“I Was Sexually Harassed 3x at DC’s Awesome Con Comic Convention.”

Location: 1525 Wilson Blvd #2, Virginia
Time: Morning Rush Hour (5am-9:30am)

I spent the weekend in DC for Awesome Con, and was sexually harassed on three separate occasions:

1)  Along 7th st NW, while walking back to the convention center after buying a jacket to keep warm, a group of men in a van started shouting “hey baby” at me and wanted me to get in the car with them. This astounds me as I had had four hours of sleep and looked like death warmed over; and the jacket I’d bought was very baggy and hid basically everything. I just kept walking.

2)  My friends and I were staying at a hotel in Arlington, VA. One of my friends is trans, but he and his girlfriend are sometimes perceived as a lesbian couple. He was having breakfast with her at the Starbucks on Wilson Blvd near the Rosslyn stop, when a man came up to them and was extremely invasive and creepy towards them. My friends left the Starbucks and the woman who remained at the hotel with me received a call from him, asking to be escorted because the man had followed my friends outside.The call was very hard to understand, and as it was still hours before we had to wake up, the woman I was staying with ended the call. Our friend arrived back at the hotel after dropping his gf off, shaken but otherwise safe. However, when it was time for us to depart, we went to have breakfast at the same Starbucks. My male friend informed me that the creepy guy had come back, and sure enough as soon as we sat down he came over to us and tried, in very hard-to-understand language, to engage us in conversation.

Spreading the anti-harassment message at the April 2013 AwesomeCon comic book convention in DC! Photo via Mark Webster/Stop Street Harassment.

He was not friendly, he kept trying to get personal information from us, and when we told him to go away he would bend down and stick his face inches from ours, staring us down. He would slowly move his face from person to person, and it was EXTREMELY hostile. He did it several times until one of us told him we would call the police if he did not leave us alone. He then walked over to another woman who was there with her young daughter and began intimidating her. We immediately explained what was going on to the management, but we left before seeing them do anything about it. He must have been hanging out inside that Starbucks for hours.

3)  Later that day, I was sitting at my convention table, selling prints and comics. I had had very little sleep and was not feeling very well. A man came up and was looking at my work; when he looked up I smiled at him politely. He exclaimed “now see, you look so much prettier when you smile! Before now I thought you were as cold and depressing as your art. You should smile more!”

The smile died on my face as he spoke, and I hardly remember what I said in response except that I felt incredibly awkward and tired of feeling judged for my decorative capacity.The man selling children’s books across from my table looked dour and hostile all day, but I didn’t see anyone being a condescending ass to him for it.

It continues to amaze me how little harrasment is about sexual desire, and how it’s all about power. I looked so exhausted and unkempt that weekend that I was scared for my own reflection, but I was in DC to have a good time at a convention for people who shared my interests. I tried my best to do that, but it’s difficult when my very presence in the public sphere seems to invite the attention of men who at best wish to put me in my place as an object to decorate their world, and at worst enjoy intimidating women and people they perceive as women. It all amounts to a kind of sexism fatigue that makes it hard to simply enjoy my life.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 4/22/13 by “Anonymous”

Note From The Editor: Today, Emily S. Whitten of ComicMix.com posted a column on sexual harassment she experienced at last week’s Awesome Con. We also recommend this great piece that made the rounds this fall, in which Mandy Caruso blogged on the sexual harassment she faced at the New York Comic Con. Great to see folks speaking up!

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault?
Submit your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system:
Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. Recommended tip: Program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

Honoring International Transgender Day of Remembrance (11/19)

posted in: LGBTQ, Verbal Harassment | 0

On Tuesday, November 19th, Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) joined hundreds of community members at the International Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil, held at the Metropolitan Community Church of DC in NW. Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith — a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist — to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. Nearly 15 years later, the day has burgeoned from a web-based project into an international day of action.

On International Transgender Day of Remembrance, Mayor Vincent Gray and Lisa Mallory accept awards for promoting economic justice for transgender residents of the District.

The standing-room only crowd heard from friends and family of murdered transgender people on the many things they loved and missed about their loved ones.  Speakers also called upon attendees to celebrate survivors and take action to foster safety and understanding for transgender folks.

Mayor Gray, who received an award for his administration’s focus on improving the lives of transgender people in the District, emphasized that his mantra of “One City” meant that all were welcome in DC.  This fall, he presided over the debut of a PSA series on Metro trains and bus shelters that aims “to increase understanding of transgender and gender non-conforming people, reduce incidents of discrimination and increase reporting [of such incidents].” Lisa Mallory, Director of the DC Department of Employment Services, also received an award for starting Project Empowerment, a job training program for DC trans residents.  Programs such as Project Empower are a vital part of ensuring economic justice for trans folks, over 27 percent of whom reported annual incomes below $20,000 in a national survey.

Transgender people experience violence at far higher rates than the general population.  According to one study, about 50 percent of trans people report unwanted sexual activity, including sexual assault and rape.  In a national survey, 97 percent of transgender respondents reported experiencing mistreatment, harassment, or discrimination at their place of work.  According to Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment, trans individuals also face some of the most vicious forms of street harassment, including murder.

Just days after Transgender Day of Remembrance, The New York Times devoted lengthy coverage to the rise in antigay crimes in the District.  According to NYT,  through October of this year, DC police recorded 51 hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender residents, just short of the record 53 for all of 2011. In November 2011, DC police began posting monthly statistics on hate crimes after advocates raised concerns that police weren’t doing enough to protect the trans community. It is encouraging to see so many members of the DC city administration and of the community at large come together to grieve the people who were lost, and promise to do better in the future. The fight to end street harassment is also a fight to ensure that public spaces are safe for everyone, including those who do not conform to binary gender norms.

The DC Office of Human Rights’ “Transgender & Gender Identity Respect” campaign launched fall 2012

Not Fab @ All.

posted in: Activists, Bars, CASS Event, LGBTQ | 2

Imagine leaving a club and being attacked because of what you look like.  It seems so common place to never have your gender questioned.  It happens to many folks around the world and on our own soil.  Being attacked because you are a woman, a queer man, or trans happens every.single.day.  It is an extreme form of gender-based public sexual harassment.  Holla Back DC! is committed to mobilizing the community against these types of attacks; we mobilize for Mitch & Jaime.

Mitch Graffeo, a trans man, and friend Jaime, were assaulted by two females in front of Fab Lounge on February 28.  It created a pit in our stomach when we read how they were assault, but also WHY they were assaulted.

Graffeo said Jaime, who is about 5 feet 4 inches tall and has a slender build, recently began a female-to-male gender transition process and has a youthful, boyish appearance. Graffeo noted he transitioned more than 10 years ago and his gender is readily recognized as that of a male.

“They said, ‘What the fuck are you? Are you a girl or a boy?’” Graffeo recalled one of the women saying to Jaime inside the club.

Graffeo said another woman, along with a man who was with them, joined the first woman in shouting insults aimed at Jaime’s appearance after Jaime asked the first woman to leave him alone.

Jaime told the Blade as many as three women in the bar ran their hands over his chest as they taunted him over his appearance, saying they wanted to find out if he was male or female. (emphasis added)  [link]

Then, after they left Fab Lounge, the same perpetrators came after them.

Twenty seconds after leaving the club, just barely near the entrance of the Royal Palace nightclub on Connecticut Avenue, a woman with long braids under a baseball cap wearing a black jacket pinned Jamie in a headlock. She was the same woman from inside the club, and she relentlessly questioned his gender. She catapulted onto Jamie’s back and pummeled him with her fists. Her comrade watched. [link]

Travis Ballie, along with Equity, Campus Style, is holding a phone community forum on April 14 to address this attack.

More information after the jump. Read More