Blackstones, the neighborhood gay bar, in my favorite pair of heels. I was dressing femininely, and I won’t lie, I may have strutted down the sidewalk. It’s those moments that give me hope, when I feel confident enough in my own skin to express myself fully. To pull back the veil, so to speak. To breathe.
But, it didn’t much last. Two men came up behind me, tripped me, and called me a “faggot.” Then they punched me in the face, and kicked me twice in the ribs. They only stopped when I gave them my last $20, but it was clear they had targeted me because they thought I was vulnerable. And I suppose I was, though I hadn’t felt it before my violent assault.
The detective assigned to my case never found the two men who beat me on the sidewalk of State Street near Sherman. He told me “Portland is a very safe city, though,” as if attempting to assuage my newfound doubts. It isn’t safe for everyone, not people of color, not trans folks, and certainly not for poor folks. The police don’t protect our neighborhoods like they might a wealthier part of the peninsula. What most folks forget when we celebrate Pride, or fly a rainbow flag outside our apartment or local business, is that economic and criminal justice are still unserved needs of our community.
The battle for human dignity continues unabated, no matter how much money we pour into our celebrations. Justice, I truly believe, will not be given to us by our politicians, the courts, or well-meaning nonprofits. It’ll be taken, taken into the hands of those who need it most, people who barely scrape by. Until we can walk the streets of Portland safely, expressing our true identities, none of us should feel free and liberated.
I’ll close this little piece of by saying this: Solidarity comes in a lot of forms. Attending calls to action, donating money to radical organizations, and holding public officials accountable are all valuable pursuits. So is buying a hungry trans kid a pizza. So is picking up the tab at a bar for someone you know is struggling. So is offering a homeless queer a couch to sleep on, even for just the night.
We can do better. We’re in this shitstorm together. Solidarity.
Madison Raymond (they/them) is a 23-year-old resident of Portland.