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An open letter to our communities from “Elliott” (a pseudonym), Kate Loewe firstname.lastname@example.org), Kathy Ni Keefe (email@example.com), Samuel Lurie (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Eli Clare (email@example.com):
We are writing to let our communities know about a recent hate crime that occurred in New Mexico. We are writing to break silence, to create resistance to violence and space for healing, and to build support for the survivor. We are writing in hopes that we can take care of each other, undercut the community-wide fear that comes with hate violence, and work toward justice.
Please note that what follows contains some graphic details, which could be triggering. Also, the survivor is a parent of two children, and this information MUST NOT reach them.
On September 2, 2006, Elliott, a cognitively disabled transman, was raped in a barbershop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The attack started with the barber taunting Elliott, “You’re not a man.” He quickly assessed Elliott as disabled, asking, “Where’s your helper.” Throughout the rape, he called Elliott “freak,” “bitch,” and “retard,” holding a straight razor against Elliott’s throat, and when Elliott tried to run, threatening him with scissors at his eyes.
This brutal sexual assault intertwined transphobia and disability oppression (ableism). First, Elliott was targeted as a transman who is visibly gender variant. And then the perpetrator pegged Elliott as a disabled person, who, because of ableism, was seen as weak, vulnerable, and not believable if he ever tried to speak out. Throughout the attack, the rapist spewed transphobic and ableist hatred and acted with confidence that there would be no repercussions for his violence. This rape was not a random act but part of historic and current patterns of hate violence that target and terrorize both disabled people and trans people.
As we deal, both individually and in community, with the aftermath of this brutality, we urge you to take care of yourselves and each other. And again, we remind you that this information MUST NOT reach Elliott’s children.
We are writing this letter and distributing it widely to end our isolation, to challenge the secrecy and shame that survivors are often forced to live with, and to find community support. We are also writing to raise consciousness about ableist hate violence, which is virtually ignored outside the disability rights movement. In order to end the pervasive violence faced by disabled people—violence ranging from verbal harassment to being forced to live in nursing homes to attacks like the one Elliott just experienced—queer and other progressive activists need to add disability issues to our social justice work. We need to be aware of commonly used ableist language and how these words can quickly escalate to physical and sexual violence. One way you can support Elliot is by educating yourself about disability issues and doing anti-ableist activist work. (See resources below.)
There are many ways—big and small—to support Elliott and his family during this time. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or can help in any way. This email address will
also get messages to Elliott.
Ways of supporting Elliott and his family:
For local people in New Mexico (many local people will know who Elliott is):
• Helping with Elliott’s children (childcare, reading, homework, hanging out)
• Providing meals
• Running errands
• Giving money specifically to support Elliott’s recovery (i.e. rest, acupuncture and therapy)
• Educating yourself and others about ableism and transphobia
• Volunteering with anti-violence programs
There are two ways to donate money to Elliott’s Survivor Fund:
1) Go to http://www.tgtrain.org/elliott.html
2) Pay via check. Make it out to “R.U.1.2.? Queer Community Center” and send it to R.U.1.2.?/SafeSpace, P.O. Box 5883, Burlington, VT 05402. Please write “Elliott’s Survivor Fund” in the memo section of your check. R.U.1.2.? and its anti-violence project SafeSpace (http://www.safespacevt.org) will pass your donation to Elliott.
Elliott requests the following when people offer support:
• Respect Elliott’s process.
• Questions about the police, reporting, and prosecution are not helpful.
• It’s ok to ask Elliott how he’s doing.
• Be aware of how you offer support and what you say about the violence Elliott experienced when his children are present.
• Physical touch may not be helpful. Please ask first.
• Be yourself.
• Reach out. Check in. Elliott needs community support.
Let’s take care of each other and resist hate violence in all the ways we know how. Again you can contact us and send messages to Elliott via email@example.com.
In grief, rage, and hope,
Elliott, Kate, Kathy, Samuel, and Eli
Resources about disability issues and ableist violence:
Resources about trans issues and transphobic violence:
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