It’s a Friday night at about 11:30 pm.
I’m in a bar, planted in a sea of approximately a bajillion people who are jamming out to what sounds like Blink-182...or whatever other band has the perfect cadence to be featured in an early-2000s Disney Channel Original Movie.
I gotta say, I’m looking pretty cute. My hair is done up in the only style I know how to do in twenty minutes: two afro puffs and a bang. My makeup and outfit are on fifty-’leven, obviously. Donning one of my fifteen plaid schoolgirl skirts with a pair of cherry-red pumps to match, I am prepared to have a good night of dancing, drinking, and discussions with my friends. Up until this group of debilitatingly drunk cisgender nuisances began to follow me around the venue, prodding at my appearance and my personal space.
Later on that night, I would be misgendered, harassed and ultimately assaulted by the trio in a way that I had never experienced before.
She pulled up my skirt.
My back was turned and the shortest, drunkest white girl in the bar pulled up my skirt for God-knows-who to see. After an hour of getting groped, chased, and disrespected by a group of people who were too daft to get the memo that I was avoiding any and all interaction with them, I was assaulted. I had never experienced such audacity during an invasion of my physical autonomy that I had no other reaction than to yell, “What in the hell are you doing?”
A slew of apologies and “I’m-sorry-on-behalf-ofs” followed shortly after, attempting to contest my anger and downplay the act of what this little weasel had just done. “She’s so drunk! She didn’t mean it,” looped in my ears at a nauseating rate, even after several attempts to remove myself from the situation before things got ugly.
The friend’s lame excuses did nothing to soothe my rage and, actually, added fuel to the already-burning fire inside my gut. How did she “not mean it?” Did she not deliberately reach out her hand to touch a stranger’s skirt and lift it high enough for me to feel air on my ass? Did she not commit the act of prying at my personal space to satiate her curiosity and awe? Were you not egging on this behavior by inviting your little group to make a spectacle of me, stalking me and my friends around the bar while badgering me with fetishsistic rhetoric? I know I am *sooooo beautiful* sweetheart, but that doesn’t give you the right to touch me in any way you please.
Herein lies the problem with cisgender entitlement and the lack of accountability that exists amongst this group of people. Perpetrators of ignorance, violation and assault, some cis people typically fail to hold their friends, and themselves, accountable for the actions they commit against those outside of their world.
The bubble of comfortability that society has afforded to those that exist within the “norm” often justifies the language and actions they use to further undermine trans individuals. It is an epidemic that, to this day, explains the gross injustices queer people have been forced to “just deal with” since the beginning of time. People with privilege have the power and agency to minimize transphobia by simply speaking up. So why don’t they?
You cannot ear-f*ck me with admiration and in the same breath, compromise my safety by misgendering me. You cannot ogle at my lived experiences and at the same time, undermine my rights. Do the work that needs to be done in order for you to engage with trans people in a genuine manner, or don’t mess with us at all.
There must be a change in the way cis people navigate openly queer spaces, in order for those spaces to remain safe. Learning accountability is not a one-time gig, but rather a lifelong lesson for those that don’t identify with the struggles of living on the outskirts of societal acceptance.
Educate yourself and those around you on the communities you don’t belong to if you plan to come into our spaces. Befriend someone who doesn’t look exactly like you and everyone you know in order to diversify your knowledge of the world around you. Use your privilege to help stand up for those that physically and socially cannot.
Every time you witness or take part in an injustice against trans people, it is an overtly violent attack on their safety and ability to move throughout society with ease, just like you.
Ivana Fischer is a film and media enthusiast who specializes in cultural studies. You can find her across all socials @iv.fischer