Samantha Hulsey had just caught a movie in the Mission and eaten dinner with her fiancee when for the second time this year, the dangers of being openly transgender — even in San Francisco — were brought home to her in violent, random fashion.
Hulsey was attacked Sunday night by a couple who threw hot coffee on her and repeatedly punched her in the face, police said. Officers arrested a man and a woman on suspicion of a string of hate-crime-related counts.
It was the second time since January that Hulsey, 25, had been assaulted by a stranger, for no apparent reason other than that she is a transgender woman.
“I was very frightened,” Hulsey said Monday, her face swollen, eye blackened and lip cut. She held hands with her fiancee, Daira Hopwood, 40, as she described what happened around 7 p.m. Sunday on Eighth Street near Mission Street.
“I was frozen with fear,” said Hopwood, a computer scientist who researches programming languages. “It was almost as if they were going to beat up the next trans person they saw.”
Hulsey moved to the city in 2013 from Savannah, Ga., where she said she was often bullied, but never accosted as savagely as she has been in San Francisco. On Jan. 3, a few months after moving here, she was stabbed twice in the chest by an assailant while she was on a date with her then-partner. A man was arrested in that attack and charged with several hate-crime-enhanced felonies, including attempted murder.
The attacks underscore how even in San Francisco, the streets can be a dangerous place for someone who is transgender.
Sneh Rao, senior policy director at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, said that 79 percent of transgender people the agency surveyed last year reported being the victims of violence in the city, and that 88 percent reported being harassed.
“It’s disturbing to me,” Hulsey said. “I came here for safety and acceptance. It’s not OK for people to do this anywhere — especially here.”
Sunday night’s attack happened as Hulsey and Hopwood walked along Eighth Street. The couple were accosted by a man and woman who began shouting trans-phobic and homophobic slurs at them, Hulsey said.
When Hulsey turned to respond, the woman threw a cup of hot coffee in her face, while the man landed a barrage of blows to her shoulder, head and face.
“I was in fight-or-flight mode. I had fear for my own life,” Hulsey said. “The person said, ‘Do you want to die?’ He threatened to kill me.”
Bystanders flagged down a police officer who arrested two suspects, 36-year-old Dewayne Kemp and Rebbecca Westover, 42.
Westover was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy, battery and a weapons violation, police said.
Kemp was arrested on suspicion of felony counts of aggravated assault, making threats and conspiracy. He is also suspected of violating his parole and being in possession of drug paraphernalia.
Both suspects were booked with hate-crime enhancements at San Francisco County Jail.
Paramedics treated Hulsey at the scene. She still has the scars from the January attack, which happened when a man followed her off a 49-Van Ness bus after he allegedly harassed her and her partner. Hulsey was stabbed twice just below the neck.
Possible life sentence
The defendant in that case, 54-year-old Brodus Wane Joynes, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of all the charges he faces. He is being held in San Francisco County Jail on $2 million bail.
Hulsey obscures her stabbing scars with her long brown hair. Someday, she says, she may get a tattoo to cover them up.
“It’s really disturbing that this has happened twice within a year and both times when I was with a partner,” Hulsey said. “I came here to be safe, but we’re really not safe anywhere.”
Evan Sernoffsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @EvanSernoffsky
Read more at the SFGate.