Irrational fear and hatred

The video below was taken by Pearl Love when she was treated rudely by a woman seated across from her on a subway (language advisory). Love is a trans woman who immigrated to the US from Taiwan in 1998 and no longer has any contact with her family because of her gender change.

When Rich Juzwiak later contacted Love to get some context to the incident, she said that overt hostility towards her is routine and happens several times a week, though this one was particularly egregious.

“Usually people say two, three sentences that aren’t nice and you’re not looking,” said Love. “She kept going. People around me started looking at me to let me know what she said, but I already knew. I started recording and then she goes further.”

“All transgender people probably know that’s everyday life,” she explained. “People will tell you, ‘Don’t sit in front of me. I don’t want to see you in front of me. Fuck off.’”

“I didn’t know that much was wrong with it until people told me, because I get that all the time,” she elaborated. “I thought it was kind of normal—people are just not nice.”

I was observing the other passengers on the train who I think were frozen into inaction as so many of us are when something weird or ugly happens around us. We wonder whether we should get involved and intervene or at least say something or whether it would make things worse. I cannot judge them because it is not clear that I would have done anything different if I had been there, though I like to think I would. We never know how we might behave in an unusual situation until we are in that situation, though it helps to vicariously experience it as in watching such videos and thus mentally prepare a range of options in the event that something similar should happen.

One of the most dangerous aspects of this absurd rhetoric over which bathrooms transsexual people can use is that it has made some people think that transsexuals are dangerous predators who are using their gender presentation as a ruse to achieve some nefarious purpose, when in reality they are the victims of violence and suffer all manner of abuse and discrimination.

I think the statement that really got to me was Love saying, “I thought it was kind of normal—people are just not nice.” If that is not a sad reflection on our society, I don’t know what is.


  1. leni says

    I think most people would probably stay quiet because they’d be afraid of getting assaulted themselves. I mean, they are trapped on a small train car with a clearly very agressive person- that is going to be scary for even to the most hardened public transportation users.

    That said, that was really, really difficult to watch. I really wished people had just stood in the isle between them. Just made a wall.

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