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A chef in Charlotte, N.C., was assaulted Saturday night by a group of teenagers who used antigay slurs at her, The Charlotte Observer reports.
The woman, whose name was not released, was walking home from work after her shift with a fellow employee when they passed a group of seven or eight teenagers, who immediately began to verbally harass them.
"Hey, are you a stud?" one of the assailants, a 17-year-old girl, asked her. As the Observer notes, the term is a "euphemism for a masculine-looking lesbian." When the victim ignored the question, the girl began to get more aggressive with her. "Oh, yeah, you are a stud," the teenager said.
She proceeded to call the victim antigay epithets like "faggot" and "queer."
"All of a sudden, the guy comes up beside me and said, 'Let me ask you a question,'" the victim told the Observer. "That's when she attacked me. She screamed, 'You're f------ going to die!' and ... she jumped right on me with a hit to the face."
"I hit the ground pretty hard," she continued. "She kicked me a couple of times in the ribs."
The victim's coworker, 24, told the Observer that the attack was very clearly motivated by antigay bias. "The only reason we got attacked is because she is gay," she said. "It's a straight-up hate crime. They were young girls -- too young to have that much anger in their heart."
According to the chef, who works at a restaurant in Charlotte's Uptown district, she's rarely faced violence or lived in fear due to her sexuality. But she said that has changed in recent months, as incidents like these have "intensified."
"This past year, something has been in the air," she explained. "People have been noticing me more than before."
2016, though, has been an unusual year for Charlotte -- as well as the state the city calls home.
In March, North Carolina pushed through House Bill 2 during an "emergency session" of the state's Congress. Introduced, passed, and signed into law in a single day, that bill struck down local LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws across the state. It also forced trans residents to use public bathrooms that do not correspond with their gender identity, when those are located in government buildings.
HB 2 may have had additional unintended effects on the state's LGBT population, as the victim told the Observer. "It's almost ... as if the new law," she argued, "gave people permission to be hateful."
The coworker added that given the current climate of North Carolina, this could be just the beginning. "Now it's like, when will it happen again?" she asked.
The two 17-year-old girls arrested by police Saturday night will face charges of misdemeanor assault, the Observer reports. The pair may be further prosecuted by the FBI under national hate-crime laws, as North Carolina doesn't have laws on the books that cover hate crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity. North Carolina is one of 18 states that lack LGBT-inclusive hate-crime laws.