Safety is important. Whether that be on the streets, or online, as LGBTQ people, we are constantly told to ensure that we make ourselves and the others around us safe.
So why is it when the streets become a place of uncertainty and danger, that sometimes our online platforms don’t actually offer us the safety and solace that we’re looking for?
As someone who identifies as non-binary and presents femme, transmisogyny is not something that is uncommon in my daily life. Men feeling like they’re entitled to the world walk past me everyday, and some of these men feel like they’re entitled to my body, which is exactly what happened last weekend. I’m not a huge fan of the word victim however in actual fact that’s what I was. Three drunk men approached me in the afternoon in a crowded area and one proceeded to ‘investigate’ what I ‘was’, putting their hands and head underneath my dress whilst shouting aggressive slurs. I managed to get them off me, retreat back to safety and continue on with my day.
What was surprising to me was the way that I was almost used to this. The fact that I was able to, although shocked by what happened, return to my working life and actually just continue with my day is a sure sign that we are too used to this kind of behaviour when we navigate the world.
As a cathartic release, I shared the incident on my Instagram stories because my initial reaction to what had happened was ‘what do I do now?’, and I knew there would definitely be people who would also not know what to do initially in the aftermath of a hate incident.
On Tuesday morning I had a meeting with the police, and was stressed. As queer people I think we’re always wary of the police and the ways in which their process can feel exclusionary towards us, especially as someone who is non-binary. However my biggest stress that morning was waking up to an article by LGBTQ press about the whole incident. The story, although brief, discussed that I was assaulted, and focused on the ‘alleged incident’ in which ‘no one helped’. I couldn’t believe it.
Why was I being spoken for? Spoken about? I got in touch with the editor and writer to discuss the fact that this piece went ahead without my consent, and without any discussion with me. As an LGBTQ platform, I understand the ways in which they report on news and incidents to create a narrative that informs readers on what’s happening on the streets so they’re aware, and know how to report. However, their reasoning for running the story was that after I had put the information on my Instagram story that the words were in the public domain and they had a duty of care to share my story. I found out later on the day the story went live that they’d tried to get in touch with me via Facebook Messenger, and I hadn’t seen this in time prior to the article going live.
Taking someone’s words on an intimate event that happened and sharing them on a global platform is incredibly different than me sharing it with my 13,000 Instagram followers. In that instance I have control, and am able to control the narrative and how much I am willing to share. This news outlet had taken my power away and my autonomy to be able to tell my own story. And this happens a lot, especially when gender non-conforming people come into play. Our stories aren’t believed, and are seen to only be validated and legitimised when news outlets take them on and talk for us. Not by us, but about us.
Public violence is so common yet so unspoken about, and to have my own personal space invaded on the streets, it was a huge event. And in bizarre parallels, on the streets no one batted an eyelid, however now online, the media thinks it’s their place to go from zero to one hundred, and speak for me. Gender non-conforming power is never something to be diminished, and is only something we can share and own and have power in. It should never be taken away. We are the source of the power.
It’s not even been four days since this happened and I am still in a state of processing, realigning, and ensuring that I don’t allow this to change me or alter my world. As queer people we are resilient, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need time to heal. And healing is a personal process, and not something that needs to be impeded by sensationalist news sites discussing our experiences on our behalf. Our words and our stories are our own to tell, and this type of ‘grab and go’ style news glorifies and fetishizes both our lives and our stories to grab headlines and clicks.
They might care about our stories, but after seeing behind the scenes and actually discussing with them how they work, their lack of empathy and ability to listen to the person who is the focus of the story is something we in the queer media world need to be aware of, and change. Allow people to tell their own stories when it comes to harassment, if they want to, and if they need to. Yes we all have a duty of care for our community to ensure we’re all aware of the safety issues we face on the streets, however we also have a duty of care to ourselves to ensure we take time, process and reacquaint ourselves with our own ability to feel safe and confident in public, because that’s the bare minimum that we deserve.