A transgender woman was minding her own business on a C train subway platform in Manhattan on January 24 when she said a man walked up to her and said something unintelligible.
But when the woman asked him to repeat himself, she said the sound of her voice triggered him to start calling her a man and spouting transphobic slurs. The scene quickly got uglier from there.
In an interview with Gay City News, Serena Daniari recalled in detail the scary turn of events that unfolded at around 8 p.m. on a Friday evening when she was waiting for a southbound train at the 155th Street station in Manhattan.
After the man hurled slurs at Daniari, a woman emerged — seemingly someone associated with the man — and also piled on with another round of transphobic rhetoric with statements like, “She definitely has a dick.”
The initial shock of the verbal attacks quickly morphed into a potentially life-threatening situation when, according to Daniari, the man said that woman who was with him had a knife and a gun.
“When the dispute happened, I took out my phone and was debating whether to call 911,” Daniari told Gay City News. “The train was arriving just as it happened.”
Daniari wasn’t about to let the duo escape without holding them accountable. When the train pulled into the station, she followed the man and woman onto the train car and, as the doors were held open, she was able to snap photos of them. The perpetrators then slapped her phone out of her hand and spit on her face, she said.
But in yet another twist to the horrific story, Daniari said, passengers on the train were unmoved by the scene. They refused to assist her and, according to Daniari, were instead getting annoyed that the incident was holding up the train.
The duo subsequently bolted the scene and Daniari ended up taking the train one stop to the 145th Street station before exiting the train, calling the police, and posting an emotional video on Twitter.
“I swear I wish people would just leave me alone,” she said in the video as tears streamed down her face. “I don’t do anything. I just want to be left alone.”
On the morning of January 27, the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force announced that the male allegedly involved in the attack — later identified as 26-year-old Pablo Valle — was apprehended. Cops are still searching for the woman who was allegedly involved in the case.
Daniari received an outpouring of support in the days following the attack. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo led a chorus of elected officials who voiced support for Daniari and vowed to find justice for her, while many other folks expressed outrage that such an attack would happen in New York City.
Daniari responded by issuing a public statement on Twitter on January 26, writing, “Thank you everyone for the outpouring of kind and supportive words. I’m overwhelmed and so, so grateful…”
On January 27 — three days after the attack — Daniari said she is physically okay but said the attack has taken a toll on her emotionally and mentally.
“I feel rattled and shaken by it because I take the subway every day,” she explained to Gay City News. “I’m a working professional. I commute to home, to work — wherever I’m going.”
In light of the frequent deadly attacks targeting transgender women — especially trans women of color — Daniari said she was worried that the situation could have resulted in a far more serious outcome. But she is at least glad it didn’t go that far.
“I feel relief knowing that it didn’t escalate to anything worse,” she said.