Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Community rallies after anti-cisgendered attack

By Morning Wood Staff

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(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

By Ally Forgood

Chris O’Connor, a sophomore business student at University of Massachusetts, was attacked Wednesday afternoon in Haigis Mall by a group of transgender assailants. O’Connor is currently in stable condition at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

“The University has moved quickly to condemn this action, and has requested federal resources to use toward educating the community and resolving tension so we can heal our fractured community,” said UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in a schoolwide email Wednesday evening. “UMPD is conducting ongoing investigation into this and other recent hate crimes on campus.”

Neil Sampson, a close friend of O’Connor’s, was with him at the time of attack.

“We were just coming home from seeing Deadpool when this bus screeches out of nowhere – it has a banner on it that says ‘Down with Cis’ – and a bunch of people wearing ‘Down with Cis’ shirts jump out and start beating Chris up.”

A post by Sampson on the social networking site Tumblr has recently gone viral, and is popular as a joke in many trans circles. Some have even gone so far as to say that story itself is fake.

According to the Institute for Cissexual Advocacy, “ ‘Cis’ is a shortening of the word ‘cisgender’, meaning that someone is not transgender. The shortening is often used as an anti-cissexual slur.”

Sampson says that he managed to avoid “brutalization” by going for the trans assailants’ faces. He called 911 for his friend, but refused care for his own wound, a cut on his arm, until he was assured that O’Connor would be alright. Sampson rode in the ambulance with O’Connor, and held his hand for the duration of the trip.

“I’m just so shocked that this kind of hate act could take place on our campus,” said Ashleigh Nashbaum, campus coordinator for the National Trans-Cisgendered Alliance (NTCA). “I mean, it’s 2016! It’s so shameful that cisgender people face so much threat of violence in our community still. Thankfully we’ve had an overwhelmingly supportive response.”

Nashbaum says that the NTCA has already received a swell of donations to increase funding for cisgender community activities, such as men’s hockey, men’s football, and bringing known cisgender advocate, Lena Dunham to campus as a speaker.

Nancy O’Connor, one of the victim’s mothers, was unavailable for comment, but Linda, Chris’ other mother, has stated that Nancy remains by their only child’s bedside as he recovers.

Speaking on the subject of the family’s rocky past with Chris’ cisgendered identity, Linda said, “of course were worried when he first told us he was cisgender. We wanted him to really be sure before we bought him his first polo shirt. Now it seems so silly that we cared whether he was cisgendered or trans, we just want him to be happy. At the end of the day we’re all one gender — the human gender.”

Mrs. and Mrs. O’Connor say that they are grateful for the support they have received from their community at home, in Somerville, and from the UMass community.

“Each of us must take responsibility for self-reflection and unpacking prejudices, learning from and challenging each other,” wrote Father Hawthorne, the O’Connor’s priest and an elder in the Greater Boston cisgender community, in an email to the Daily Collegian. “In these fast-changing times we have to hold onto our age-old values and remember the historical oppressions cisgendered people such and young Christopher and myself have faced. We must work to establish safer spaces where cisgenders can share in our common community experiences”

On Thursday night at 7:30pm in front of the Fine Arts Center, there will be a candlelight vigil and safe space held for cisgender community members and trans allies to collectively process this event.

Ally Forgood can be reached at any community-building, social justice event, and be followed to equality.

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