Feminism | Posted by Brenna McCaffrey on 04/25/2011

Violence in Baltimore Evidence of Transphobic Culture

the scene of the crime

(Warning: The following video link shows real and brutal violence.)

This video, which surfaced on the internet yesterday morning, shows a transgender woman being beaten by two female customers at a McDonald’s restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. The two young women appear to have attacked the woman after realizing she was transgender, brutally and violently kicking and hitting her as she curls into a ball on the ground. The physical violence, which eventually caused the woman to suffer a seizure on the floor of the same McDonald’s, is only a piece of the injustice. Out of the employees and fellow customers in the store, only two feebly attempt to help the woman. The others stand by, cheering on the two attackers and filming the whole order on their camera phones, which is how the incident came to the attention of the public. Several shots in the video show store employees standing by and laughing as the woman suffers a seizure from her blows to the head, and one man can be heard telling the attackers to run before the police arrive.

Even more shocking is the news that one of the attackers has already been arrested on juvenile charges from the event, as she is only 14 years old. (Source: The Smoking Gun). Information on Vernon Hackett, the McDonald’s employee who filmed the attack, has also been revealed via his own Facebook and Twitter accounts, where evidence of his own transphobia is abundantly clear.

Media coverage of this incident has been quite limited– most of the information is only available through internet news outlets and blogs, and troublingly, these focus on the racial issues presented in the video rather than the clear issue of transphobia. While it has not been confirmed that the woman is indeed transgender, police reports do call the victim a woman, despite Vernon Hackett’s angry claim that: “[sic] Tha Title Of That Video Is A Lie….That Was Not A Female That Was Getting Beat Up…. That Was A Man….He Was Dressed Lik A Woman…. And He Was In Tha Females Bathroom Knowing He Was A Man…..”

Fox Nation, the conservative news outlet run by Fox News, has reported on the story under the false and misleading headline:‘Woman’ Beat Up At McDonald’s Was A Male Cross-Dresser. This is harmful not only to the victim but to readers of Fox Nation, who are receiving false and cis-sexist information. On Sunday, April 25th, this interview of the victim was released, in which she discusses the attack and her feelings about the media reactions.

The woman was using the women’s restroom in a public restaurant because she clearly identified herself as a woman. This is regardless of biology, regardless of sex– this is gender identity. Whether you are born with it or find it later on, we all have a right to a gender identity. This violent case shows how fear can turn human beings into monsters who terrorize innocent victims based on gender alone. Luckily this case garnered enough attention, probably due to the media of the video, to end in two arrests. However, many similar incidents of gender-based or LGBTQ violence occur day after day and go unreported.

We need to stop the fear and stigma that surrounds transgender people, and bring attention to transphobic violence.

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  • Sargasso Sea @ at 5:33 pm, April 26th, 2011

    Brenna, you might like to look at what Chrissy Polis has to say about the incident:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4jzvYb5rNYY

    You will hear in this video Chrissy explain that the girls attacked because one of them thought that Chrissy was flirting with her boyfriend.

    These two girls believed that Chrissy was a woman (not trans) and Chrissy was attacked because she was seen as a potential threat as a woman, NOT a transperson. You will hear the girls in the original video refer to Chrissy as “her” and “b*itch” not *he* and *d*ck*.

    An excellent explanation/timeline of how Chrissy went from being just another victim of an another assault (the kind that happens every single day between girls and women but never makes the news) to a poster-victim for knee-jerk transactivists can be found at GenderTrender at wordpress.com

  • Brenna McCaffrey @ at 12:57 am, April 27th, 2011

    My opinion on this event had changed since that video was released, and it does seem clear that the fight itself wasn’t about gender issues at all, but the media reaction, especially Vernon Hacketts twitter and Facebook posts and the Fox Nation’s articles, are still evidence of a phobia in our culture.

    Also, I’m not confident on the accuracy of reporting on that blog you sent me to due to a seemingly obvious confusion of proper transgender pronouns.

  • firefly @ at 10:12 pm, April 27th, 2011

    Even so, do people feel a right to beat up a person for flirting with their boyfriend/girlfriend? No. Violence is not an acceptable answer to any sort of crime.

  • Renee @ at 8:14 pm, May 26th, 2011

    @firefly….yeah I would is this horrible to say yeah these girls obviously took it to far a good call out wouldve been just fine….

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