San Francisco police have arrested a couple accused of attacking Samantha Hulsey, a 25-year-old transgender woman, while shouting transphobic slurs November 16 in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The Bay City News notes that police have arrested Dewayne Edward Kemp, 36, and Rebecca Louise Westover, 42, a man and woman who share a residence in San Francisco. Police also suspect Kemp of violating his parole and being in possession of drug paraphernalia.
Hulsey and her fiancée, Daira Hopwood, were wrapping up a date night of dinner and a movie when the women encountered Kemp and Westover, who allegedly threw hot coffee in Hulsey’s face before escalating the assault in a provocation that was purportedly based solely on Hulsey and Hopwood’s assumed gender identity and expression.
The Chronicle reports that Hulsey suffered injuries to her face, which became swollen, a black eye, and trauma to her upper body and neck. Witnesses flagged down police, who then apprehended the suspects.
Hulsey described being “very frightened” to the Chronicle and falling into “fight-or-flight mode,” fearing for her life.
Hopwood, a 40-year-old computer scientist who is also a transgender woman, was with Hulsey on the evening of the assault. She told the Chronicle the attackers seemed to be looking for a fight. “It was almost as if they were going to beat up the next trans person they saw,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Hulsey and her partner have been the victims of allegedly transphobic hate crimes in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood. Hulsey still arranges her long, coffee-colored hair to conceal the scars left by a January attack on a city bus, reports theChronicle.
Hulsey was stabbed twice just below the neck on the bus January 3, while her attacker allegedly used slurs toward the young woman and her partner. Police arrested Brodus Wayne Joynes at the scene, then later charged the 54-year-old man with hate crime–enhanced offenses of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and false imprisonment.
These two attacks against Hulsey in a single year occurred against the backdrop of a changing San Francisco for LGBT people, a city once hailed as a haven for marginalized sexual minorities and gender-variant people. As the trans and gender-nonconforming advocate Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore notes in her book The End of San Francisco, the city is gradually gentrifying in the wake of a tech boom.
Some LGBT people are being pushed out of the so-called gayborhoods, or historic queer neighborhoods like the Castro. Despite the neighborhood’s continuing existence as an LGBT enclave, unforeseen clashes between rising numbers of low-to-no-income people and wealthier neighbors have arisen in recent years.
One side-effect of those rising tensions was laid bare in a groundbreaking study published in February by the San Francisco LGBT Center, in partnership with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and Learning for Action. The study, called the “LGBTQI Violence Prevention Needs Assessment,” examined violence among San Francisco’s LGBT people, finding that a staggering 79 percent of transgender residents reported being victims of violence. Meanwhile, 88 percent of respondents reported being harassed in San Francisco, validating claims made by trans advocates that violence against gender-variant people in the city has become far worse than previously imagined.
“The numbers will come as a shock to anyone who thinks we’ve somehow ‘moved beyond’ the need for services and action dedicated to keeping LGBT people safe in their own neighborhoods,” said Rebecca Rolfe, executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Center, in a statement to the press. “San Francisco still has this reputation as a welcoming, safe enclave for LGBT people, but what we’ve found in our study is that that is far from true for all LGBT residents.”
Two weeks after Hulsey’s first attack this year, Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, a 36-year-old trans woman of color, was found dead the morning of February 1, stabbed multiple times in a stairwell in San Francisco’s Bayview District. A week after DeJesus’s death, her alleged murderer, 49-year-old James Hayes, was found dead in an apparent suicide behind a warehouse a half-mile from where DeJesus’s body was discovered.