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Saw Something. Said Nothing.

Travel Question:When I Witnessed Anti-Trans Bias, What Should I Have Done?

Travel Question:When I Witnessed Anti-Trans Bias, What Should I Have Done?

When confronted with trans-discrimination, I balked at taking action. How should I respond to anti-LGBT situations?

By Xorje Olivares

New York City subway riders can be among the most annoying people you'll ever encounter in this life. They are only slightly ahead of petitioners with clipboards and passive-aggressive tactics asking you for a second of your time; Platinum-level flyers with expensive carry-on luggage who refuse to look you in the eye as you board economy; and those impatient colleagues who press the elevator button a mere two seconds after you because apparently that'll make it arrive faster. Ummm, you saw that the arrow was already lit up, right? Oh, you did? You saw it? Mm-kay, just checking, Felicia. 

Now I would've given Sallie Mae-levels of cash to Greenpeace if it meant avoiding the couple I recently encountered on an uptown train. A muscular white guy in his 20s was standing right next to me holding onto the pole attached to the seat occupied by his girlfriend. They didn't talk to each other for a good portion of the ride. In fact, he and I did what most New York City residents do on the subway: We closed our eyes and stood there in silence as we imagined what it'd be like to experience joy again. We'd even take our dignity back if it was lying around somewhere. Which reminds me: Dear, Santa. 

About halfway through the ride, the boyfriend tapped the girlfriend's shoulder and said with a sense of urgency, "Babe, get up! You have to see this." Slightly startled, she responded, "What—what is it?" Without turning, I knew exactly what he was about to show her.

See, when I first attempted to enter the train, the doorway was blocked by two young girls who thought it'd be cute to continue their conversation about nail polish instead of showing me and other agitated straphangers courtesy. After we each pushed our way in, I made sure to glance back at the now-irritated women to show them my own frustration with their riding habits. It was then that I acknowledged that both of them were either transgender or gender non-conforming, which was honestly just a quick observation on my part at the moment. But, their identities notwithstanding, they were still pretty rude and blatantly so. 

But back to Dawson and Joey in this, a brand new episode of 'Up Dawson's Creek.' The young guy started pointing at the women and seemingly said with disbelief, "Look, babe--trannies! Those are fucking trannies right there, can you believe it?" 

The girlfriend, tickled by her beau's discovery, immediately covered her mouth and said, "Oh my gosh, how can you tell?"

"Just look at them--they're clearly dudes," he said, just loud enough for me, his pole buddy, to hear every single transphobic word. "Especially the first one. Yeah, that's for sure a guy. Wow!"

Each time they opened their mouths I thought about what to do with mine. "Say something!" I told myself. "You can use this moment to really educate these people, especially when it comes to using a reprehensible word like 'tranny.'" I felt like it could've been the perfect opportunity to really exert my expertise considering my personal and professional lives revolve around the LGBT experience.  

But then I looked at Dawson, a strapping young man whose Gold's Gym membership clearly gets paid on time. And then there was me, the Slim Jim who Ronda Rousey looked at once and said, "Da fuck am I supposed to do with this?"

After assessing the situation, I decided that I'd probably be safer if I remained quiet. I mean, if they were getting this riled up over just seeing transgender women, how would homeboy react if he were challenged by a 'faggot?'

And yet these types of scenarios play out every day in a post-marriage equality America, leaving sensitive-minded LGBT people to constantly ask themselves: WWJD (What Would Judy Do)?

I've always wondered if we, as members of the LGBT community, are called to respond to the rainbow-colored bat signal in our area every single time it lights up. What if tonight's edition of 'Up Dawson's Creek' involved an attempted gay-bashing on an unsuspecting couple walking in front of me in what we all deemed was a safe neighborhood? Would I shout, "Hey! HEY!! Lay off 'em!" as I physically intervened? Or would I lay low, call the cops and protect myself from potential injury? Maybe a third option that'd make sense at the time?

This could really apply to anything. For instance, how would we react to the real estate broker who doesn't want to assist the gay client ahead of us; the dressing room attendant who makes a face when the lesbian says she has three dresses to try on; the coworker who looks at a same-sex family photo and unceremoniously walks away; and the bewildered commuter who stares at a transgender person with their mouth agape?

If we saw anything inherently discriminatory, would we say something? Stay-tuned for scenes from the next 'Up Dawson's Creek' to find out.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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