Transgender Woman Beaten at McDonald’s. Why?
Posted by BroadBlogs
Video of a transgender woman getting beaten at a McDonald’s has gone viral and received plenty of media attention. I would like to explore why these crimes happen. What lies behind bashing our transgender sisters and brothers?
In case you missed it. Here are the details:
After a 22-year-old trans woman named Chrissy Lee Polis used a McDonald’s bathroom, two female customers punched and kicked her until she had a seizure. An older woman tried to help, but other customers and employees stood by or cheered on the brutality. One employee videotaped the beating and posted it on YouTube, saying the assault was okay because the victim “was a man dressed like a woman.”
The video is available here.
So far, a 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile and charges are pending against an 18-year-old woman.
In the U.S. the transgendered are continually subjected to, and must worry about, verbal or physical abuse when using facilities like public restrooms.
Why does this happen?
Chrissy’s case is not typical. Usually men are the assailants and they bash from feeling threatened by biologically-born males who blur gender lines. Why threatened? Men hold higher status, as evidenced by our cultural preference for sons, or by the fact that women will wear pants but men won’t wear dresses or carry purses. Meanwhile, those who succeed might be praised, “You the man!” but those who fail may be taunted, “You’re a girl!” So men who act like women are seen as demeaning themselves, while those who resemble women in any way threaten the divide between the sexes, and with that, male superiority.
Some of this may have been going on at McDonald’s as male employees cheered and proudly posted the video, while claiming cruelty against the transgendered is justified.
Yet females were the main culprits of this crime. What were they trying to accomplish by their violence?
Chrissy thought they wanted to pick a fight (see Chrissy’s account here). Before entering the bathroom a man asked how she was doing, and she brushed him off. As soon as she came back out a women spit in her face and accused her: “You tried to talk to my man!” just before the battering began.
The young brutes may well have detected Chrissy’s gender status. According to the Baltimore Sun, the attackers reportedly said, ‘That’s a dude. That’s a dude. And she’s in the female bathroom.” These women likely didn’t have the motivations of male attackers. So what were they trying to accomplish?
Their motivation was certainly aligned with trans-bashers, with both working so hard to create a sense of superiority. By the simple act of beating someone down these young thugs likely felt empowered and better than the person they pummeled. If they figured out that Chrissy was transgender, she likely seemed an especially desired target as they could easily latch onto her devalued status, leading the persecutors to feel both disdainful and called to punish (punishment meted out by a superior, of course.)
But all this suggests that the tormentors don’t feel as good about themselves as they would like. Otherwise they wouldn’t need to work so hard to feel self-important. Yes, those higher on the pecking order are more likely to bully, but they do so only because they don’t feel superior-enough as is. Meanwhile, it’s unfortunate that our society makes cruelty so easy by failing to recognize the human worth and dignity of each human being.
About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
Posted on May 2, 2011, in feminism, gender, LGBTQ+, psychology, sexism and tagged Chrissy Lee Polis, culture, feminism, gender, McDonald’s, psychology, sexism, social psychology, transgender. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.