Bamby Salcedo got her name because she was a fast runner. Like a deer. But last Wednesday, when a man called her homophobic slurs and spat on her at a California Target store, she didn’t run. She defended herself and reported the incident to the police, who have charged the aggressor with a hate crime.
Recently, Bamby has been organizing demonstrations in Los Angeles to call attention to the number of trans women (at least 20) who have been killed this year. Her story is a reminder of the more common violence some trans women face every day. It includes offensive language.
I was just minding my own business looking for travel-size products at Target when I heard a man calling me a "fucking faggot."
I was on the phone with my sister, and I tried ignoring him, but he kept using more hateful language. He was getting louder and closer. And then he spat on me.
I had to defend myself until security arrived. I had to move quickly because the person assaulted me. I had to respond. The deer unleashed. I was verbally and physically assaulted, which resulted in physical injuries. This all happened just a mile away from Los Angeles city limits at a Target in Glendale, California.
When police arrived they interviewed him first, and as I waited to be questioned I thought of CeCe McDonald and other trans women of color who have been jailed for defending themselves. I was afraid I was going to be the one to get arrested. So at that moment I decided to take out my phone and record a video of what was happening while I waited for the interrogation process to end. I uploaded the video to Facebook so that my community instantly heard of what happened.
I posted the video as it was happening.
The Glendale Police Department is charging this man with one misdemeanor count of assault and one misdemeanor count hate crime charge. But at the moment I worried I would end up in jail. As transgender women of color, we often are criminalized and convicted simply by being who we are. The way that police arrest us, in their minds we're already convicted. The way police can approach people can be intimidating, and that can prevent some people from reporting.
But I am an empowered trans woman that is part of a community—that’s not the same case for every trans women.
I moved to Glendale because it’s supposed to be one of the safest cities in the country. I was assaulted in a metropolitan city, one of the safest cities in the country, just for being me. This is my reality here. Imagine what happens to people in smaller towns. People don’t hear about what happens to us until when we’re killed, and almost never when we’re verbally or physically attacked. (Editor’s note: Requests for comment to Target headquarters were unanswered.)
There have been at least 20 trans women killed this year.Those are the reported numbers. When it comes to assaults, the numbers are higher. Earlier this month I was a guest on a talk show called Dr. Drew specifically to discuss violence against trans women of color. That same week I lived that same experience.
This has been hard.
I believe this country has a prison industrial complex. There is a system in this country that allows corporations to make money off of detaining people. I wish there was another way of holding people accountable but at the same time this person must understand that he can’t do what he did to me or anybody else.
Everything that happened last Wednesday was motivated by hate. I know that. This was a hate crime. And I lived to tell about it. But the women that have been murdered haven't been able to talk about experiencing homophobia and transphobia.
As told to Jorge Rivas.
Bamby Salcedo is an activist, advocate and community organizer based in Los Angeles.