Updated: Oct 7, 2018
May 28th, 2018
I was on the crowded Red Line train on my way to the third performance of Trap Door Theatre's Monsieur D'eon is a Woman when the man punched me in the jaw. It was fully unprovoked, without warning. He continued to punch me, grabbed my throat and threw me to the ground while grunting slurs at me. The others on the train stepped aside so as not to get in the way.
I am non-binary; I am not a man, I am not a woman. I do not wish to pass as a man or to pass as a woman; I just want to look like me. The man who punched me didn't want someone like me standing next to him. He decided that the small wedge of space I fit into on the rush hour train much larger than I deserved.
In that moment—and regrettably in many moments since—I too was made to feel that I didn't deserve that small wedge of space. But it wasn't the attacker who made me believe this, it was every single person on the rush-hour train who stood there, watched it happen, and did nothing.
I looked up and screamed for help to a pack of young and fit men. They watched me like they were watching a YouTube video. All they did was step aside so my attacker could throw me to the ground. None of them shouted, called 911 or got him off of me, although I'm sure they all have posted pictures of themselves at the pride parade, tweeted about their support for LGBTQ+ rights or "have gay friends."
It wasn't until it was clear that my attacker was actually trying to kill me that someone pulled his hands from my throat as another told me to move away. I crawled to the other side of the train. No one asked if I was okay. No one helped me up. No one got off the train at the next stop to get away from my attacker, because they knew that they weren't in danger.
I have never been so alone in my life.
Just two days before the attack, I had written on Facebook about having the bravery to look people back in the eyes when they stared at me. I called my femme clothes battle armor and I stepped out of my apartment door with courage and pride. Now, my battle armor is broken. I step outside and feel the terror creep in. For the past week I've decided to present as male. I once swore that I would never closet myself again, but here I am back in the closet.
When I am onstage though, I am not in the closet. I am proud, I am defiant, and I am strong. The cast of Monsieur D'eon Is a Woman is unafraid to look people in the eyes and tell this trans narrative with strength and pride. These actors give me the love and support to tell a proud, tragic and beautiful story of D'eon's trans experience. This stage is the safest place I feel I can truly be myself right now, and I know this is the case with many trans performers.
We deserve space on a train. We deserve space in the world. We have created space on the stage for ourselves, but that space is still small. I might even say tiny. Historically, many trans folks have needed to closet themselves to take cis roles because trans roles are rare and hard to come by. I urge artists to act on your allyship. Don't force us to closet ourselves just so we can work in our profession.
It is hard to go out the door and have the world see us for who we truly are. With a theatrical platform, the world comes to us and sees who we truly are. Our stories need to be told and our voices need to be heard. Nicole Wiesner and Trap Door Theatre have given me the remarkable opportunity to share my voice and tell D'eon's story—and I will be forever grateful. I thank everyone who has and will attend the theater to experience D'eon's journey.
To everyone who claims to be an ally, I now speak directly to you: Be a real ally. Please don't stand there like those people on the El did. Please. I beg you, just as I begged those people on the train—until I tasted blood in my throat.
I'm sure you may fear for your safety when you consider getting involved in situations like this one, but we fear for much more than our safety, we fear for our very lives. Being an ally is more than posting a picture of yourself at a pride parade or tweeting your support for gay rights. Frankly, I don't care about a picture of you wearing a rainbow boa. Don't flaunt your allyship—act on your allyship.
Stand with us.
Fight with us.