Three transgender women were assaulted and robbed in Los Angeles Monday at around 2:15 a.m., and police are now investigating the attack as a hate crime. The following is the victims’ account to The Advocate of what occurred.
Joslyn Flawless, Eden the Doll, and Jaslene Whiterose were waiting for an Uber on Hollywood Boulevard early Monday morning when a man approached them and stole Eden’s phone. The thief had harassed them earlier in the evening, but they had shrugged him off at the time.
But the theft was a bridge too far. The three women chased the man down the street. In their pursuit, however, they soon found themselves surrounded by a crowd of about 10 people, mostly cisgender men. But “instead of helping us, they started chanting that we were trans. And they started chanting that we're men,” Eden recounted with disbelief. The transphobic chants “infuriated” the thief, Eden said, and he turned the tables and began to chase after the women in response.
The combination of the crowd and the thief’s renewed aggression made the women look for an escape. “At this point we said screw the phone and tried to get into the Uber that we were waiting for,” Eden said.
The crowd turned aggressive, throwing rocks, and one woman hurled a lighter at the Uber, which departed without them. The man, emboldened, grabbed Jaslene’s bag. Alarmed, the three women split up to flee their pursuer.
The thief began chasing after Joslyn. “I went to go get help at a taco truck and I see him coming behind me with a crowbar,” Joslyn said. The assailant demanded Joslyn remove her shoes and bracelet. “Which one of you and your friends are trannies? I’m going to kill you,” he threatened, according to Joslyn’s account. He grabbed her hand, but upon seeing Eden and Jaslene down the street, began running after them instead.
“I was able to get away and try to get help, but nobody would help me,” Joslyn said. “People were yelling at me, calling me a boy, saying ‘That’s a man, don't touch him.’”
Just beforehand, Jaslene, after splitting up, had found help from a passing driver, who picked her up and circled around Hollywood Boulevard trying to find her friends. The driver eventually stopped, and the pair agreed that Jaslene would find her friends on foot and bring them back to the waiting car.
Unfortunately, Jaslene encountered the hostile crowd. “They started to surround us again. And one of them ends up taking up a like Bird scooter and throws it at me while I'm walking away. Luckily, it missed me,” she said.
Amidst this, Jaslene had reunited with Eden. The two were trying to find their stolen phones, which was their only avenue of escape at the time. “We have a whole mob following us. And we can’t like just get into a car because we don't have our purses anymore. And so now these guys are like standing around us mocking us, chanting at us,” she recounted.
A different man, who had somehow come into possession of Eden’s phone, approached her with a proposal. “I need everything in your bag. Give it to me now. And I’ll maybe give you your phone back,” he said, according to Eden.
With the mob in front of her, Jaslene didn’t see the initial attacker coming up from behind. He hit her in the head with a glass bottle. “I fall to the ground, completely pass out,” she said. “And when I woke up, I had Eden and Joslyn next to me. And all these men are crowded around me laughing at me saying, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s not even dead. Come back, hit her again.’”
The mob, made up mostly of Black men at this point, Jaslene clarified, began chanting “BLM” and “Black Lives Matter.” And “I was just so confused, like why I wasn’t treated like a Black person that they wanted to save or they wanted to help,” she said.
“Before I even got hit, I was like screaming around the block. ‘Somebody call 911. Somebody call 911. People were literally laughing at me, telling me, ‘No.’
“No one wanted to help us because everybody had already heard that we were trans. And to them it was like we were no longer human,” she said.
Somehow, Eden secured her phone back and was attempting to call the cops. Before she did, a police cruiser passed by the scene. “I was screaming at them. I don’t know if they heard me or not. But they definitely did stop and see what happened,” Eden recalled. But the car left, and Eden phoned 911. The police arrived around three minutes later. Eden estimated.
The cops “saved” them, Eden said, “but during the time between them and the police showing up, it felt like hours … it was the longest three minutes of my life.”
The Los Angeles Police Department is now investigating the attack as a hate crime. As of Friday, police had arrested Willie Walker, 42, on an extortion charge and Carlton Callaway, 29, on a robbery charge with a hate crime enhancement. They are still searching for Davion Williams, 22, who is suspected of being the assailant.
Police Chief Michel Moore said an officer did drive by on the way to an emergency call, and the department is investigating if that officer’s action and the response to the attack were appropriate.
However, Eden, an influencer with over 400,000 followers on Instagram, believes the outcome would have been much different if she did not have a platform.
“As of now, the police are handling it really well. I appreciate the help I’m getting now. But honestly … if I wasn’t who I was, if I wasn’t popular on social media … this case would not be handled the way it’s been handled,” she said. “It would have been swept under the rug. And no one would care just how no one cared then. “
“People care now because of my status. People care now because I’ve been able to explode this the way it has exploded on social media. And that’s what my biggest concern is now, is that this happens to women like us every single day, and they don’t come out alive all the time,” Eden said.
“What if I wasn’t there and my friends were alone without me?” she wondered in horror.
Eden pointed out how, initially, the police report classified this horrific incident as merely a robbery. It took the release of the footage of the attack, which went viral, before it would be investigated as an assault and hate crime.
As America grapples with an epidemic of violence against transgender and nonbinary people — at least 24 have been killed this year — Eden has advice for law enforcement who receive reports of violence. “Just believe and act immediately,” she said. “Take us more serious, take trans lives more serious, and take Black trans lives more serious.”
“These are hate crimes. We were targeted because we are transgender,” echoed Joslyn, adding, “This shouldn’t be happening in the first place.”
The problem isn’t just with the police, however. Jaslene stressed how “mind-boggling” it was to be surrounded by a crowd of Black people chanting “Black Lives Matter” while dehumanizing her as a transgender woman. “People need to see everyone as equal. So that whoever is on that ground gets the help that they need and when they need it,” she said.
Surviving a hate crime has also changed the way the women perceive the world. For Jaslene, it confirmed her worst fears. “When I first transitioned, I was in a closet for a while. And it was because I was so scared of something like this happening to me, and no one helping,” she said, adding, “That is the scariest thing I’ve ever had to experience. And it just makes me look at people a lot differently. It makes me feel like I’m very on my own.”
“I just think that now when I leave my house, I get a little worried. Do I need to have something to protect myself? So I need to have somebody always with me when I’m walking in the street?" she wondered. "It’s just scary, and it just shouldn’t be that way.”
“We see these stories where Black women, Black trans women, and people are attacked and killed … but you never really think it’s going to happen to you,” Joslyn added. “So it just gave me that eye-opener to just always be aware of my surroundings and not take anything for granted and just make sure that I'm always safe and protected.”
“It’s hard to leave the house without having a panic attack, because it was just really traumatic on us,” she said of her current state of mind.
Eden, who also once believed that an attack like this could never happen to her, advised other transgender people to take more precautions against danger. “For all my trans brothers and sisters out there, no matter who you are, no matter what you sound like, what you look like, how passable you are, how famous you are, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “At the end of the day, when you're out there helpless, you cannot be out at night by yourself. You cannot be out at night without protection. We all have to watch out after each other.”
And Joslyn has a message for the broader LGBTQ+ community on how they can help transgender people. “Include everyone. Be supportive. If you see something like that, send love and support,” she said. “We wouldn’t have found these guys without the support of the LGBT community and the allies because these people rallied behind us.”