Gay activist turns harassment into trans-rights PSA

BY MATT TRACY | A bigot was caught on video lashing out at a gay Jewish man in a Manhattan subway station on Mon., Sept. 9, but that scary moment suddenly turned into a positive opportunity when the victim used the incident to raise awareness about the plight of transgender and gender nonconforming people of color.

In a video tweeted out by Adam Eli, who boasts nearly 5,000 followers and identifies in his Twitter profile as a community organizer, active with Voices4, and writer in the city, the homophobe is seen accusing Eli of “desecrating the name of God.”

Eli stated in the tweet that the man “was upset that I was wearing a pink kippah, carrying a purse, and had a Pride patch sewn onto my jeans.”

Adam Eli, left, kisses a man as he holds a sign that expresses his pride in his full identity. (TWITTER/ @AEWERNER)

The yet-to-be-identified harasser pointed at Eli before walking toward him outside of the 28th Street R and W train station on Broadway in Manhattan. Eli continued to retreat as the bigot grew increasingly angry with him.

“Stay in the closet!,” the unhinged homophobe screamed. “Take your kippah off! This is not Judaism!”

The sleazy creep proceeded to ramble on about how Eli is “an abomination,” but then some shocked folks in the street were seen forming somewhat of a wall blocking him from continuing to harass Eli.

In the end, Eli was able to escape the scene without suffering any physical harm. He told CBS New York that he did not file a police report because he did not feel it would solve anything, but he still emerged with a key takeaway: As the video went viral, he notably grabbed that chance to acknowledge his privilege as a cisgender (non-transgender) white man and remind the public that transgender and gender nonconforming folks, especially black trans women, continue to face deadly violence on a regular basis.

“I am sharing the encounter for three reasons,” Eli wrote. The first reason, he said, was because “I spent the first 18 years of my life listening to people tell me I couldn’t be gay and Jewish. Today I love my queer Jewish identity and nobody is taking that away from me.”

The man pictured above allegedly went on a hate-filled tirade against Adam Eli, a gay Jewish man, in a Manhattan subway station on Sept. 9. (TWITTER/ @AEWERNER)

Second, he continued, the incident represented “a fraction of what our trans + GNC family get every single day. In [this] moment I was able to stand up to my attacker NOT bc I’m brave but bc I’m a white resourced man in a heavily trafficked place. We know what happens when a white man attacks a black trans woman.”

He also offered a direct message to other cis white gay men “who generally ‘pass’ for being hetero in public.”

“This is what’s out there,” he explained. “Most of the time we can get on the subway, go for a run or go on a date in peace. That does not mean our struggle for queer liberation is over.”

He concluded, “Racism, transphobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, anti semitism and ableism hold hands. Our ancestors taught us none of us are safe until all of us are safe. Queer culture is not going to Equinox and getting brunch. Queer culture is about fighting for [our] community.”

Following the series of tweets, Eli stood by his vow to stand up for marginalized queer folks, even as high-ranking politicians started reacting to his video. When Mayor Bill de Blasio chimed in on Twitter to apologize to Eli for having to endure the incident, Eli thanked the mayor for his support before reminding him that the answer to homophobia is to “address all types of violence against all queer people.”

“Layleen Polanco, a 27 yr old Afro-Latinx trans woman died in Rikers 93 days ago,” Eli wrote in response to the mayor’s tweet. “I know her family would like to speak with you. Perhaps we can all sit down together?”

The mayor did not respond to that tweet.

This article first ran in Gay City News, a sister Schneps Media publication of The Villager.

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