Unfortunately, it also seems to have become a haven for haters.
On Sunday night, a trans woman was attacked on the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Halsey Street. She was walking with a friend when four men approached them and demanded to know what they were doing in the neighborhood.
When she replied, the thugs realized she was trans. They beat her with 2X4s while calling her "faggot".
It was the second anti-LGBT attack in the neighborhood in two weeks.
I can recall a time when it was risky for anyone who wasn't from the neighborhood--and for some people who were--to walk those streets at night. It wasn't that long ago: I was pelted with eggs on one occasion and, on another, a group of young men tried to stop me at an intersection when I was riding my bike through the neighborhood.
Back then, I was still living as a man. I even had a beard and broad shoulders that seemed even wider next to my waist, which was smaller. Most people took me as a straight, or at least a bisexual-leaning-toward-straight, man. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had begun my transition.
The neighborhood was dangerous for LGBT people in the same way any area that was ravaged by crime and poverty: People whose existences were precarious saw any deviation from accepted notions about gender and sexuality as a threat. There are still people--young men, mainly--with such fears who live in the neighborhood. And there are others who see LGBT people as gentrifiers, or the "canaries in the coal mine" who precede them. In other words, they think we're going to "take over" their neighborhood and kick them out.
Truth is, most of the LGBT people in Bushwick--More are living there than most people realize!--are there for the same reasons as the folks I've mentioned: It's still a relatively affordable neighborhood. One of the undeniable facts about the LGBT world--especially trans people--is poverty. For every one those conspicuously-consuming gay men living in Chelsea penthouses, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of trans people who are living below the poverty line--or who are homeless.
Now, of course, the trans woman and gay man who suffered bias attacks in Bushwick during the past two weeks may not have been attacked by denizens of the neighborhood. Because those "in the know" know there's a substantial LGBT population in the neighborhood, it's not hard to imagine that haters from other neighborhoods, or even from outside of this city, might go to such a neighborhood during "hunting season": the weekend. That's the reason why so many attacks occur in Chelsea, Clinton, the Village and Jackson Heights.
Whoever the perps were, my thoughts and prayers go out to the trans woman and gay man who had the misfortune to meet up with haters (read: cowards) on a Bushwick street.