Chrissy Polis, a 22-year-old transgender woman, decided to go to McDonald’s one night. Following Chrissy’s use of the ladies’ restroom, McDonald’s employees looked on amused she was repeatedly kicked in the back, face and head, pummeled with fists, spat upon, had her hair pulled and her earrings torn out. These heinous abuses were doled out by two teenage girls, one 14 and one 18. One good Samaritan, an older woman, attempted to intervene and demanded that the assailants “get off of her,” but she herself was struck in the face. The seemingly-endless, three-minute long beating was recorded by a McDonald’s employee, Vernon Hackett (who has since been fired), while the other employees watched, laughed and rooted for the abusers. The assault ended only after Chrissy suffered a seizure near the front door. Seeing this, the employee who’d been recording the crime actually encouraged the criminals to leave immediately since the victim was bleeding and the police would be on their way. Yeah… wouldn’t want anyone to get arrested for brutally assaulting a helpless victim or anything.
So why did this happen? According to various news sources, including the Huffington Post, it had to do with Chrissy’s attempt to use the women’s restroom.
Polis told the newspaper that after she used the restroom, “They said, ‘That’s a dude, that’s a dude and she’s in the female bathroom.'”
Does it matter what it’s about? Well, WMAL Radio Host Chris Plante had plenty to say on the matter. He blathers on about the nature of transexuality and complains grievously about the term’s flexibility. He has a big problem with the idea that this incident is considered a hate crime since, in his astonishingly-enlightened mind he believes that if this were “simply a matter of” two black girls destroying a white girl, the incident would not be labelled as such. His mind-broadening commentary of course being due to his extensive life experience as a transgender, African-American female… oh, wait… he’s cissexual, white and male. One YouTube commenter, Nirvanfan4ever, prefers to refer to Mr. Plante as a “fucktard,” and I don’t think it’s really my place to disagree with him.
Worse still is yet another well-informed intellectual who calls himself RedBaiter, who begins his article regarding the tragedy as follows:
Nothing excuses the behaviour of the animals responsible for the McDonald’s beating, however it is necessary to dispel the widely held misconception that the victim was a white girl. The victim has been identified as Christopher Lee Polis and a male of Arab or Indian descent who dressed as a woman. Its debatable that such a person has any real right to enter a women’s toilet [emphasis mine].
Chrissy is, in fact, half white and half something else. Why this is relevant to whether or not she should use a toilet… I can’t quite figure that one out. But some people will attack from any angle they can muster when it comes to GLBTQ injustices.
And, yes… it does matter what it’s about. When the level of violence exacted at an individual is escalated to the point of potentially fatal actions due to their personal identity, it DOES MATTER, and it MUST BE RECOGNIZED AND PUNISHED AS EXACTLY THAT. Some people contend that “all crime is ‘hate crime'” since a person would not commit a crime against someone they were fond of. This is missing the point. Identifying an act of violence as a “hate crime” is important because there is an extra element at play here. An element which has NO place in civilized society. This element is the act of the “-ism.” Scholars refer to it as “othering.” When you “other” a group, you dehumanize them and find ways to justify violence and other injustices committed against them. This is no simple error in judgment and it is unacceptable in a society which purports to value equality. Had it been two black girls thrashing some white girl due to her skin color, it would most definitely be a hate crime as well. (Not to mention, Plante’s example proves his egregious underestimation of the eagerness with which the legal system prosecutes African-Americans in general.)
Click here to watch the beating. >>CAUTION: IT IS NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH… YOU MAY WANT TO HAVE A PAPER BAG HANDY. AND A VALIUM.
Unfortunately, there has been longterm fallout; since the incident, Chrissy has been concerned about the result of this unwanted publicity. She lives in a smaller town and is concerned about obtaining employment and living a normal life. She, in fact, has been hesitant to leave her house altogether due to the mental trauma she has suffered from this brutal incident. She spoke out about the injustices served and the unnecessary fearfulness that transgender individuals experience every day in an interview with the Baltimore Sun.
What the FUCK is wrong with people?
Transgenderism. I am only recently learning the ins and outs of how the terminology is perceived in the trans/queer community and attempting to educate myself on protocol. As with any group, there are diverse preferences in how individuals prefer to be viewed and treated, but one thing I’m pretty sure about: TRANSGENDER PEOPLE ARE HUMAN BEINGS AND DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE HUMAN BEINGS. Is that a concise enough definition for you, Plante?
Or, here’s a tip: stop trying to stuff everyone into a category. There are too many of us and there are endless variations of individuals. It’s a futile project at best… and a terrifyingly harmful one with dire consequences at worst.
And here’s the 18 year old ****’s mugshot:
Teonna Monae Brown, 18 years old,
One of the assailants who administered a brutal beating to Chrissy Polis…
at the McDonald’s located at 6315 Kenwood Avenue… has done it before. At the same McDonald’s…
To a mother and her children. Read more on this at TSG.
A detective gathers clues in order to form conclusions about a mystery or crime in order to solve it. In this same way, humans (and animals) gather visual clues in order to form conclusions about the world around them. For instance, if you are in a courthouse and you observe a man with a modern, neat hairstyle wearing glasses, a sharp, black suit, expensive shoes and carrying a briefcase, what do you conclude? Likely, you assume that he’s a young attorney. However, this is merely an assumption, based on his appearance and nothing else.
Everyone has the compulsion to form immediate conclusions about their environment – that’s how we survive. We use knowledge that we have accumulated from things we’ve observed, experienced or “heard about” and apply them to our lives with the intent to avoid conflict and pursue future positive and beneficial experiences. However, at a certain point, this hasty tendency becomes worthless – even detrimental.
When people assume that black women are “sassy,” or that fat people have low self-esteem, or that girls love the color pink, or that gay guys are feminine, they begin to lose their ability to know the individual. Fortunately, there is a way to fight these automatic assumptions: PRACTICE.
For instance, I was sitting irritably at a stoplight one day and a heavyset woman was crossing. She was walking with some difficulty. I suddenly said aloud, “Wow, she is fat.” As soon as I heard myself make such an out-of-character statement, I furiously chastised myself. What made me say that?? Yes, the woman was fat. Why would I mention it or even take note of it? I hadn’t said, “Wow, she is blonde,” or “Wow, she’s wearing purple.” So what was it that prompted this inappropriate outburst? As I searched my feelings, I realized that it was my own discomfort with the difficulty she seemed to be having getting across the street. The fact is that some people have more difficulty doing certain things than others. There is no reason for that to make me uncomfortable. Well, on top of that, I felt that she was unfashionably dressed, which subconsciously indicated laziness to me. I feel great frustration when I perceive laziness, and that affected my judgment in this case as well. However, there was no possible way for me to know what type of person this woman was. She might simply not have enough money to buy clothing that I considerable fashionable or, worse yet – gasp! – she might fucking like the clothes that she’s wearing; perhaps she didn’t dress herself solely to meet my approval today. In all reality, I was becoming frustrated because what I saw in front of me was unattractive, and this prompted a disgusted reaction instead of merely an indifferent one. We are taught by the media to loudly judge and reject those who don’t meet our personal criteria for attraction. I’d executed their programming flawlessly, I thought. Sickened by my own behavior, I admonished myself for being rude and inwardly talked out my true feelings about the woman until I had isolated my true motivations and examined them carefully. That was one of several battles I’ve had with my inner prejudice and I’m certain these battles won’t end any time soon. Personal motivations can be extremely complicated and varied, and that’s what makes this particular inner conflict a long-term, ongoing one.
Many factors can affect our reactions to a person’s appearance. Aside from preconceived notions borne of personal experiences, many times when we think we have a problem with someone personally, the root of the discomfort is that we’re looking at someone we’re not attracted to. For some reason, there is a human tendency to dislike (or, at the least, avoid) people we’re not attracted to. That’s why “attractive” people are treated better than “unattractive” people. Unfortunately, whether or not a person appeals to us visually or sexually should have nothing to do with whether or not we assign them worth. It’s just another form of prejudice, but it typically goes unrealized since we humans have the uncanny ability to justify things in our own minds so we don’t look like monsters to ourselves. It’s essential to try to break down this wall as well.
Part of the problem is that we forget that the person in front of us isn’t a product to be bought or approved by us; they are human beings with feelings and thoughts, just like we are. Often, we fail to give credence to the perspectives of others, and we fail to acknowledge that WE CANNOT POSSIBLY KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE to be them. Sometimes that’s a fact we must face and be left without answers in order to see things more clearly. For instance, I will never know what it’s like to be a black or Mexican person living here in America. All I can do is listen to these individuals and hear what they have to say, and attempt to piece together an inkling, but I must admit to myself that I will never understand life through their eyes. All I can do is try to be empathetic, find common ground in the human experience where I can, accept the fact that my perceptions may be wrong… and care.
The best we can do is try to eliminate most of our knee-jerk reactions through self-imposed behavioral modification. The media inundates our brains with suggestions that judgmental reactions and thoughts are normal, even “cool.” We are taught that judging others elevates us and proves our belief in our own status – that belief in our own superiority might someday make it true. Unfortunately, this lie has consumed the personalities of men and women everywhere and caused cattiness and backbiting where no cause for it previously existed. Fighting this indoctrination takes years of practice and it may never be mastered, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Step two is to GET MAD AT YOURSELF. You cannot skip this step. When you feel angry at yourself for a behavior, you are less likely to repeat it – or at least more likely to be acutely aware of your mistake, once it’s made. It’s like a mental spanking – when you start thinking judgmental thoughts, you suddenly recall how sore your butt was last time.
Step three is to ANALYZE YOUR MOTIVES. Where did this thought come from? Dig deep. Don’t shy away from this self-exploration. Discover the root of the problem through brutal excavation. For this to work, you have to be brutally honest with yourself.
Step four is to COUNSEL YOURSELF. Explain to yourself why your reaction was unacceptable and force yourself to take another look at that person, this time without preconceived notions or unnecessary animosity. See them as a person, a human being. Pretend you’re psychic and try to put yourself in their shoes for five minutes and see through their eyes. (Your analysis of their thoughts will obviously be inaccurate, but I find this to be an effective practice, regardless. The idea is to get yourself to care enough to try.)
These steps are not fool-proof and I can’t guarantee eventual mastery over your inner Catty Bitch, but I can promise progress and awareness. And that’s one giant leap for humankind.
Photo courtesy of Not Bad For me, Not Good For You