Over the weekend, NBA player Dwight Howard was accused of harassment on Twitter by an alleged ex, Masin Elije, who outed the Washington Wizards center in the process, a media "scandal" that has unsurprisingly encouraged an outpouring of transphobia on social media. Elije's thread included receipts of the pair's communication and relationship, as well as claims that Howard has not only had sexual relationships with men but with trans women as well. In the thread, Elije accused Howard's "team" of threatening him after he refused to accept "hush money," and said that he's contacted the police. Howard has yet to respond to the claims, but he's about the only person with a Twitter account who hasn't.
\u201cI was afraid to speak but today my life was threatened after I was sexually harassed, threatened and manipulated, by someone I respected, my ex boyfriend NBA player Dwight Howard, and his camp also \u201c\u201dcatfished\u201d\u201d by his disrespectful ass PASTOR\u201d
In the process of messily outing Howard, Elije also posted the photo of a "transgender prostitute" that Howard apparently also had an "understanding" with. He went on to clarify that the woman he believed to be a prostitute actually hosted "TRANSGENDER SEX PARTIES" that Howard is rumored to have attended. Why Elije felt the need to out this woman as a sex worker and share her photo on social media is unclear -- his thread would have been just as inflammatory without publicly disclosing her personal information. Elije also criticized Howard's team allegedly calling him a "faggot in a wig" when the basketball player is a "6'11" bottom."
\u201cI thought my good sis was a prostitute but as my friend took a deeper look into her page, she actually host TRANSGENDER SEX PARTIES that Dwight Howard (allegedly) often attends, so YES, I lost every bit of my mind\u201d
\u201cSo at this point, I am afraid for my life, I\u2019m panicking, I\u2019m having anxiety attacks and for a whole week I was bullied by Dwight\u2019s team and Dwight Howard stood there and allowed his team to harass me, and I became a \u201cfaggot in a wig\u201d when Dwight is a 6\u201911 BOTTOM\u201d
At first, many assumed that Elije was also a trans woman, but he later clarified that he is cisgender. While a huge amount of the backlash to his outing of Howard has centered around weaponizing the NBA player's sexuality, the entire "scandal" has unsurprisingly encouraged an outpouring of transphobia on social media, more folks seem unable to believe that a man as traditionally masculine and famous as Dwight Howard could ever be sexually attracted to a transgender woman, and thousands of people used the story as an excuse to crack transphobic jokes.
\u201cWait so Dwight Howard likes trans women?\ud83e\udd22\ud83e\udd22\ud83e\udd22 and he was just out with a buttocks injury\ud83d\ude33\ud83d\ude02\u201d
This kind of reaction is exactly why men like Dwight Howard keep their attraction to trans women a secret, why they will go to any lengths possible to keep those secrets. In 2018 alone, 22 transgender women have died -- just this week, it was reported that Roxsana Rodriguez was beaten while being held in ICE custody before her death, bringing that number to 23. Roughly 80% of these women were transgender women of color, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Many of these deaths were the result of intimate partner violence. The reality is that men are attracted to trans women, but our transphobic culture teaches them to be ashamed of this attraction, leading to secrecy, fear and violence. In the case of Dwight Howard, who is suffering? The wealthy professional basketball player who might face some public scrutiny and locker room jokes, or the femme gay man -- who many perceive to be trans -- having his safety allegedly threatened, or the transgender woman of color having her image disseminated all over the internet as a punchline?
\u201cI don\u2019t care at all about who Dwight Howard chose to have sex with. I DO care about the abuse, harassment and murders trans women encounter because men like Dwight are too insecure to walk in their truth.\u201d
\u201cI\u2019ll say this. That Dwight Howard thread managed to shame bottoms, out a trans woman minding her business, and shade Magic Johnson for having HIV when all that had to be said was \u201cI\u2019m being harassed and my life is being threatened\u201d.\u201d
\u201cTransphobia is literally killing people. Especially trans people of color. Hopefully this Dwight Howard situation can open up that discussion on a bigger level. Hopefully the TMZ-ness of this situation will quickly pass & the national discussion of #translivesmatter will remain.\u201d
\u201cAnybody cracking basic ass jokes about this Dwight Howard situation need to get a grip.\n\nAthletes love trans women, like many of your friends. This ain\u2019t new.\n\nAnd neither is the abuse and violence they throw our way because of their insecurities.\u201d
Trans women are dying. We're living in a country whose president wants us defined out of existence. We face regular shortages of hormones. The unemployment rate for trans people is three times higher than cisgender people and 1 in 3 of them report living in poverty. 47% of transgender people have been sexually assaulted and 54% of trans people have experienced some kind of intimate partner violence. We're also tired of being reduced to statistics, to martyrs and to punchlines.