Given that, for a brief time, I lived in the East Village, and for long periods before and after that, in New York City and its environs, that shouldn't surprise anyone. There was--and to some degree, still is--a laissez-faire attitude toward just about everything. Many of us went there to do or consume things we couldn't in our neighborhoods or workplaces.
What that meant, of course, is that you also had a decent chance of having your pocket picked or purse snatched, or of getting into an altercation, sometimes for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, I suppose that was inevitable, as the very same atmosphere that attracted people who wanted the freedom to be themselves, even if only for a day or night, also attracted the people who exploited, or simply, hated them.
If you want any evidence of what I mean, just go to the West Fourth Street subway station, which is perennially one of the most crime-ridden in the city's transit system. The fact that it is a big station that serves as a transfer point between several lines, and has multiple levels and remote areas, makes it an easy place for thugs to lurk, hide or get away.
Just outside the northeasternmost entrance to the station, on West Third Street, is the most squalid and crime-ridden McDonald's restaurant in New York City. There have been several violent incidents there over the past year.
The most recent incident took place Wednesday night and involved a 350-pound male being (I refuse to call him a man.) who yelled anti-gay slurs at two transgender women who used the women's room in the restaurant. He threatened to "fuck" them "up". They left the restaurant, but he followed and tried to take a swing at one of the women.
One of them returned the punch and kneed him in the groin. He tumbled to the ground. But then he pulled out a razor and slashed her in the elbow, face and neck.
These days, I rarely go to that part of town, in part because I no longer have friends living in the area and most of the places where I used to go to hear music, read or hear poetry or shop are gone now, or have become unrecognizable. But I also lost much of my attraction to the area in the days before I started my transition, when I was actively "cross-dressing." I soon realized that the haters went to that part of town simply because they could easily find the people they hated. And, the fact that public consumption and intoxication were almost de riguer in those environs--cops looked the other way--made it all the more likely that some hater with chemically-lowered inhibitions would take out his hormonal rage on the objects of his hate.
Although I haven't had any harrowing experiences in a long time (knock wood!), I suppose the memory still lingers. Plus, I don't go anyplace to "be myself" anymore; I simply live my life as the person I am. I suppose I am lucky to have come to a point in my life where I can do that. For others--including many young trans people--there are the risks of having to share their spaces with the haters.