I stood shaking in the sticky darkness. I could feel the sweat and heavy humidity of the North Carolina summer rolling down my neck, but a sickening dread kept me moving through the trees. I was alive. But I wasn’t safe.
“What the fuck are you?” he yelled across the parking lot, “Do you have a dick?” he continued, leaning against his dinged up Honda Civic while the handful of young men and women crowded around him laughed.
I kept walking. It was the summer of 2009, a full year before we started telling kids “It gets better.”
“Show us, faggot!” yelled another in the group, clearly bolstered by the laughter, “We just wanna know!”
Finally, I stopped and faced them. My hands shaking with rage I yelled back, “Ask your mother!”
I turned and crossed the remainder of the parking lot quickly. My mind was a mess as fear and shame came together to confuse any emotion beyond shock while my adrenaline-numb body simply kept moving. I hurried across the road and made it to our street, relaxing a bit in the seemingly secure emptiness of a rural road.
I slowed and walked the road’s edge, catching my breath. That’s when I heard it.
Tires squealing against pavement. The high hum of an engine being asked to move faster. A pair of headlights cast my shadow in front of me. I turned, looked, and realized the car was headed directly towards me.
I don’t remember much. I remember the sound the tires made when they left the road—the sound of rocks and road grit being kicked up as they went. I remember falling as I tried to run. I remember the force of the wind as the car went by the small ditch I laid in. I remember the sound as the car screeched to a stop. I remember lifting my head to see the dinged up Honda Civic turning back towards me.
I pulled myself up and ran for the tree line. I stumbled forward as fast as I could manage, struggling to hear anything other than the drumming of my heart, wondering, “How far will I get before they find me?”
I stopped when all I heard was the sound of the woods around me.
I never called the police. I never told my boss or coworkers. To this day, six years later, my family and most of my friends have never heard this story.
I was terrified. I was humiliated. I was furious. I was a kind of sad I don’t even have a word for. But I was silent. And I have stayed silent.
Like many who have been labeled as “other,” I have been taught to be silent, taught to hide myself in whatever ways I can. Fear and shame have led me to perpetuate these lessons.
Violence is not the only way I learned to be silent. No one had to scream “faggot” or invasive questions about my body, though they often have, for me to know I wasn’t what society wanted me to be. So often it is much quieter than that.
This silence is more subversive, and it is born from those of us who do not challenge hate. It is a silence perpetuated by those of us who do not use our voices until a problem is standing at our doorstep, and often remain silent even then.
I cannot be silent anymore.
On Aug.15, 2015, Tamara Dominguez was murdered in Kansas City. .Dominguez’s killer ran over her multiple times outside of her church.. Tamara was a transgender Latina woman.
On June. 23, 2015, Jasmine Collins was murdered in Kansas City. She was stabbed to death, but her murder went unknown and unreported because KCPD misgendered and misidentified her. Jasmine was a transgender black woman.
On Oct. 31, 2014, Dionte Greene was murdered in Kansas City. He was shot in the head. Dionte was a gay black man.
In 10 months in Kansas City, three members of the LGBT+ community have been murdered. All three were people of color.
There is an unmistakable pattern of discrimination, dehumanization, and death that we, as a city, must address immediately. As a community, we all must work towards change. Violence occurring around gender, race, and sexual orientation is devastating communities across the country, and Kansas City is sadly no different.
I am responsible, and so are you. We cannot be silent anymore.