A transgender woman says she was verbally attacked by a man over her gender identity while riding a Green Line Metro train last Saturday.
Saoirse Gowan was on her way to meet friends when a fellow rider, who appeared to be live-streaming video of their interaction, began filming her and accused her of being a “groomer,” a term used to describe people who attempt to train children for sexual abuse, in a profanity-laced tirade.
“I couldn’t get off the train even though I felt terrified for my life because this guy was yelling at me that I’m a child groomer, that I’m only on the train dressed as who I am because I want to hurt children,” Gowan told NBC Washington.
The video of the altercation, which has been viewed more than a half-million times on Twitter, has led to Gowan receiving threats.
Gowan noted that the phrasing used by the man during his rant echoes rhetoric used in debates over how public schools should deal with issued related LGBTQ identity.
Those debates have intensified in recent months as several states — most notably, Florida and Alabama — have proposed or passed so-called “parental rights” bills that critics say constitute bans on all LGBTQ content.
Most conservatives believe that sexual orientation and gender identity should not be mentioned in schools at all — even in secondary-level classrooms or in subjects like history, science, or sex education. If such subjects are introduced, parents must be notified beforehand and consent to having their children present when discussed.
Liberals argue that barring all talk of identity stifles students’ free speech rights and, more importantly, sends a negative message to LGBTQ-identifying children, or the children of same-sex couples, that there is something wrong with them — which can exacerbate feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.
In Gowan’s case, a Metro Transit Police officer on patrol boarded the train and asked, “Y’all good?” Gowan replied: “No, This guy’s been harassing me.” The attacker responded: “That guy’s looking at me weird.”
Gowan expressed disappointment that other passengers didn’t intervene.
“It would have really helped if one of the five or so other people on the train had come over and pretended that they knew me, pretended that they were my mom or my gran,” she said.
In a statement, Metro said that the officer who boarded the train interviewed both Gowan and the man and took down identification information.
“The officer removed the man from the train and the complainant continued on,” the statement reads. “The complainant did not want to pursue this as a criminal matter and a police information report was subsequently taken to document the incident.”
Metro Transit Police will continue to investigate the incident and will present the information to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia to determine if charges should be filed.
However, given the fact that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has historically declined to pursue hate crime charges in incidents involving possible anti-LGBTQ bias — especially under former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, a Trump appointee — in part, because of the difficulty of convincing a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a hate crime was committed, it is unlikely that formal charges will be pursued against Gowan’s harasser.
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