Elliot Chafetz supported his cousin Jacob Blake at a rally Thursday in front of Seattle’s City Hall — and received a torrent of transphobia in response.
As Chafetz and his mother, Nicki Blake Chafetz, spoke out against police brutality, hatred filled the comments on a Facebook livestream of the event from KUOW, a local NPR affiliate. Before delivering his remarks, Elliot introduced himself as “a trans male living in the world today,” which set off the bigotry.
“Trans Male? What’s that?” one user commented. Another: “Omg tell me more about accepting life with your confused gender preference.” Several other misgendered Elliot and employed racist language like “All Lives Matter.”
Last week, police shot Blake, a 29-year-old Black man in Kenosha, Wis., seven times in the back in front of his children, disabling him. The violent act sparked protests and yet more violence from Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old who shot three protesters, killing two.
In his speech, Elliot delivered a nonviolent message. “Fear makes us do scary things,” he said, adding, “It’s because of the fear that those policemen feel that they responded with violence. We cannot let that be us.”
This message was lost on some of the commenters, who intimated violence after Elliot revealed he had been so “scared” of attending the protest that he had practiced swinging a baseball bat for self-defense. “I heard stories of kids my age not coming back,” the 20-year-old shared.
The responsive comments became frightening. “Bring your bat they will swing back with lead,” one said. Another threatened, “I wish he was protesting near my house.”
On Saturday, Elliot responded to this bigotry in a Facebook Live interview with journalist Renee Raketty. “My instinct when I saw these comments was not doubt for myself, but doubt for the nation,” he said. “Because I really don’t know how I’m gonna educate these people, how I can tell them this is what a trans man is over the internet. Because there’s no way that I can educate them that to them would not sound like me enforcing my agenda.”
“I know for a fact that these people are going to keep saying what they’re going to say. But they’re on the wrong side of history,” he added. “We have a message that we’re going to spread regardless of the hate that we’re going to get. We know that they’re going to spread hate. And personally, you can think whatever you like about me. Don’t talk bad about my cousin.”
For those who are fearful of attending protests, Elliot advised LGBTQ+ folks to use all of the social media tools at their disposal to support the movement. “Spread the message that Black lives do matter. That Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back and he deserves a voice.”
Watch his interview below.