A very young, self-described male-to-female transgender woman was tortured and murdered miles away from me this week. I live in Kansas, but only four hours away in a small Missouri town, a young girl was subjected to hell. It scares me, not for my own well-being, because I live in the shadow of a liberal arts college. My town is a progressive oasis in Trump country. I want to say it couldn’t happen here, but every day I’m a little less sure. I see confederate flags on oversized pickup trucks more and more now. Maybe they’ve always been there, but the fear that’s crept in me from the uptick in violence since Donald Trump started campaigning a couple years ago, has me on high alert. Maybe I’m less worried about my safety. I am very worried for the rural youth coming out in these horrifying times. I also worry for the black trans women surrounded by buildings for trees. Maybe it makes me reflect, because of the trauma I faced growing up.
I’m a 44 year old transgender woman who was raised in Moore, Oklahoma. Yes, I’m scared of tornadoes, but I did not experience the ones you might have seen on the news. I left for Texas several years before the tragic act of terrorism by conservative nationalists. Of course I’m talking about the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. I did not escape white supremacy and the horror of hate groups though. That toxic stew of wasted lives did touch upon my own. I was raised on punk rock. It was there in Oklahoma in my formative years. I was introduced to punk at age eleven. By 1985, I was hooked. I rode my skateboard in the idyllic-appearing suburbs of Oklahoma City. In 1988 I went to my first punk show. There were skinheads there. They were big like football players. They made me nervous, but not the sense of existential dread that would haunt my dreams to this day. In fact, they only seemed like punk rock’s big brother. There to police the scene, but not really do anything but live their tradition-based skinhead life, like the labor movement of Britain of the sixties. By 1991 I was spending most of my time in Oklahoma City, and things had changed. Things had changed dramatically. You see, in 1988, Tom Metzger started a crusade appealing to disaffected youth. Along with his son they recruited punks, goths, and especially skinheads into their cult. It was know as White Aryan Resistance and it took a strong hold on the people I knew. Punks were moving into the skinhead scene and beginning to wear all the trappings of the typical Neo-Nazi skinhead that has been depicted in movies and on television.
They liked me. I hated it, but they wanted so bad to recruit me. All they saw was a German / Irish white boy. I knew I was so much more than that, or maybe less. Specifically I knew I was not a boy at all. My friend and myself were very noticeably rising up in the punk scene. We drew attention, that’s what we wanted. In Oklahoma drawing that kind of attention wasn’t a positive thing. That kind of notice places a target on your back. We welcomed it, we were punks. We had a band, we wrote songs against their movement, and sang them at house shows. One time this led to my future ultimate nemesis hitting me in the face with my own microphone. The bane of my teenage existence was a Jewish, Nazi skinhead. We met one fated evening drinking in our punk house kitchen. I was wearing a well-known straightedge band’s t shirt. He argued all night that I needed to take it off, I told him repeatedly I would not. His friends escorted him out before he got to the point of throwing fists. I was told in confidence by his skinhead buddies not to worry about him. Another massive guy, and member of WAR, whispered that Joe was a heroin junkie, and that he wasn’t well-liked by the gang he was trying so hard to be a part. The reason this happened at all is because the skins were old punks, or at least part of that scene. They still felt a connection to it. They were dividing themselves quickly from that world though. Being in a hate group is a solitary existence. Hate corrupts the spirit, and very few people want to be around that divisiveness for very good reason.
I am not a violent person. I despise violence, including the glorification of it. I am saddened by the gratuitous displays I am bombarded with on television today. When one experiences the level of trauma that I have, it changes a person. I’m sure the people who write these shocking scenes have led very dull lives. My life has been less-than dull. For example, we hung out every weekend on the gay strip in OKC. At age fifteen I went into the juice bar for the first time. It was a closeted, transgender, goth kid’s dream. I wanted so badly to perform at a drag show as Sinead O’Connor. This never came to pass, instead we started hanging outside the club more. We were drinking, we were drinking a lot, and we were getting into fights. This was when gay-bashing became a phenomenon. We waited on the corner, and every weekend they came. I was an observer of the guard, we protected the gay and lesbian folks,. It felt right. It felt righteous. I spent many evenings horrified as my friends would “boot party” jocks and rednecks. They were expecting to find a lone gay man to jump, instead they found a group of angry punks. Eventually the skinheads started coming as well. They weren’t looking for gay men, they were looking for us. When not trying to recruit, it was games of rumblefish, this time on the bloodsoaked streets of Oklahoma City.