Of Radio and Love, 0001 — The Break-In That Wasn’t

Hi. My name is DJ Ponytail, and I’m not doing my radio show tonight. Why? Because I thought someone was trying to break into my home, and now I’m starting a blog.
I am a Caucasian male. That is to say, I have a penis and a reasonably light pink skin tone. I share this attribute with a startling majority of the folks elected to the US Congress, at least as of 2014 (source). I’m also a transgender – specifically, I’m genderfluid, meaning my gender isn’t static. If you need a label, call me a demigirl. Demi, which is apparently French for ‘half.’ Literally, I am half of a girl. In practice, not so much. Being trans is an attribute which I share with precisely zero members of Congress, although two transgender folks made it past the primaries for the first time in history (source). I do, however, share this attribute with a depressingly high number of people who are the victims of hate crimes (source). The last statistic I feel pertinent to mention – I don’t own a gun. According to NPR, who cites a very long paper by the Congressional Research Service, about 2/3s of American households are similarly unarmed (source).

So what happened to me tonight? What’s all this about a break-in? Long time listeners of my show will know that it’s a running gag on our show to discuss just how professional the broadcasters on Stuck In My Skull are. It’s a very tired joke to refer to the office in my apartment as ‘the Radio Love Studios.’ And so when next week I joke that someone tried to break into our studios, I will of course mean my apartment. Specifically, the apartment that my co-host and better half and I share (she was out at the time of this incident). Recently our apartment complex was bought by another company, and the obligatory round of ‘outer shell’ improvements are going on – paint. Lots and lots of paint. We’ve had painters all over the place for about a week now. When I got home from work on Friday, I discovered that our front door had been painted. The door frame, doorknob (why is that one word and door frame isn’t?), deadbolt, and peep-hole had all been covered in some mix of tape and paper. The painters were gone for the day. I removed as much tape and paper as I had to in order to gain access to my apartment, and went in.

It turns out that removing this tape and paper makes much the same sound as turning a key in the lock. So here I am, on the couch, and I hear what I thought was my co-host coming home. Then I realized that she was playing DnD at a friends house.

A fury of vigorous texts and a phone call confirmed that she was, in fact, not trying to get in the door. By some miracle, I found my pepper spray, and dashed ever so quietly back to the door. Yes, I keep pepper spray. In my estimation, carrying around mace is less likely to get me killed than a knife, and I have a strong objection to guns that oddly enough has more to do with medieval history than morals. I digress. Pepper spray in hand, I make it to the door, and realize that the damn thing is unlocked.

I’d like to say that I slammed the bolt home so hard that it shattered, set a world speed record, broke the sound barrier. That would be as false as a Donald Trump crime statistic. (Seriously, look them up.) Instead, I made very sure to lock the deadbolt as quietly as I could. Something in my head had apparently decided in that instant that stealth was better than speed. Perhaps I was planning an ambush?

I’d also like to say that I was preparing to wrench the door open and attack the fiend trying to gain entry to my apartment. For a moment there, I think I was. But what happened was that the painter – for it was a painter – then started removing paint from the peephole. Yep, there’s me, ready to pull a Budd from Kill Bill and burn some poor laborer’s eye right from its socket with my pepper spray, to strike them down in terror-fueled indignation.

I know beyond a shadow of doubt that if I owned a gun, I would have seriously considered putting the entire magazine through that door without opening it. I would have murdered that painter in fear. But gun control isn’t the point.

Why was I so afraid? I’ve got pepper spray and a kitchen full of knives that oddly enough I’ve received mild training in how to fight with. (Long story. Short version – medieval combat club in college covered daggers, and I was and am nerdy enough to enjoy it.) So why didn’t I just stand back, make ready to go Home Alone on the villain, and brace for the impending and assured violence?

Because I’m terrified of being just another statistic. I’ve linked to the FBI statistics above, feelb free to Google it yourself. Here’s another one – something like 40% of trans folks have attempted suicide (USA Today talks about it here, citing a very lengthy report here). Ever since college (see the story of Radio Love, spoken about on air but never posted as of time of writing), I’ve been worried about becoming just another statistic. According to the very statistics I fear, I’ve got a pretty good reason to be worried. Ever since the election, I’ve been even more worried.

Maybe if I owned a gun, I would have gotten mad instead of scared. Holding in my hand an instrument expressly designed to kill, I would have reacted in righteous fury. “How dare you try and break into my home! Come f***ing get some, ***hole!” Or maybe not. Maybe if it happened again I would have just gone out the window in the office – the joys of living on the ground floor. Or called the cops. Or anyone. Perhaps screamed until they went away or someone came looking.

Or maybe, scared of becoming the next dead trans person, I would have done the exact same thing. It’s a sad truth that my gender identity (or lack thereof) carries with it a statistically significant risk of injury or death. Can I entirely blame being genderfluid for nearly assaulting a painter today? Of course not. But it certainly was a factor.

I suppose I should end with a call to action. Expose yourself to the unknown. Since I’m never above shameless self-promotion, you can expose yourself to a genderbender by tuning into my show, blah blah. But really – get out there more, hate less, and think. Always think.

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