We talk a lot about street harassment as an issue affecting women. But there’s another group that is disproportionately targeted for this kind of violence, only we don’t talk about them nearly as much.
Here to fix that is Kat Lazo. Watch Kat take to the streets of NYC to discuss street harassment and other forms of violence with members of the LGBTQ community.
Click for the Transcript
KAT: Hi everyone! Welcome to Thee Kat’s Meoww, and welcome to Pride NYC 2014. A lot of the time, mainstream media doesn’t discuss street harassment within the LGBTQ community, and today, that’s exactly what we’re talking about.
PRIDE ATTENDEE: You guys are watching Thee Kat’s Meoww!
PRIDE ATTENDEES: You’re watching Thee Kat’s Meoww!
KAT: Do you feel that the mainstream media has accurately been reporting on violence or street harassment that the LGBTQ community is facing?
INTERVIEWEE #1: I really don’t think they have.
INTERVIEWEE #2: Just not at all. A total media silence.
INTERVIEWEE #3: I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s taken as seriously as a straight person being harassed on a daily basis.
INTERVIEWEE #4: Certain people, when they want to speak up, not much people want to listen to them, unless it’s a person who’s straight.
INTERVIEWEE #5: If it’s extremely violent, or there’s a death, they’ll cover it and then forget about it the next day. It won’t be talked about and talked about as much as they do with other violent crimes.
INTERVIEWEE #3: It hurts your self esteem. It hurts your physical appearance. It makes you feel uncomfortable in the neighborhood that you’re in. It makes you not want to go to certain areas because you don’t feel comfortable, or you have to dress a certain way, and then change into whatever you feel comfortable changing into because you don’t feel safe in that environment.
INTERVIEWEE #6: Sometimes the public don’t know the pain that we go through.
KAT: Have you encountered street harassment different from others depending on how you identify or how you present yourself?
INTERVIEWEE #7: Well, I identify as a bisexual. I usually get it either when I’m with a girlfriend—I get a lot of looks and whispers to the side when I was with my girlfriend.
INTERVIEWEE #8: You’re walking down the street with a certain type of outfit, or holding someone’s hand, and you’ll hear someone mutter something or say something when they’re about ten feet away and they think you can’t hear them.
INTERVIEWEE #7: When kids would look, their parents would just move their kids to the side, you know? “Look the other way” type of thing.
INTERVIEWEE #2: When I’m with women on the street that I’m in a relationship with, I find that people feel like they can approach us. They feel like they can assume things about my sexual availability. There’s this assumption that if you’re queer, you’re queer for everyone, all the time, any way they want. And I find that when I’m with a man, that goes totally away. There’s absolutely nothing. There’s this weird respect of my relationship with men as opposed to my relationship with women, which is, of course, incredibly infuriating.
INTERVIEWEE #9: So I live in the hood, and the way that we dress and the way that we present ourselves is just not acceptable out there. So you can walk in a street like that, and you’ll hear them call you “faggot” or “gay” or [inaudible]. They have a whole different type of words for us, so street harassment is still a big thing where I live at.
INTERVIEWEE #3: Especially in our Latin community, because they’re so machistas, as we call them. And they’re so proper. If you’re a man, you’re going to marry, have kids. And if it’s not the “norm” to them, they’re scared of it. And the way they act out is by harassing people.
INTERVIEWEE #10: I just try to hide it as best I can, so I don’t get the harassment and stuff.
KAT: Hide your identity? In order to avoid harassment?
INTERVIEWEE #10: Yeah. I have for a long time. Like, only recently I came out to my parents and stuff, and I don’t really tell a lot of people.
KAT: Thank you for sharing that with me today! Thank you so much.
KAT: What can bystanders, what can people who witness street harassment—what can they do?
INTERVIEWEE #9: If you see somebody being harassed for their sexuality, I say you should speak up and say something to that person. Like, “Leave them alone. This is who they are. We’re not telling you who to be. Don’t tell us who to be.”
INTERVIEWEE #10: Actually speak up and say something. Because if it was abuse with a straight couple, or any other abuse, they would speak up and stuff. But since it’s people who aren’t straight and are gay, they don’t do anything and just ignore it, and it makes it worse.
INTERVIEWEE #11: In certain situations where people have snickered or said certain things, I feel like it’s my place as a friend and just a human being to be like, “Hey, we’re all just looking for love. We’re all human beings. Enough with, you know, all the sly remarks and the stupid comments. There’s no need for that.”
INTERVIEWEE #12: People can intervene. They can directly intervene, but they can also delegate it to the bigger, scarier person at the end of the train, or an MTA worker, or a police officer wherever they are, and feel comfortable. They can create a distraction, like dropping your coffee cup, or ask the person for the time, et cetera. Or they can simply, after it’s happened, ask the person if they’re okay and if there’s anything they can do to help, and really give that person control over the situation. Because often times, they’ll feel very out of control.
INTERVIEWEE #2: I’ve had someone come up to me afterwards and be like, “That guy was a total creep. He shouldn’t have been driving up on you and your partner. That’s fucked up.” And that was awesome! It made me feel a million times better.
KAT: What is something that you feel that others are not understanding about your community?
INTERVIEWEE #13: They’re not understanding, I guess, that we’re happy. That would be our answer.
INTERVIEWEE #4: Pride should keep going because people shouldn’t be afraid to be who they are, and the community is bigger and bigger every year, so I’m happy to see that everybody is starting to be comfortable with who they are. And more and more people can come together to events like this, and they can express who they are.
INTERVIEWEE #3: I guess my best advice would be, stay strong. Be beautiful, stay true to who you are, and don’t let anybody change that.
KAT: Ultimately, today is about celebrating pride. Don’t let anybody silence you from celebrating who you are.
PRIDE ATTENDEE: Happy Pride! Woo!
Kat Lazo is a Contributing Vlogger for Everyday Feminism. She’s a self-proclaimed social commentator, media critic, and overall, a woman who questions everything. Having studied Advertising and Marketing Communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she’s ready to add some feminism to the ad world. Check out more of her writing at TheeKatsMeoww, watch her videos on YouTube, and follow on Twitter @TheeKatsMeoww, Facebook and Tumblr. Read her articles here.