On August 16th, Dakota Kern, 18, was at a pool party in Phoenix, Arizona when she was attacked by a mob of about 20 people. Most of the other attendees were strangers—not all, but most—and hurled homophobic slurs at her the entire time. Eventually, as she tried to leave, she heard a man shout, “Get it! Get it!” And then the swarm closed in on her.
Dakota Kern is a trans woman.
Kern told CBS 5, “One of the guys, he ends up grabbing me by my head, grabbing me by my hair, and then he hit me a few times.” One of her attackers filmed the ordeal and spread it around social media. Eventually, she says, she passed out, hitting her head on the concrete, and woke to her friend slapping her face in an attempt to revive her.
Warning: CBS 5’s report includes footage of the assault, depicting Kern thrown on the ground and being kicked.
Kern’s injuries were treated at a local hospital. She believes the attack was premeditated, that the pool party invitation was intended to lure her into the assault. She’s urging the police to investigate it as a hate crime—and the fact that they didn’t immediately speaks volumes about the safety of trans women in the United States.
The fact is that anti-LGBT violence is only increasing, and the vast majority of victims are trans women, especially trans women of color. Trans lives are some of the most vulnerable and least protected in the country, and our justice system is not built to help them.
Dakota Kern should not have to beg the police to consider such a horrific incident a hate crime. Trans women should not have to beg to be alive.
To live freely as oneself should not be a dangerous or revolutionary act—and yet that is the reality LGBT people live every day. That is the reality trans people live every day. How much longer do any of us need to fight just to exist?
For Kern, the fight is not over. “This is always gonna be me,” she says. “If you like it, stay. If you don’t, there’s the door.”