News

Man attacks transgender college student, carves "IT" into his chest

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Apr 28, 2010

A violent attack on a transgender student in a men's restroom on the California State University-Long Beach campus earlier this month came as a shock to both the university and city's vibrant LGBT community.

The attack happened around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 15, when the 27-year-old graduate student encountered a man who addressed him by name inside a men's bathroom outside the lecture hall in which he had a class. The attacker slammed the student against a stall, pulled his t-shirt over his head and carved "IT" into his chest with a sharp object before fleeing the scene. CSULB police continue to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

"I feel lucky because I'm alive," the attack survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, told EDGE in an exclusive interview Monday. "But the person who committed this violent crime is still out there and that's what scares me. This didn't just happen to me, this happened to the whole city."

The attack, upon being reported to University Police, was not followed by any sort of statement from the CSULB officials until the campus newspaper, the Long Beach Post, reported the story on Friday, April 23. The university responded in kind with a campus-wide email and a media statement on Monday, April 26, that detailed the attack. University police released a sketch of the suspect - a 5'9" or 5'10" man with a light complexion and dark hair.

The statement indicates the attack "was an isolated incident and that there is no additional threat to the campus community." CSULB employees contacted for further comment denied EDGE's interview requests.

While the survivor has largely recovered from the physical wounds he suffered, he told EDGE he still feels mentally shaken. A CSULB student since his undergraduate years, he said he had never before encountered physical or verbal harassment.

He suspects his attacker knew his name due to his efforts as a activist and educator; speaking to groups on trans issues throughout Southern California. He is maintaining his anonymity while speaking about the attack to protect his family, including his 7-year-old son.

"I've never felt unsafe here, this has been my second home," he added. "And now my second home is no longer safe? It scares me. I don't want my child to have to grow up in a world where this kind of thing happens."

A loss of security is a feeling shared by other LGBT CSULB students in response to the attack. Many students question why the university has been tentative in choosing its words or amping up campus security. They are planning a rally against anti-trans violence for Thursday, April 29, during the campus' annual Take Back the Night event.

Nicoal Renee Sheen, an organizer of the rally, said she is concerned with the university's response. She denies the attack was a random act, and she hopes to see activists organize around bringing more visibility toward violence while pressuring the university to improve its educational programs and resources for attack victims.

"By stating that it was an 'isolated incident' the University can try and detach itself from any responsibility of addressing the attack," said Sheen. "We all know this is not the first time a violent attack has happened and the tensions have been escalating."

Tension at CSULB revolves around an incident only three weeks before the attack during the university-hosted Chicana Feminisms conference. Comments on a Web story about the conference elicited death threats toward the conference's organizers, including instructions outlining the murder of LGBT people according to Aztec Law. Campus activists see a link between the web threats and the April 15 attack.

"It feels as though the university is fostering an environment where perpetrators of violence feel safe enough to attack students like this," said student activist Michaela Xochitl. "I'm shocked and saddened for the student this happened to, but very angry at the administration for doing so little to protect us and create a campus culture that doesn't tolerate hate speech."

Xochitl said the fact the survivor is trans speaks volumes in deciphering the university's seemingly quiet handling of the attack.

"Their lack of action speaks louder than words," Xochitl added. "The university has sent a clear statement that gender variant community's safety is not a priority for them. We have an incredibly diverse student body and faculty here. To think something like this could happen and the administration would take practically no action to protect us until forced to is incredibly dispiriting."

Despite the criticism, the attacked student defends the University Police's treatment of the crime.

"The police have done everything right," he told EDGE. "We shouldn't turn this into a blame game because a person did this, not the university. We need to focus on the person that did this. I just want to feel safe again."

He hopes the CSULB campus and Long Beach activists alike will continue to come together to denounce anti-trans violence.

"Education is the best way to battle hate," he said. "We feel safe here in Long Beach like it's a bubble, but it's not. There are crazy people and bigots everywhere, and we need to truly come together as a community, putting aside whatever differences we have to counter that."

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.


Comments

  • , 2010-04-28 12:42:31

    Thank you for doing some actual journalism and looking into the details of this horrible incident. I don’t understand why the University PR seems to be downplaying the details of the hate aspects of this crime, but they should not be swept under the rug in apparent approval/complacency.


  • BB, 2010-04-28 18:48:41

    Actual crime victims do not speak in such grandiose terms as "this happened to the whole city." That is very suspicious. I’m sensing the aroma of Tawana Brawley all over again. Anyone who describes themselves as an "activist" is always just a little suspect. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds if it ends up meriting any further media scrutiny.


  • , 2010-04-28 20:22:48

    Good work Joe. Big love to the survivor, your community is here to lift you up. I hope to see everyone at the rally tomorrow (thurs) check the RSVP page for details. <3 Annie http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=112410732131220&ref=ts


  • Michael K. Lavers, 2010-04-29 08:06:50

    With all due respect to your comment BB, does the victim’s reported activism, etc., possibly justify someone carving ’IT’ into his chest?


  • , 2010-04-29 12:17:57

    WE ALL NEED TO COME OUT OF OUR SELFISHNESS, IN ACCORDANCE TO OUR OWN LIVES! WHAT THIS GUY DID TO A PERSON; NO MATTER THE SEX IS, IS BEYOND IGNORANT. WE SOMETIMES AS PEOPLE ACT UPON FEAR AND/OR LACK OF UNDERSTANDMENT. BESIDE THE CONSEQUENCES THAT HE WILL FACE WITH THE LAW, THEIR ARE CONSEQUENCES HE MUST FACE WITHIN HIMSELF AND THE UNIVERSE! HE WILL REFLECT SOMEDAY, LIFE ALWAYS TEACHES US LESSONS IN THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE WAYS! SOMETIMES THINGS SEEM UNEXPLAINABLE TO US, BUT KNOWLEDGE AND STRENGTH SHOULD BE TAKEN OUT OF THESE HARDSHIPS! STAY UP KID! GLAD YOUR OKAY... IT’S THESE EXPERIENCES THAT ALLOW US TO HELP OTHERS WHEN THEY’RE MOST IN NEED! FEELING LIKE WE PAYED IT FORWARD FOR HUMANITY :]


  • BB, 2010-04-29 12:31:54

    mklavers. I don’t know that anybody carved IT into the "victim’s" chest. I know what he says, and as with the Duke "rape" case, I know the propensity of people with an agenda to immediately jump on the bandwagon and declare for absolute truth of the claimant’s allegations. I also remember Tawana Brawley. I know it is anathema to doubt the word of one of our sisters, however, I’m a mature man who has seen a lot of hooey in his life, and I retain the right to remain sceptical of unproven claims, especially those made by people with dogs in the fight.


  • , 2010-05-03 06:43:59

    BB, if an outspoken member of the NRA had his house broken into, was terrorized for hours with his own guns, and then reported it to the media and said, "This is a crime against all of us who support the right to bear arms", would you be suspicious of his report? Would you say there was no evidence except his report? Or would you talk about fingerprints left behind, hair follicles, etc, etc, as evidence? What about the fact that the victim in this case would have had to show the carvings on his chest to the campus/Long Beach police? What about the fact that self-inflicted carvings would have very different angles and appearances than carvings inflicted by someone else? What about the fact that it’s likely that some hairs and fibers would have been left behind on the victim’s clothing? Do you approve of the university administration not even reporting the incident as a "reported incident" (rather than as gospel truth)? Do you think that, in the case of this hypothetical NRA member, it would be appropriate for the media to suppress any report of the event until the criminal had been caught, brought to trial, and convicted (or released)? It is a rare activist who is willing to risk a ton of bad press for his/her cause by faking an attack and reporting it as real...not to mention the personal humiliation of being proved a faker. Most activists, in my experience (and I’ve known many) are not that maladjusted or fame-seeking. You can’t say, "Remember one person" and not also say, "Remember all the thousands of people who have reported such incidents truthfully". Statistically, the evidence is all on the side of the victim - putative victim, I suppose, in your lexicon. Honestly, your comments seem to be to be an attempt to veil your prejudices in "logical argument" - but they’re pretty transparently illogical.


  • Sum, 2010-05-05 13:50:08

    There is just something fishy about this story. It makes me wonder of self mutilation. I mean how can one not wiggle around while gettin IT sliced into ones chest? Did anyone ever question him about this?


  • , 2010-05-12 18:36:05

    Sum--there has been no report that the IT sliced into the victim’s chest was neat and tidy. What if he was threatened further harm if he moved? You can’t assume you know all of the facts.


  • NickinOLy, 2010-05-13 17:12:46

    For the folks defending the crime - it’s a waste of time to argue with people who don’t have anything better to do than disrespect everyone different from them. Just ignore them - they WANT you to get riled up - that’s why they do it. This crime was horrible, and I’m happy to hear that the victim is okay. Too many people die in terrible ways because of hate. - Peace


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