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Rodney and the Rest of Us (1993)

Rodney and the Rest of Us (1993)

©1993, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny.(1993). TransAtlanta: The gender scene down South. Rodney and the rest of us. Crossdresser’s Quarterly, 3(2), 12-13.

The editor of Crossdresser’s Quarterly asked me to write something about trans activities in Atlanta. This is one of several resulting articles.

 

Crossdresser’s Quarterly (PDF)

 

TransAtlanta: The Gender Scene Down South

Rodney and the Rest of Us

 

Atlanta is quite a city. Varied, that’s the word for it. It’s Beemers and Mercedes and condos, their yuppie owners sneering at those of us who drive mere Toyotas or Chevrolets or Fords, wasting their lives in an inane and insane pursuit of money and superficiality, wondering what it could be that caused black Americans to riot after the Rodney King jury decision. It’s well-preserved WASP Southern blood, with old money and houses with columns, magnolia trees and honeysuckle, Sunday pink dresses at the country club, marrying someone of the “right set,” worrying because a black family moved in down the street. It’s Bubbaville—glossy black pickup trucks with flames painted on the side, John Deere caps, Ma and four tow-haired kids down at the K-Mart Store to have a good time on Friday evening, while Pa is out with the boys, drinking and complaining about how easy the blacks have it. It’s a crack-fueled, lightning-flash knife slash in the dark in the ghetto and a man lying in an alley bleeding to death, killed by some inconsequential argument—black-on-black violence is the primary cause of premature death in black men in Atlanta. It’s middle-class black folks at Church on Sunday, trying to hold community together and maintain peace in the face of mounting evidence that white America doesn’t give a damn about black America. Atlanta the “City Too Busy To Hate,” is this, and a whole bunch of transgendered people, mixed together with money and drugs and cops who like to bust heads, all shake ‘n’ baked in the sweltering Southern summer.

In the middle of this hate and misunderstanding—and it predates the Rodney King decision, which served only as the catalyst—people get hurt. People get dead.

Three transgendered people were murdered in Atlanta last year, their bodies found in ditches. Another was shot. No suspects, no charges, no convictions. The year before, a transgendered person was found murdered in her apartment at Christmastime. There is a curious apathy in the police department about this sort of violence, and it extends to gay people as well. Robert Bennett, the infamous “Handcuff Man,” drove to Atlanta over a period of ten years or more, picking up gay men, getting them drunk, and then handcuffing them and setting them on fire; the police did nothing until the gay and straight media forced them to.

What’s going on here? Is Atlanta a city filled with hate? Is it gender-hostile? Are all those things you heard about the South true?

Yes and no.

Yes, because the sad fact is the riots occurred. The murders occurred. Shit happens.

No, because it’s really no worse here than it is anywhere else. In the wake of the Rodney King decision, there were riots in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and a number of other cities. And transgendered people turn up dead all over the place. For instance, there was recently a series of homicides in San Diego, and I know of murders in Alabama, Texas, New York—which only goes to show it can be dangerous to be transgendered anywhere.

Note the operative words: can be. I’ve been transgendered all my life, and I’ve gone nearly everywhere and done nearly everything without once feeling threatened. Engaging in transgender behavior is not particularly dangerous in and of itself, in Atlanta or anywhere else if common sense is used and ordinary precautions are taken. Three of the four people who were killed in Atlanta, for example, hung out in bad parts of town, hustling, apparently, and the body of the fourth was found in a dangerous part of the city.

There are ways in which transgendered persons can and should protect themselves, both to reduce the probability of confrontations with others and to de-escalate conflict when it does occur. The following are strategies to avoid confrontation:

  • Dress and behave appropriately for the situation. If your behavior is seductive, odd, or flashy, or if you are over or under dressed, you will call attention—perhaps unwanted—to yourself. And for goodness’ sakes, dress appropriately for your age. That mini that looked good on you when you were 18 may not be flattering when you’er 45.
  • Whenever possible, travel with friends. Don’t be alone, especially in parking lots, city sidewalks, or rest areas, and especially after dark.
  • Go out in the daytime or early evening rather than late at night. Resist that urge to go click-clacking down the sidewalk in your high heels to mail a letter at midnight. Go to the afternoon matinee instead.
  • Engage in activities that are appropriate for your chosen gender, and do them at the appropriate times. Get your nerve up and go shopping, rather than driving around in your car at midnight— something women rarely do.
  • When you come into contact with the authorities, don’t lie about your true identity. If you are open and honest about who you really are, acting calm and assured, the police will be unlikely to make an issue of the way you are dressed.
  • Treat others courteously and with respect.
  • If you are in therapy, ask your therapist for a letter explaining your situation, and carry it with you at all times. Some support groups will supply you with a card which explains your transgender status. This won’t take the place of a letter from your therapist, but it will tend to legitimize you in the eyes of others.
  • Don’t buy into hatred and harassment. Keep your ego in check. Walk away. Run away if you have to.

When you do find yourself in a confrontation, there are ways to de-escalate it. AEGIS distributes the brochure “Being Transgendered and Dealing with Confrontation, Harassment, and Violence,” by Gianna Eveling Israel.