The face of anti-trans violence

As North Texans commemorate Trans Day of Remembrance, one trans woman remembers the attack she survived as a child

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Winter Mullenix
Winter Mullenix

To many people, statistics on anti-transgender violence are just numbers. Astounding, perhaps frightening, but still just numbers.

Winter Mullenix is the face of one of those numbers. One of many.

Mullenix was attacked when she was 9 years old by someone who had apparently been stalking her for a while.

“He was disgusted by my behavior. I was living as a boy, but it was obvious to everyone,” she said, describing herself. “I would dance and prance and I hung out with the girls.”

Mullenix said that when she was a child, she would sneak out of the house at night and go to a nearby playground. She isn’t sure now what time she left the night she was attacked, but, she said, she knows she had waited until everyone in the house was sound asleep.

“He jumped me,” she said. “He was hiding near the playground.”

Mullenix said her attacker jumped out from behind a tree or maybe even from inside the hollowed-out old tree. Then he grabbed her and dragged her down to a creek near the playground.

“If you want to be a woman, you have to learn to bleed like a woman,” he told her.

Then he put a knife into her rectum and cut the skin around her tailbone. Then he raped her, using her blood as lubricant, she said.

Before he left her, Mullenix said, he asked, “You don’t want to be a little girl anymore, do you, faggot?”

Those words are burned into her memory, proof that the attack was a hate crime and not just the actions of a violent pedophile.

When he was done, he left Mullenix for dead, laying in a pipe connected to the sewer.

Her memory of getting home is blurry. She told no one about what happened and healed without medical attention. Her attacker was never caught, at least not for this crime. Mullenix never reported the rape.

“I became numb,” she said. “I cut myself off from the world.”

Mullenix said she became delusional and entered a fantasyland to mask her pain. But things started to change five years later when she began the process of coming out as transgender at age 14. She was having severe nightmares.

“I’d doodle a lot during class,” she said. “My Spanish teacher noticed I was drawing very violent things. She worried about what was happening to me and sent me to a school counselor.”

The school counselor referred Mullenix to outside counseling until she achieved her goal at age 20 of having sex reassignment surgery.

“I was focused,” Mullenix said.

She had determination uncommon in a teenager.

Although continuing to dress as a male until age 17, Mullenix knew who she was when she began going to counseling. Throughout her teens she was determined to complete her transition early. She worked, saved money and paid for the surgery herself.

Despite the words of her attacker, Mullenix knew exactly what she wanted and who she was.

“I felt as normal as I could when I completed the transition,” she said.

But Mullenix still suffers the psychological effects of the brutal attack. She has panic attacks and a fear of the dark.

“I can’t sleep without a light on,” she said.

She’s paranoid that someone is going to sneak up behind her and jump her. She scares easily. She’s uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.

“People think I’m a creature of habit,” Mullenix said. But she actually just avoids unfamiliar places.

“I survived,” she said. “But I have friends who died from violent crimes.”

“The homicide rate for transgenders is so high,” said Marla Compton, the coordinator for GEAR, the transgender program at Resource Center Dallas.

Human Rights Campaign estimates that one out of every 1,000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate crime.

“We do have to be more careful,” Mullenix said. “Violence is more likely for us.”

Despite her experiences, Mullenix said that she can’t let what happened control her life.

“[You] have to take control and take proper precautions,” she said. “For me, I’m happily married now and I have some great, supportive friends.”

Mullenix also stressed that a violent situation doesn’t have to mean the end of a normal life.

“I want transgender youth to know they shouldn’t let fear control them if something terrible happened and they survived it,” she said.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is important to Mullenix because it displays unity within the LGBT community.

“It acknowledges us as part of the community,” she said.

“The day gives us a chance to pause and remember those who left us and cherish those who are still here,” Compton said.

She said that having friends and allies attend a TDoR event is emotional and uplifting to her. But she also said that it helps others understand the violence the transgender community faces.

“Fortunately, I’ve never had to read the name of a friend at TDoR,” Compton said.

But too many others have.

Dallas’ Transgender Day of Remembrance observance takes place at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope Sunday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m.

Organizers asked people to participate in the memorial by bringing a flower. Speakers will include Cece Cox and Andy Moreno, with performances by Voice of Pride 2010 winner Mel Arizpe, Women’s Chorus of Dallas ensemble MosaicSong and the Youth First Texas choir PUMP!

In Fort Worth, TDoR remembrance will be held during morning worship at Agape Metropolitan Community Church on Sunday, Nov. 21.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens