Atlas Marshall, a Trans Woman Who Performs Drag as Nae Nae Dominatrix, Was Assaulted in Downtown Portland

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Atlas Marshall, a Trans Woman Who Performs Drag as Nae Nae Dominatrix, Was Assaulted in Downtown Portland
by Blair Stenvick

Atlas Marshall, who goes by the drag name Nae Nae Dominatrix.

Atlas Marshall, who goes by the drag name Nae Nae Dominatrix. COURTESY OF ATLAS MARSHALL

Atlas Marshall, a transgender woman who is also a well-known member of Portland’s drag community, was assaulted by a group of men in downtown Portland early Thursday morning. Marshall is using the attention her attack has drawn to increase awareness about violence against trans women.

Marshall, who goes by the stage name Nae Nae Dominatrix when she performs at drag shows, was at some food carts on SW Ankeny around 2 am Thursday with her partner, Seth Johnstone, and several of their friends. Marshall and one of those friends approached a group of people who were also near the food carts, and asked if the friend could have a cigarette.

One man in the group, whom Marshall said “seemed very intoxicated,” insulted the appearance of Marshall’s friend. Marshall, sensing they should leave, said “Let’s just go,” to her friend. That was when the man noticed Marshall and started verbally harassing her.

“He called me a faggot in a wig,” Marshall said. “He turned all his aggression and anger towards me, and continued to call me a faggot and this and that. And I was just like, ‘Dude, fuck off.’ And he continued to get closer to me, and came up at me with his fists up, telling me to shut up.”

After he approached her with his fists raised, Marshall kicked the man in self defense. One of the other men in the group hit her on the side of her head, and soon Marshall was on the ground, with both men assaulting her.

“Both of them are on top of me,” Marshall remembered. “I’m on the ground, protecting my face, but like fighting back. And then I screamed for my boyfriend.”

Johnstone and Marshall’s friends helped break up the fight, and called the police to report the assault. The men who assaulted Marshall were gone once the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers arrived, but Johnstone said he gave police their license plate number.

“The officers were helpful,” Johnstone said. “They took all of our statements, and they seemed to be aware this was a hate crime.”

A PPB spokesperson confirmed to the Mercury that officers arrived at the scene Thursday and took a report, and that a detective is currently reviewing the incident. Under Oregon law, a hate crime is defined as an act that is marked by “offensive physical contact, threatening or inflicting physical injury, threatening or causing property of damage towards a person or persons because perception of their race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or national origin.”

Marshall spent much of Thursday at the hospital. She told the Mercury that the entire left side of her head is swollen, and she has cuts on her ear and legs. She’s currently feeling pain in her neck, throat, jaw, and hands, and her ankle is swollen.

One of Marshall’s friends sustained a fractured nose while defending her.

Marshall works in the area where she was assaulted, and said she has “not had this type of hate before” in Portland.

“I’ve been called a faggot before, I’ve been called a tranny, I’ve been called all the different words—I’m 30 years old next week, I’m used to it,” Marshall said. “But I’ve never had someone out of nowhere throw that much hate at me for no reason at all.”

Johnstone called seeing his partner attacked his “worst nightmare,” and said that he suspected the assault on Marshall was transphobic as soon as he saw her lying on the ground. He works at an LGBTQ+ youth center, and says he “sees this all the time.”

“Immediately I realized what had probably happened, because I’ve always been scared about her walking around in public without me,” Johnstone added.

Marshall is a popular drag performer in Portland, and hosts the weekly drag brunches at Night Light Lounge. Mercury Arts Aditor Suzette Smith praised her in a recent review of Portland drag brunches:

“The main host, Nae Nae Dominatrix, is omnipresent and hilarious, whether she’s struggling with a boot in some unseen location or throwing shade on a bachelorette party from Lake Oswego. I was already a fan of Nae Nae—and her incredible voice—from watching her host karaoke at Valentines, so if you’re lucky, she’ll temporarily put lip-syncing aside for a number and give everyone visions of Mariah Carey.”

Marshall said she’s received a lot of support from Portland’s LGBTQ+ community, and that she hopes to use the attention her case has drawn to spread awareness of anti-trans violence. She shared a written statement about her experience and anti-trans violence with the Mercury, which you can read in full below.

On Wednesday September 11 night, I was walking to get food with my friends at a food cart off W Burnside and SW Ankeny. There was a group of men nearby and when my friend simply asked for a cigarette, one of the men starting calling my friend fat and insulting her body, I spoke up to encourage her to leave and then, noticing me, they turned and focused the hate speech on me and began harassing me verbally calling me homophobic and transphobic slurs. I encouraged my friend to leave and walk away again and told him to leave us alone and he came towards me calling me more transphobic slurs with his fists up wanting to fight. When he came to attack me, I defended myself and that’s when his friend jumped me and beat me to the ground until my boyfriend Seth and friend Austin who was around the corner heard our screams and came to help us.

My friend’s nose was fractured in defending me and my boyfriend managed to get me to safety quickly when he showed up. The men ran and jumped into their car and drove away before we were able to call the police. Police responded immediately and took a report. This is the statements we shared with them.

This wasn’t a planned attack, this was an incident of us being in public, being perceived as LGBTQ+ and trans, and then being harassed and attacked. Walking down the street as who you are, as your authentic self should not mean your life is in danger. This is an issue of violence against trans women, and this affects trans women of color the most and is all too uncommon. More than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault.

The act of walking down the street is a contested act when you’re a trans woman. According to National Coalition of Anti-Violence reports just his year, sadly 2019 has already seen at least 18 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. The rate at which trans folks are attacked in public for existing is astronomical.

The Portland LGBTQ+ community stepped up and has supported us immediately after the assault. We want everyone to know we appreciate their support, everyone involved is healing, we walked away with some injuries but we know it could have been much worse. I want to highlight that this is a problem across our country right now and so many of these incidents go unreported. Folks can take what happened to me as a wake-up call that hate violence is a huge issue, and there’s so much hate directed towards our community based on ignorance that needs to be addressed and we need to work together to change that.

Resources for statistics:
Trans Equality
Anti Violence Project

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