Thursday, 6 April 2006

Just Four Weeks Ago

Sometimes it's so very easy to forget. I don't think of myself as abnormal, certainly not a member of an oppressed minority. Yes, I have some legal problems to do with well-meaning but poorly-enacted laws, but generally most people just treat me like any other woman. Those few that know of my unusual history generally don't care, or if they do, treat me with aditional compassion, rather than contempt.

It's all so very ordinary, it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. And that is when the situation gets dangerous - when you stop being afraid. When you let your guard down, and start to think of yourself as being just the same as anyone else. Like this woman did.

Dear Friends:

I am writing this letter to give you a snapshot of how I was assaulted, ridiculed, humiliated and wrongly incarcerated while celebrating a successful taping of the Cristina Show. This events took place on March the 10th in the city of Miami.

Many of you have received previous emails from Monica Taher, Spanish media Director from (GLADD). Detailing the progress GLADD has made in continuing the dialog with Spanish Speaking Media regarding how they depict out lives.

Many Media outlets continue to perpetuate stereotypes and sensationalize our lives. It has been a long process but I am a firm believer that the only way we can influence change is by being involved in the process of creating this change. We cannot sit back and expect change to Magically happen.

For this reason whenever there is an opportunity for me to be involved in how the media depicts my reality as a transgender women I am the first one to sign up.

On March the 10th I was a panelist for an upcoming Cristina Show, a Spanish speaking International show that reaches millions of Spanish speaking homes in the US and Latin America. The taping of the show went very well, the questions were relevant and focused on the complexity of the transition process. They also discussed discrimination and rights of people of trans experience. The panel was very diverse composed by both ftm, mtf. it also included A 15 year old Argentinean Transgender woman who was supported by her entire family.

After a successful taping there was much reason to celebrate, Little did I know that my celebration would not last long

I went to a popular Miami club called Space, Accompanied by a friend Viktoria Ventura "previously with LLEGO." we had a drink, danced and enjoyed the scene, needless to say the club was packed.

About 40 minutes later while going to get a second drink we were making our way though a very crowded club headed toward the bar. I was pushed by a man when I turned around he began yelling "fuck that's a man" To several of his friends, who then joined him in the name calling as the pushing continued.

He then physically assaulted me. It seemed like security was just behind us, because before the attack continue, security came to the scene and grabbed him. He was still calling me "You fucking fagot." Even though he was restraint by security personnel.

I panic in pain dazed from the attack, screaming to Vicktoria "he broke my nose." I was also concerned about my safety because I did not know if the other individuals who accompanied him might also attack me in retaliation, after seen their friend taken by security.

I decided to follow the security while they where escorting the man to the first level, telling them in bits and pieces what happened and how this man had attacked me unwarrantedly. I made it very clear to the security guards that i had intentions of filling charges for assault Since I was physically attached and I had not retaliated. When we got to the office there where other men in uniform, I assumed they were also security guards.

I ask them to call the police since I wanted to press charges against the man that had just assaulted me, To my surprise they informed me they were Officers with the Miami Police Department. One of them was a sergeant. I would find out later the sergeant was also a bigot.

At that moment he ignored me and proceeded to ask the man that had attacked me what happened, I was furious at his apathy towards me, but remained calm.

As he continued to ignored me he asked the security Guards who escorted the man who attached me "WHAT DID HE DO?" Referring to me. I felt disrespected by his comment. I reached in my purse for my California, ID" which states my gender as female, hoping this would redirect focus to the assault and not my gender. I try to tell the police about the assault, however it was difficult since their focus continued to be on my gender, snickering back and forward. Things were taking place quickly. The sergeant Looked at me with a smirk on his face and told the security guard next to him "He has nice tits."

At that moment I realized that things were not going to be in my favor. Two security guards grabbed me by the arms and began escorting me down some stairs towards the entrance of the club. It was clear that they were escorting me out of the club however my concern was still ensuring documentation of my attack. I continued questioning their behavior, repeating that "I was assaulted," questioning why I was being escorted out of the club if in fact I was the victim of a crime. '

All the things that transpired after my assault where violations against my rights and negligence by the police. I was forcefully detained by security for no reason and then placed in the back of a police car. At that moment it was clear to me they were arresting me, however I could not think of what they would charge me with since I had not committed a crime. During this ordeal I used restraint, I was never disrespectful to any of Police Officers or Security Personnel. I was humble but firm in the wrong doing on their behalf.

I made it clear to the sergeant that I was going to do everything in my power to ensure that this does not continue to happen and that they would se me again. That the oath they took to protect and serve includes me, and that their discrimination and bigotry would not go silent.

While being transferred to the car would take me to county jail. The sergeant told one of his colleagues as my dress was lifted "yes that's a man, but I would fuck him in his ass" As they all laugh. The humiliation was endless.

The only way I could let my anger and frustration out was by crying, at that moment I was so powerless. I have been fighting this kind of injustice for years, yet I was a victim. And none of my many surgeries, speaking abilities, beauty or charm I have been told I posses could make this people look at me even as a man. Because even though they did call me a man, I can assure that if two men would have involved in a physical altercation both would have been arrested yet I was a victim of an assault and I was the only one incarcerated.

You would think my ordeal would had been over but it continued while being processed in the local county jail. I was stripped and search paraded for all to view and laughed at. I continued to weep in anger and despair, I would spend the next 18 hours afraid for my safety questioned about my gender, asked improper questions and sexually molested.

I was assaulted, ridicule, mistreated and incarcerated because who I am. As incredible as it may sound my sense of true self is offensive to even the people that take an oath to protect and serve us.

However I take an oath to my self and the rest of my community that I will continue to do anything and everything in my power to expose this bigotry, hate and perpetuate mistreatment by people in law enforcement and their apathy to crimes fueled by hate associated with our gender or sexual orientation.

At the present time I am continuing to work with the support of Ron Brenesky from "Unity Coalition's" a local organization in Miami along with Monica Taher that has been a great support. Currently Ron is contacting the local agencies trying to categorize this as a Hate crime.

Under Florida law Transgender Individuals are not recognized. So much work ahead for our community. However I am only one person lets continue to ensure that we all grow from our experiences by supporting our own. Don't be silent lets let them know that there is many of us and we have each others backs. Remember none of us are immune to acts such as this. I will be going to court in Miami in April for a false trespassing charge.

I with your support want to send a clear message to the club and the police department that this kind of mistreatment will not be tolerated. And if this type of neglect, discrimination and violation of our rights by Police officers in Miami is an ongoing practice the time to put a stop to it is now.

PS: Even though this was a very traumatic time my spirits are high and I am looking forward to continuing to fight this. My nose is a little to the right and the bruises in my arm are gone, other wise I am all good. I thank God that I am here and that things did not escalate more.

Many men and women have lost their lives to crimes fueled by hate. On March the 10th at 1:35 am this kind of hate fueled a man to strike me simply because I was a transgender woman.

Thank You,

Maria Louise Roman

I have to remember that some things can't be hidden. Maria is a very beautiful woman, as you can see for yourself. She has had surgery and appearance enhancements, years of training and speech therapy, things I will never be able to afford. Was it her height that gave her away? Or perhaps her shoulders? Or her hands? Plastic surgery can't disguise everything.

Good luck finding any report of this in Mainstream Media. Her attacker wasn't charged, of course.

I have some good and dear friends living in Florida. I had hoped to visit them one day. But I must remember that circumstances have changed over the last year, and I'm no longer considered fully human by many. I mustn't let my fear paralyse me, or even interfere with my life overmuch. I just must be careful where I go, who I talk to, and what I do. It's not safe to forget to be afraid.

Wish me luck, I haven't got the hang of it yet.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I'll ever understand fully people in your situation, but life is to be lived and you don't need my understanding or acceptance to live your life. As for Miami, don't let a couple of asshole cops dissuade you from coming. Every PD has it's share and they tend to be equal opportunity bigots. November through April are the months to visit. June through September are rather hot and humid.

Zoe Brain said...

Thanks Bob - but consider the consequences if something like this happened to me. My Australian Passport says "Male" on - so I'd be put in a male holding facility - as others like me have. Without a B-2 Visa, even being charged is reason enough for deportation, no trial necessary (section 217b of the INA, I've checked, no right of appeal, no recourse). Oddly enough, if I was an undocumented (illegal) Alien, I could appeal!

US immigration holding areas contain guys who are mentally ill, drug addicts, criminals, and those with HIV. I know some people who have escorted deportees back to Australia, and according to them, the conditions vary, but are often very grim - prisons in all but name.

I'll be post-op at that stage. Somatically female. It's happened to others, with unfortunate results.

Even 1 chance in 10,000 is too high, and I doubt it's less than that. Not many - most now make absolutely certain to have documentation that says "F" not "M", and then it's a whole different, um, ball-game. Before May 2003 it wasn't, but the situation is now far better, due to some most regrettable outcomes in the past.

Yes, I'm paranoid. But the question is, am I paranoid enough? You see the ones who aren't don't usually make the papers.