Trans Woman Records Subway Attack, Receives Support From Hillary Clinton

This photo, from Pearl Love's Facebook page, shows Love with her friends and peers at the SAGE Center Harlem.
This photo, from Pearl Love's Facebook page, shows Love with her friends and peers at the SAGE Center Harlem.via Pearl Love/Facebook
By Stephany Bai

Pearl Love was en route to an event at The Center, an LGBT community center located in Manhattan, when a fellow subway passenger began making derogatory comments directed towards her.

Love, who is transgender and Asian, initially ignored the tirade, which happened on April 28, but started filming the woman when she became more aggressive.

Love told NBC News that the recording was driven partly out of necessity. "Otherwise if I didn’t record it, if something had happened, nobody would believe me," she said. "Everybody around me gets abused and beat up. They go to the police and no one says anything."

Love said she recorded three videos, but only posted the first online on Monday. The video, which begins with her attacker's profanity-laced tirade, ends when the woman gets up to physically strike Love.

Love's post went viral, with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton taking notice. Clinton commented on Love's Facebook post Thursday night to express her support, writing that "transgender people need to hear from every one of us that you are loved, respected, and deserving of equality under the law."

"I’m so happy that [Clinton] cares about the transgender community," Love said, responding to Clinton's comment. "It’s pretty normal that things like this happen. It’s really terrible, and [there have] been so many things that have happened to me."

(Love had briefly met Clinton last month before the New York primary when Clinton visited The Center.)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton comments on Pearl Love's Facebook post.Pearl Love's Facebook

Isa Noyola, the director of programs for the Transgender Law Center, told NBC News that Love's story is "so heartbreaking on multiple levels," but also "all too common."

"It pains me because I know that Pearl’s story doesn’t just end there," Noyola said. "It continues to happen — this dynamic that all trans people at some point are confronted with."

Love, who is an outreach worker for the Trans Latina Network, has been a victim of numerous other crimes, including a stabbing in 2014. But she says that the discrimination that transgender people face is far more pervasive and subtle than these overt attacks.

“I [have] seen discrimination for a really long time," Love said. "I go to a job interview and no one hires [me]. It’s not that I don’t want to work, it’s that nobody gives me a chance."

"If I didn’t record it, if something had happened, nobody would believe me."

Love, who taught herself English by reading the dictionary and copying sentences, immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1998, saying she came to New York because she had "no place to go." She and her family are estranged because of her gender identity.

Love said she first worked as a showgirl, before she even spoke any English. "Now I cannot be a showgirl because I am old," she said. "It's not easy to get a job."

Noyola, the director at the Transgender Law Center, said that her community is in "survival mode."

"Trans people are not asking me to fight for the right to vote or what’s at stake in the presidential elections," Noya said. "They’re asking me to fight for their survival, to end their abuse."

She added, "In terms of tangible concrete results nothing has materialized from the government, from the Department of Justice. The only thing we see moving is how the trans community, with very resources and support, is resilient in the face of all this violence, this discrimination, these attacks from society and also from the state."

Love says she posted the video "for my sisters, for my community," and to illustrate an all-too-common occurrence for all of them.

"[We need to start] educating people that we are human beings, and that we don’t have to pick a side," she said.

Even after attacks such as these, Love says she always goes back to work the next day where she helps HIV-positive individuals, performs tests, and helps to educate on HIV prevention.

"I go out, put on a smile," Love said. "That's what I do."

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