A transgender French woman is speaking out after a video that captured her being assaulted in the middle of a crowded crosswalk went viral.
Julia, 31, who prefers to be identified only by her first name, was attacked last weekend during a demonstration against Algeria’s ailing president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in the Place de la République, a public square in central Paris.
Nous sommes bien en plein @Paris, à République.
Une honte pour notre pays.
Une honte pour le drapeau auquel vous pensiez faire honneur.
— Lyes Alouane (@Lyes_Alouane) April 2, 2019
Julia tells The New York Times that she was about to board the metro when three men blocked her way.
“One of them looked at me and said, ‘You’re a man,’” she recalls. “He did not want to allow me to pass.”
The video footage shows a man ruffling Julia’s hair and then punching her repeatedly while another man tries to kick her. Some protesters attempt to intervene before metro security officers arrive to escort her out of danger.
BBC reports that the men taunted Julia in Arabic and threw beer on her. One of the men also exposed himself to her.
The transport officers who came to Julia’s rescue reportedly called her “Monsieur” and told her “not to dress like that.”
Cette agression manifestement transphobe en plein Paris est inadmissible !
Que les auteurs soient identifiés et poursuivis en justice.
Les #LGBT+ phobies ne sont pas des opinions mais de la bêtise et de la haine.
Elles agressent et tuent. https://t.co/vbSL2h6kIH
— MarleneSchiappa (@MarleneSchiappa) April 2, 2019
Lyes Alouane, an activist with LGBTQ organization Stop Homophobia, posted the video on Twitter with permission from the person who filmed it.
“At first, I wanted to move on to something else,” Julia says. “But given the many reactions and support I received, I decided to speak out. I am well aware that in a week’s time, this affair will be forgotten. So as long as I can make it visible, I will do so.”
“The abusers are simply ignorant people, who do not understand our situation.”
Marlène Schiappa, France’s minister for gender equality, tweeted that the assault was “clearly transphobic” and “unacceptable,” demanding that the “perpetrators must be identified and prosecuted.” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also publicly condemned the attack.
Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation on charges of “violence committed on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.” One suspect was detained but later released.
Indignée par cette agression transphobe, que je condamne avec la plus grande fermeté. Je tiens à assurer la victime de tout mon soutien. Les coupables de cet acte intolérable doivent être identifiés et poursuivis. https://t.co/w2gdNeiwaG
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) April 2, 2019
Estimates of the number of trans people in France range from 10,000 to 50,000. Activists say anti-trans discrimination in the country is widespread with transphobic violence on the rise.
But Arnaud Alessandrin, a sociologist specializing in gender issues at the University of Bordeaux, is heartened by the national response to Julia’s attack. “We have gone from a status of silence on transphobia to a status of outrage and finally to a status of action,” he says.
Julia recently appeared on the front page of Libération, a liberal French newspaper, with the headline “I am trans, so what?”