On Saturday, in the West Village, I was harassed because I’m genderqueer (Why Jason Collins matters)
On Saturday night, I was walking to a movie in the West Village with one of my friends. I’m a black genderqueer masculine-presenting person. I was wearing this outfit:
It was just before midnight and the streets around the IFC were crowded with people from all walks of life (many of them walking drunkenly in zig zag lines trying to make it home or to the next bar). I tend to feel safe when I’m walking around the West Village. It’s a queer home.
Steps away from the IFC, a group of African American men (in their late 20s or early 30s) stepped in front of my friend and I. One of them shouted “You’re a n*gger?…No…SHE’S A BITCH!”
The group started laughing as my friend and I walked around them and toward the theater. Clearly, the reason they singled me out was because my gender presentation didn’t match what they wanted it to be.
Sadly, street harassment is not a rare thing for New Yorkers. Many of my feminine-presenting friends are harassed on their street corners as they walk in and out of their apartments. Verbal street harassment is scary because of where the harassment could lead. LGBTQ New Yorkers have been beaten, sexually assaulted, and killed because of their perceived sexuality and gender representation. This isn’t the worst case of street harassment I’ve endured. It was scary because I never know how interactions like these are going to end - Will harassers simply laugh and walk away? Will someone try to prove something to their friends and chase, sexually assault, or beat me? Who knows.
Today, Jason Colins became the “first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport”. Does that immediately change my reality on the streets of New York? Not overnight. His existence challenges stereotypes about gender, race, and sexuality. I think it’s important to have a wide variety of lgbtq community members in the spotlight so people can start to understand the wide variety of sexualities and gender presentations there are out there. Jason’s story matters. And so does mine.