Before Trans Pride Begins, Trans Victim Speaks Out

by Kelsey Hamlin

A transitioning person was walking back to their car around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday when they were attacked by a man who began the assault by saying “happy pride.”

The victim was Michael Volz, who had just left a fundraiser event at Capitol Hill’s Neumos meant to support the mass hate crime shooting of a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando.

The press conference began with a statement that the victim would not be answering any questions concerning the incident.

Seattle Police Deputy Chief Carmen Best described the perpetrator as a white male, in his 20s, with a short beard and brown hair. He was wearing an orange or copper-colored shirt at the time along with blue jeans and sandals. The FBI is said to be looking into the case as well.

“I want you to know this is not an isolated incident,” said Volz. In fact, LGBTQIA+ individuals are the second-most likely victims of hate crimes in Seattle. But regardless, Volz said they are encouraged by the support they have been receiving in the past 46 hours.

“I refuse to not talk about it,” they said. Volz’s fake-tattoo gold stars shimmered above their eyebrow, mirroring the spark of determination in their eyes. “Honestly, my plan was to do this. My plan is to get up in the morning and keep moving.”

A couple of speakers attributed the attack on Volz to political rhetoric circulating not only during the current Presidential election but also from Washington’s very own Legislature, which saw six anti-trans bills circulated this year. Now, there’s even an anti-trans initiative out, that a recent Seattle Times editorial claimed, “concocts a scenario in which transgender people need their bathroom habits policed.”

“It sends a political message that targeting the trans community is okay,” said Danni Askini, “when we all know it’s not.”

Askini ran to become the 43rd District’s state representative, and has been a constant presence in legislative sessions for several years. She has known Volz, since the two worked together at the Gender Justice League almost five years ago. Askini mentioned Volz is also a social worker, and joked that “there’s only about five” around the state who are trans.

Danni Askini speaks to the crowd during Friday’s press conference as members of the media gather around. Photo by Kelsey Hamlin

Some members of the crowd who showed up in a display of solidarity for the victim had originally came down from Bellingham for Trans Pride.

“There’s a time and place for people collecting signatures” said Alix Melton of Bellingham, referring to people approaching the crowd with clipboards even while Volz was speaking.

“I’m here to talk about and recognize the violence that’s happening to our community,” said Chance Harper, also from Bellingham, “not for anyone else’s agenda.”

Nicki Ruiz was also present, speaking to the multiple discriminations she faces, being a trans person of color who is also homeless.

Ruiz said for her the worst things encountered on a day-to-day basis are catcalling, with even worse names thrown in because she’s transitioning, along with the eerie feelings she gets on trains and buses when a person expresses their intent to do her harm — not to mention the pushing and shoving she frequently experiences.

This happens, “even if you’re passable,” she said, an adjective meant to describe a person who is transitioning but who the general public perceives not as a trans person, but instead either as male or female on the gender dichotomy.

The crowd situates itself to display the Trans flag during Volz’s press conference. Photo by Kelsey Hamlin

But discrimination gets even worse when Ruiz seeks shelter. She once went to a women’s shelter,  and was asked “aren’t you a dude?” Ruiz was then refused services.

“They should have a staff agency,” she said, “with someone who knows, and doesn’t discriminate. It’s all a point of view.”

Unfortunately, other members of the crowd felt the Volz’s conference was not publicized enough, as they weren’t really sure what was going on, and had trouble hearing the speakers.

“It’s unfortunate that things like this are what bring us together,” said Sister Mary Stonewall Craft in regards to the trans community. “We’re having a really strong response to this, helping solidify the community to help get things going to where they need to be.”

“But I feel safe,” said Sister Velma Mae OrMaybeNot — drag queen from The Abbey of Saint Joan Sisters of Particular Indulgence (different than Sister Stonewall’s origin) — pointing to the number of police surveying the area. “I’m not going to stay home.”

Volz’s GoFundMe has reached approximately $25,500 as of Friday afternoon, but has not quite met its goal.

Should anyone know any information about Wednesday night’s incident or have a feeling they know the perpetrator, call (206) 233-5000, or the Seattle Police Department. Currently the SPD has no leads.

There are also resources available for reporting any experience of violence against LGBTQIA+ people, whether you be a witness of it or a victim: Call (206) 586-7777 for the Northwest Network, which also has a crisis clinic.

Kelsey Hamlin is an intern with South Seattle Emerald this summer, and has worked with various Seattle publications. Currently, Hamlin is the President of the UW Chapter’s Society of Professional Journalists, and will be starting an internship with KCTS 9 in July. She finished an internship with The Seattle Times in March as an Olympia legislative reporter, and is a journalism major at the University of Washington, planning to double-major in Law, Societies & Justice (currently her minor). See her other work here, or find her on twitter @ItsKelseyHamlin.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that Danni Askani was currently running for the position of 43rd District State Representative. It has been corrected.