Give it a rest

BTL Staff
By | 2011-05-05T09:00:00-05:00 May 5th, 2011|Opinions|

By Gwendolyn Ann Smith

ViewPoint

Chrissy Lee Polis, a 22-year-old, post-operative transsexual was at a Baltimore County McDonald’s recently. While there, she opted to use the bathroom. Two other women – 18-year-old Teonna Monae Brown and a 14-year-old whose name has not been released – were also there. A now-former employee of the fast food restaurant recorded what followed.
Ms. Polis is beaten and kicked by the pair, eventually dragged by her hair and even suffered a head blow that appeared to trigger a seizure. She’s been afraid to be seen in public since the attack. She’s further concerned that the video – which has since “gone viral” on the Internet – would affect her chances for employment, or be the root of further violence against her.
While the attack itself is appalling, and the actions of Ms. Brown and her 14-year-old friend are reprehensible, it’s also worth noting the reaction of McDonald’s co-workers. Some are seen on the video, standing idly by, watching the melee.
The employee who filmed the assault did not do it to provide it to the police, mind you. He shared it on YouTube, adding from his Twitter page, “That Was A Man….He Was Dressed Lik (sic.) A Woman…And He Was In The Females Bathroom Knowing He Was A Man…And When Told To Get Out The (sic.) ladies Bathroom He Go Smart With Everybody So Tha (sic.) Two Girls Beat Him Up.” The misgendering of Polis is presented as it was written.
The aforementioned employee with the camera has been terminated, and other actions are being taken at the restaurant in question. McDonald’s itself has released a corporate statement on the incident, stating, “There’s no room for violence under the golden arches.” Both her attackers will face their day in front of a judge, and she may eventually see justice.
It wasn’t very long ago at all that House Bill 235 – a transgender rights bill – was killed in Baltimore. The bill was widely criticized in transgender circles for its removal of public accommodation language. Even with the removal of such language – presumably to help in its passage – the bill was tossed back to committee, essentially ending it for the year.
This language would have, of course, included the ability for transgender people to use the restroom of choice in, say, a fast food restaurant. It would not, of course, have stopped this attack from happening – but it would have provided a lot more leverage for Ms. Polis’ case against the restaurant in question and, perhaps, may serve to make for a safer environment for transgender people in Maryland overall.
I’ve talked about the “bathroom bill” meme a lot lately. It is a fabrication of many so-called “family” groups, professing that allowing transwomen will allow mustache-twirling villains access to women’s rooms, where they’ll be free under the law to assault your wife and children. Never mind that any such people would still be committing a crime by assaulting another human being, and they would still not be allowed in opposite gender restrooms. Logic need not apply in arguments based purely on emotional reactions.
Of course, such opposition may well be a thinly veiled way of saying “we don’t like their kind,” as we saw with Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, on Maryland Public Television’s State Circle program: “I have senators that are not going to hire … people with male sexual organs who wear a dress to serve as receptionists, okay? Umm, and so if they’re not going to do it, so if the senators and house members themselves wouldn’t hire someone in that category, how can we say to constituents that you’ve got to do this?”
Miller focused on the genitals present under one’s dress, and expects that his constituents will as well. Even if, like Polis, those genitals have been surgically reconstructed to best resemble those of other women – not, of course, that one needs reconstruction to be a woman or a man in the first place.
For this, HB 235 was defeated.
Meanwhile the fight over transgender rights is heating up in Connecticut over yet another bill smeared as a “bathroom bill” by the right, claiming that it will somehow allow predators access to our families. The same tired arguments seem to apply.
In Maine, a fight is brewing over LD 1046, which would remove the state’s already-existing transgender public accommodation rights – again citing bathroom use. The bill would limit access to sex-segregated public facilities based solely on “biological sex.”
For Polis, the assault was not at the hand of some male assailant somehow emboldened by transgender people being given the right to use gender- presentation-appropriate facilities, but was from those amongst her own gender. While she was attacked, those whose job it was to provide a safe, friendly place to consume Big Macs and Filet-O-Fish sandwiches stood back and let it happen, or focused their camera phone on the action while tweeting ill-informed, transphobic slurs.
If the opposition to so-called “bathroom bills” is truly focused on protecting people from assaults, then there is no example better than Chrissy Lee Polis to point out why transgender people also need to be protected from assaults and other discrimination while using a restroom or other public accommodations. If you are looking for people to protect, you need not look any farther than her.
People like Ms. Polis and myself simply want a safe place to go to the bathroom. It really should not be that difficult to understand.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.