06 March 2009

Trans Men Assaulted Outside DC Club

I visit a friend of mine in DC pretty regularly and participate in the lesbian club scene when I'm there, so I was disturbed to hear about lesbians assaulting trans men who were attending a lesbian night at Fab Lounge. My friend reminds me that this sort of thing is rare, but as a trans person I do feel vulnerable (even though I'm an awfully big girl).

(h/t Questioning Transphobia)

From the Washington Blade:

Two female-to-male transgender patrons at the Dupont Circle gay bar Fab Lounge told police they were verbally harassed and assaulted by two female customers who denounced one of the men as androgynous.

The D.C. Police Department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit was assisting Second District detectives in investigating last week’s incident to determine whether it should be classified as an anti-transgender hate crime, said acting Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the unit.

Second District police officers responding to the scene did not designate the incident as a hate crime at the time they prepared their report of the assault, Parson said.

Mitch Graffeo, 40, of Alexandria, Va., said the incident began when he and a friend were getting ready to leave Fab Lounge shortly before 3 a.m. on Feb. 28 at the conclusion of the club’s weekly lesbian night. As his friend walked over to a sofa to retrieve his coat, a female customer began “groping” his friend, Graffeo said.

The 29-year-old friend, also from Alexandria, spoke to the Blade on the condition that he was identified only by his first name, Jaime.

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.

He and Graffeo then left the Fab Lounge, which is located in a second-floor space at 1805 Connecticut Ave., N.W., in an effort to avoid a confrontation with the women, the two men said.

“When we were about 20 feet from the club’s entrance, one of the lesbians came up from behind and put [Jaime] in a headlock and again began to question his gender,” Graffeo said.

Jaime said that as the woman released him from her grip, another woman punched him repeatedly in the head and body, inflicting injuries that included a concussion, doctors told him later.

As the alleged assault unfolded on the sidewalk near the corner of Connecticut and Florida avenues, Graffeo said he asked the women to leave Jaime alone and announced he was calling the police on his cell phone. At that time, the woman who had held Jaime in a headlock “grabbed my phone out of my hands and hit me in the neck and head a few times,” Graffeo said.

Minutes later, Graffeo said, the male friend who had accompanied the women inside the club arrived in a car, which he stopped on Connecticut Avenue in front of the Royal Palace nightclub, which operates below Fab Lounge. He said the two women entered the car, which turned onto Florida Avenue and drove eastbound, Graffeo said.

He said police arrived minutes later after Jaime used his own cell phone to call 911. Graffeo noted that the woman who grabbed his phone never returned it, and the phone has been reported as stolen.

The two trans men said that officers who responded to the scene did not immediately indicate whether they attempted to locate or identify the attackers through a license plate number of the car the alleged attackers drove from the scene. The men said they saw the car license number and provided it to police.

Parson told the Blade that “all leads have been followed up on to include the license plate information provided in the report.”

Graffeo said Jaime declined an offer by D.C. police to call for an ambulance. Instead, he said, he drove Jaime to a hospital in Alexandria, which is closer to where Jaime lives.

Jaime told the Blade he was treated and released from the hospital after doctors administered a CT-scan and other medical tests. He said doctors told him he had a concussion and a whiplash injury to his neck. He also noted that he has numerous bruises on his body, face and head.

Parson said Second District police officers listed the incident in their report as an assault and theft. He said the officers did not initially classify the incident as a hate crime.

Graffeo and Jaime said they attempted to explain to the officers that Jaime was singled out because of his appearance and gender expression.

“I don’t know if they fully understood the situation,” Graffeo told the Blade. Graffeo said his reasons for talking with the Blade about the incident were twofold.

“I want to make our community aware that this hate crime occurred,” he said in an e-mail. “Moreover, I want to emphasize that this crime happened in a gay bar and that the offenders were from the LGBT community itself.”

Jaime said in a telephone interview that he was likewise “shocked that anything like this would happen here — that somebody from our own LGBT community would want to hurt somebody else from that same community.”

Parson said Second District police are investigating the incident with assistance from the GLLU.

“If we determine that the assault was wholly or partially motivated by bias toward their gender identity or expression, we could reclassify it as a hate crime,” he said.

Washington’s hate crimes law calls for stricter penalties for hate-related crimes where victims are targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Graffeo described the woman who assaulted him and took his cell phone as black, about 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighing about 140 pounds. He said the woman sported hair with long braids and wore a black baseball cap, black jacket and blue jeans with designs on the pockets.

He and Jaime said they did not get a good look at the woman who repeatedly punched Jaime because Graffeo was distracted by the assault against him and Jaime’s vision was obstructed as he was struck.

Both men said the attack against Jamie took place in front of the entrance of the Royal Palace in clear view of a Royal Palace security worker. Graffeo said an employee of Fab Lounge also came out to the sidewalk where the assault occurred and appeared to have watched as one of the two women who committed the assault entered the car of the male friend.

Representatives of Fab Lounge and Royal Palace did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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