Surviving Trump: Safety and Self-Defense Tips

With over 800 hate crimes reported since Trump won the election, with no one else to look after us because, let’s face it, the coworkers, relatives, and friends who justify their voting Trump with “not all Trump voters want to electrocute LGBTS, are KKK members or hate Jews,” won’t lift a finger to protect us, all we can do is be prepared for the worst.

I have always lived in a bubble. I have been cat-called and harassed in different ways but, since I don’t look like what society dictates a dyke looks like, I have never had to worry about that extra layer of lesbophobia, fuckupness, irrational fear, and hate that butches deal with on a daily basis. Binge Law & Order SVU and Forensic files watcher me, Trump’s winning the election hasn’t changed my daily routine. Unfortunately, the below safety tips are not news to me or millions of women for whom street harassment and rape prevention/avoidance is part of their everyday lives.

I do worry about my butch, stone butch and FTM friends’ safety. I think they (you) are wired to ignore the below information. Some of them because up to three weeks ago they had very supportive relatives, friends and coworkers and, despite knowing LGBT history first hand or through books, they lived in the same bubble that made me, a single, independent femme who doesn’t need no butch, walk alone at night feeling relatively safe (more about this later on a separate post). Some of them because they suffer from what I call the Braveheart syndrome (“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”) and will literally die before they let a man touch them in any way – or at least that’s what I have heard for years. I don’t understand them (still hung up on semantics), but I do worry about queer youth who have ignored LGBT rights history, who don’t like to label themselves or their peers, who grew up thinking everyone is equal and might not be equipped to deal with the real world and the fact that a teacher/classmate/parent might be a neo-Nazi.

When Trump won the election, I went into grandma mode and spent a good three or four days calling, texting, and emailing my butchy friends to remind them I love them and I need them to stay safe by following these tips:

– Use common sense. Avoid walking/running alone and distracted with your phones or iPods.
– Learn the best routes between our car/subway entrance and your destination. Take the SAFEST route, not the fastest.
– Stay alert to your surroundings and the folks around you.
– Don’t think no one will bother you because it’s not that late, you are not in a sketchy area, or you don’t look like a dyke.
– Have a buddy system when you workout. If you are at the gym, as fucked up as this sounds, make sure your friend announces you in the locker room (or avoid the gym showers all together and shower at home). If you are outdoors, follow the safety in numbers rule. If you must train for a marathon, join a local group, bring a friend or bring a dog.
– Have a buddy system in place when you go out on a date or travel. Let a friend know where you will be and a general idea of when you are due back. Check on each other to make sure you got home safe if you take different routes/trains going back home after dinner or drinks.
– If you are online dating, meet them in public and make sure your friend(s) have a general idea of who you are meeting and what the agenda is for the night. Not too long ago Russian neo-Nazis were catfishing and killing gay men. Who says that won’t happen here? Corrective rape anyone?
– Be bitches and trust your guts. Don’t spend time alone with a friend, relative or coworker who makes you feel uneasy. If you don’t feel good about a situation (say being in a supplies room or kitchen alone with a known LGBTphobe or racist, say sitting in front of a religious colleague who uses your lunch hour to show you the path to Jesus {all you need to do is stop sleeping with women, silly goose!}), it’s ok to walk out. The only explanation you owe is to yourself.
– Know when to walk out. No, I wasn’t telling you to quit your job above. Only you can decide when to ignore a coworker, go to HR or walk out. I have a friend whose husband, after twelve years at his firm, started being called the n word two weeks ago. While he obviously would have loved to quit the first time he heard it, they have a mortgage and kids in college so he is moving his resume around and won’t leave until he finds something better.
– Get in shape so you can run away from an attacker and find self-defense classes so you know how to punch and kick or take a punch if you can’t get away.
– More importantly, get in shape mentally. Known and understand that even the most prepared, army strong women freeze during an attack. Don’t beat yourself up if you are cat-called, groped, touched in any other way, kicked, punched, hit or raped and can’t move while it’s happening.
– Wherever you go, try to have your phone at hand in case you need to video or take pics of your attacker.
– Do no harm but take no shit i.e. educate yourself on your state laws and get armed if you feel the need to and you can afford it.
– Know your own limits. For instance, trigger-happy me, I know I can’t have a gun or a can of pepper spray because I would spray the shit out of everyone from the moment I leave my house in the mornings till the moment I come back at night. Am I that angry or special? Not really. 95% of New Yorkers feel this way. Oh the joys of living in a big city!
– Let people know you are armed. Put a sticker on your car windows and home. I have always believed that if more women were armed and men knew about it, the number of rapes would decrease considerably.

After an attack

– don’t blame yourself. The only person to blame is the asshole who attacked you.
– call someone you trust who can give you moral support.
– seek medical attention. If none is available or you don’t feel safe seeking medical attention in your area, take pics and keep taking pics the day after the assault and the following days. Some bruises don’t show up till the morning after.
– call the police and have them meet you where you are or at the hospital. If you don’t feel safe calling them, again,: take pics of your body and, if still at the place where you were attacked, take pics of your surroundings. Document everything.
– if you can’t go to the hospital or a precinct, get yourself to a safe area. Google LGBT Centers and non-profits, call them and get a referral for LGBT shelters and/or organizations who offer housing.
– write down everything that happened to you – especially a description of your attacker – to help you remember what happened in case you need to go back to the cops or end up going to trial.
– get an attorney. Your local LGBT Center should have a referral list. You can also google LGBT Centers in other areas and/or find pro-bono attorneys yourself.
– if the attacker is someone you know, avoid any contact with that person. If it is a coworker, go to HR. If you don’t have HR, seek legal advice before talking to a manager or higher-up. When you talk to your bosses, try to get something from them in writing.
– spread the word. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. Talk to your friends, get in touch with local LGBT centers. If anyone has media contacts, use them.
– I repeat: don’t blame yourself. Self-loathing hinders the process of healing after assault.

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