By Darryl Ford
Today I was forced to confront hatred the like of which I have never personally experienced.
I volunteer at the Day Drop Center for the homeless in Fernandina Beach. When I arrived for my shift, a man was profanely threatening violence, literally screaming at a transgender client . . . as I learned simply for being transgender. Jackie (not her real name,) the victim of his hatred simply stood there. I brought Jackie into the office where she was very calm, dignified and assured me that nothing needed to be done and that this was part of her experience being transgender in Fernandina Beach. Several minutes later as Jackie and I started to update some information online the man burst into the office again profanely threatening first Jackie and then me when I stood between them. I convinced him to take a few steps outside where he then continued this tirade even threatening other clients who attempted to intervene and convince him to leave. The situation was resolved without violence when the police arrived and ordered the man off the property.
When I returned to finish the update task for Jackie’s benefits we began to talk about the incident and her experience. She told me about being assaulted, in bars, on the street, at fast food restaurants and so on. I asked her about the assaults, what did she mean, and she calmly explained how she has been punched so hard on multiple occasions that she has lost two teeth, been the victim of attempted rape, been cut off and financially taken advantage of by her family, been refused medical/dental treatment after arriving for appointments, and simply hated for being herself. Jackie also told me heartwarming stories of being accepted for who she is by locals, bikers, and others she runs in to around the island.
I thought of myself as aware and open minded before today. Of course, I knew that transgender people were victims of discrimination and violence. Experiencing the rage and hatred of this man, spittle flying from his mouth as he threatened first Jackie, then myself, and then others for not joining him was a visceral kick in the gut. I live a different lifestyle than Jackie, we had a rollicking entertaining debate comparing our experiences and choices in life. Jackie is a likable, very intelligent, very lonely transgender woman with much to offer to this world.
I am very saddened to see the raw face of hate that Jackie lives with on this island that I love.
Editor’s Note: After a 35-year career in Human Resources, Darryl Ford and his wife moved to Fernandina’s Historic District in 2018. Darryl now spends his time as a volunteer with the Coalition for the Homeless. We thank Darryl for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.