A reader writes: “First off, let me say I despise violence, drama, etc. My nerves can’t handle it, and being bipolar, it’s a huge trigger for depression, etc. Sadly, however, bigots even within our family are a reality.
“I have been on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) since 2001. And have had bilateral orchiectomy (testicle removal). If I could afford SRS, I would have it years ago. SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is all I get, however, and that ain’t a whole lot.
“So now my question: There have been times, and last week, where so-called bio women threaten me or even assault me. Then when I stand up for myself, there is almost always a man who steps in and says, ‘No, you’re a dude. You’re not going to touch a woman.’
“Are they right? Or do I have the right to assert that ‘Hey, I am too a woman and can defend myself against another woman like any other woman?’”
I’m sorry that you have had to deal with this. Assault is a hugely emotional and triggering topic, so I am going to preface this reply with a very big “in my opinion.” So here goes:
IN MY OPINION, a person who is being assaulted has the right to defend him- or herself, regardless of that person’s gender or the gender of the assailant.
That said, the way I see it is that there are two goals when a person is being assaulted: to stay alive and to escape the situation with as little bodily harm as possible. Given those two goals, the first and best response to a threat or an attack is to leave the situation, if that is possible.
If the assault is a threat, a shove, or even a punch in the mouth, if you can get away, you need to do so. Walk, run, whatever you need to do to leave the situation. Staying in the situation, or responding verbally or physically, can escalate it, leading to further assault and more danger.
If you can’t get away from the situation, then you need to do whatever you have to do to stay alive and minimize physical harm, whether that is fighting back or doing nothing. It infuriates me when judges or juries decide that a sexual assault isn’t rape because the victim didn’t fight back. Sometimes you don’t fight back, because to do so is to risk serious injury or death. You have to decide what the best course of action is in a given situation to come out of that situation alive and intact.
Although you didn’t say this, I am guessing that women are threatening and assaulting you because they see that you are trans. Maybe this is happening in the bathroom or other areas where they feel that you don’t belong. Of course, we know that, if you are a woman, you do belong there, but it’s often difficult to convince other people of this, and I don’t know if your state laws protect you. But even in places where the law protects us in theory, it does not always protect us in reality, so you need to protect yourself.
In saying this, I am not saying that you are to blame for these assaults. As I’ve said before, a trans person is never to blame for being assaulted because he/she/ze is trans. But there are two concerns here.
The first is that women can do a lot of damage to other women, and you could be seriously injured by these attacks. The second is that men can do a lot of damage to women, and if men are stepping in to stop you from defending yourself, you could be seriously injured as well.
So I would personally not recommend that you take up a gender argument under these circumstances. I don’t think you will have a sympathetic ear, and I think that you could be placed in even more danger. Based on what you’re describing, this is not a teachable moment. I would recommend that you walk away, and perhaps find friendlier places to go.
Now, I think that I will face some disagreement here with regard to fighting back, and you do, of course, have that right. But in the scenario that you are describing, I think that you could easily end up fighting with a man – or several. Your goals are to stay alive and minimize injury. In this case, arguing gender is probably not going to bring you closer to those goals.
In addition, we have seen some ominous consequences when trans people have chosen to fight back. Even when our motive is self-defense, we are often treated by the law as the perpetrator or the problem. So there are no guarantees that your right to defend yourself will be seen as such – by anyone.
Of course, if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t walk away, then you have to do whatever you need to do to protect and defend yourself – and only you will know what that is if the time comes.
I wish you the best of luck. Stay safe.
Readers – thoughts?