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Trans Woman Beaten on Oregon Beach Finds Support After Attack

Trans Woman Beaten on Oregon Beach Finds Support After Attack

Lauren Jackson says she’s found community in the most unexpected of places.

As a stranger repeatedly punched her in the face, all Lauren Jackson could see was hair.

On the morning of Aug. 24, a man approached Jackson at the Agate Beach State Recreation Site in Newport, Ore., screaming at her about his wife "being harassed by a man in the women's bathroom." "You think you're some kind of lady!" he yelled at Jackson, who is transgender.

Jackson didn't know what he was talking about. Although she had used the restroom at the beach earlier in the day, she hadn't seen anyone else in the facility. She wasn't sure if he was "sick, mentally ill, or just angry."

While he continued to berate her, Jackson didn't say anything. "I never responded," she tells Out. "I just smiled and looked back at him. I never raised my hands."

The stranger suddenly struck her in the face with his fist, connecting with her jaw several more times. As Jackson was pummeled, her long, curly hair fell in her face, obscuring her view of the attacker. He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her across the ground. All she could do to save her life was scream.

After a bystander tackled her assailant off her, Jackson was rushed in an ambulance to the hospital, her jaw broken in several places. It will require reconstructive surgery.

At the time of the assault, the 29-year-old had only recently begun transitioning and had only been in Oregon for 10 days. The morning she left Salt Lake City, where she met and married the woman who would later become her ex-wife, for a fresh start in Oregon, Jackson took hormones for the first time. The plan was to stay in a "beautiful cabin in the woods" in Eugene while she waited on a new job.

But when she got to Eugene, her sanctuary-to-be had been rented to someone else. Jackson was forced to live in her van, which was packed with everything she owned, while she waited for her new life to begin.

Because Jackson doesn't have anywhere to live, she's been "bouncing around from place to place" while she recovers from the attack -- mostly Airbnb rentals and spare couches. The day that she spoke to Out over the phone, Jackson said she had finally found a place to live after days of uncertainty about what the future might hold.

"I'm taking all these steps for the first time and really not wanting to backtrack," she says. "I don't want to go hide in a basement for the next few years of my life because I'm scared to go out and live."

Jackson's attacker, who was identified as Fred Costanza of Blackfoot, Idaho, will face charges of "first-degree intimidation, second-degree assault, menacing, and harassment," according to the Portland Oregonian. Costanza will also be tried on a hate crime charge after gender identity was added to the state's anti-bias statutes in July.

But as Jackson heals from the assault, she says she has been overwhelmed by love and positivity from community members and people across the country. The day she testified before a grand jury in the case, a group of pastors held a vigil in support of Jackson outside the Lincoln County Courthouse. She says local religious groups in the Newport area invited her to come speak at an event.

Meanwhile, her phone and email have been blowing up with messages and texts. She says people have been "going out of their way to gender [her] correctly."

What's particularly meaningful about the flood of support that Jackson has received is she lost her entire community when she came out. Jackson says her ex-wife was her "only family member," describing herself as "basically an orphan in a lot of ways."

"She was like a safe place for me at the time," she says. "When I came out, I lost her also and I was so alone, so devastated, and so confused."

As Jackson embraces the person she was born to be, the responses have shown her that she isn't alone. "It's really beautiful that there's a lot of people that have come together to support me," Jackson says. "These are all strangers. I feel connected, accepted, and understood in a way that I haven't before."

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