Recently, comics creator Carta Monir leveled the accusation that Brandon Graham, creator of King City and editor of Image’s recent anthology series Island, is what’s known to the community as a “chaser,” specifically of trans women. The term is typically one leveled at individuals who pursue other people, not because of a genuine attraction to that individual, but because of the way their targets fulfill a specific fetish. It is a dehumanizing thing, to be targeted by a chaser, because a chaser does not care about your humanity; they care about gratifying their own fantasies.
Women, especially trans women: Brandon Graham is not a safe person to be around. In addition to being an unapologetic chaser, he has a track record of not respecting boundaries.
— Carta Monir (@CartaMonir) April 9, 2018
I spoke some with Monir about the accusation and its outcomes so far:
What was the impetus for you to make the step from open secret to public information? The final straw, so to speak.
I had been hearing persistent rumors and first-hand accounts for a while, and after a certain point I got really upset thinking that this was going to keep happening over and over. Nothing specific triggered my series of tweets, only a sense that if no one else was going to speak up then I might as well do it. He’s extremely popular, so I knew that a lot of other people would be nervous about taking the risk and drawing the attention of his friends and fans.
What sort of response were you hoping for, and how does that compare with the one you’ve received?
I mean, the most important thing for me was to warn people. I think I’ve done a reasonably good job of that. I was definitely expecting a backlash. But more importantly, a *lot* of people have reached out in support. It seems like there have been a lot of people who were very nervous that these experiences only happened to them, and are feeling emboldened by this public acknowledgment of bad behavior.
What are your opinions on Brandon’s public comments so far?
It’s been frustrating. I have no intent (and I don’t even think I have the ability) of seriously damaging his career. The point of these call-outs was not to punish him so much as it was to make potentially vulnerable people aware how he’s affected others. I have found his public responses deeply disingenuous, though. He always does this, acting like he’s shocked and hurt and naive and how could anything like this ever happen, who could have expected it? When in reality, this is a pattern of behavior and he’s done this again and again.
About how many people have come forward?
I don’t think there’s much of a point in answering this question? Because I’m dealing mostly with people who are on Twitter and who feel comfortable reaching out to a potential stranger. So I don’t think numbers would mean very much. For what it’s worth though, it’s more than a handful.
How bad would you say the blowback has been, since you made the declaration?
I would say medium? I got a fair amount of anonymous harassment the first day, but it’s fallen off a fair amount. Every time Brandon mentions it I get more.
What is the next step with these accounts? If victims don’t wish to speak publicly, then what?
That’s really up to the victims, I guess. I’m certainly not going to pressure anybody into making themselves vulnerable or ask anyone to expose themselves to the kind of harassment I’ve been getting. I feel reasonably insulated because I haven’t had experiences personally with him, but as someone who has survived abuse, I completely understand not wanting to prolong an already painful experience. There’s a big difference between allowing me to publish generalities and coming forward with a specific incident that’s extremely traceable to one person. As we’ve already seen from Brandon, his friends, and miscellaneous awful internet people, there would not be any hesitation to harass and discredit someone who came forward in that way. I think that’s why it took so long for anyone to speak up about this in the first place.
What changes do you think are necessary in order to better protect trans women in the future?
It’s cliche, but all I can say is believe women when they say that they’ve been hurt by someone. It’s as simple as that, don’t protect and defend someone by accusing everyone else of lying or somehow misunderstanding the hurt that they felt. Believe women.
Monir’s assertions would seem create a difficult situation; typically, when something like this is brought forward, evidence is demanded. No one else has publicly accused him, though Carta did receive permission to share one of the accounts she’s collected anonymously:
I've been hearing from a fair number of ppl, but a lot of them are nervous that their experiences will expose them to harassment. Here, however, is one I have permission to share: pic.twitter.com/htuMqGj8RU
— Carta Monir (@CartaMonir) April 10, 2018
Graham has not denied that this interaction occurred, but he has claimed no recollection of it due to his state of inebriation. Similarly, he claims he is unaware of the pattern of abusive behavior of which he’s been accused. This particular account has, however, been publicly corroborated by Matthew S. Bernier:
I want to say, I know this woman, and she didn't invent this story to pile on. She told me this story in confidence some time ago, when discussing a creep I knew. This isn't behavior I'd tolerate in a friend, and knowing about it has changed my relationship to Brandon's work.
— Matthew S. Bernier (@MatthewSBernier) April 10, 2018
Still, somehow, this has not been considered enough evidence in the face of Monir’s accusations. Like so many allegations of unsafe behavior that have come before, there is always some mitigating factor that renders an account inadmissible or irrelevant. What has made this iteration especially disturbing is the way that defenders of Graham have tried to change the very language by which we refer to this particular type of abuse. For instance, noted critic Sarah Horrocks wrote a lengthy thread debunking the validity of the term “chaser” itself:
Chaser is a term rooted in the idea that to like a trans woman is to like some one deviant. So we are made into a fetish and that creates the chaser. But the problem is not the chaser. It's the social conditions that shame men who likes us.
— Sarah Horrocks (@mercurialblonde) April 10, 2018
Horrocks’ defense, while spirited, ignores a key factor: the term ‘chaser’ is not only used for predators of trans women, and it remains a valid term because it specifically describes the actions of the predator so-named. Chasers do not care about the value of their targets as people; they see them as useful objects in pursuit of a fetishistic goal. As author Magen Cubed put it:
When I refer to someone as a “chubby chaser,” I’m not speaking to any internalized shame for my size or body. I’m speaking to my treatment by people – usually cishet men – who seek out, approach, and objectify me specifically *for* my body. I don’t care how society views their “fetish.” I wasn’t put here to be their “fetish.”
By the same token, when a trans woman identifies someone like Brandon Graham as a chaser, that is not some indication of the shameful cultural notion of trans women, but a declaration that the individual so accused is actively working to perpetuate that notion, by virtue of treating his target not as a woman or even a person, but as a masturbatory aide. Her agency and identity beyond being transgender does not factor in to the reasoning, and so the behavior is demeaning and dehumanizing.
This is why it’s important that Monir spoke up. While it would be nice if the accusations were more publicly corroborated, this is not a court of law. Charges are not being brought here–people are being warned. Graham’s reputation does not matter one whit here against the possibility that Monir’s warning might protect potential future victims. That warning was a message to those who have already been victimized: I believe you. By bringing these accusations out of the whisper network and into the light, by promising a safe place for victims to share that information, Monir has prioritized their safety and the safety of others. She certainly has not put Graham in any danger–he still has his stalwarts, after all. As for the rest of us, we are not owed the stories of trauma that are born of being victimized. We are not owed that victims relive that trauma again and again in the retelling.
Believe victims. Believe women.