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Transgender Woman Beaten at McDonald’s. Why?

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.

Georgia Platts

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It’s Ok To Be A Tomboy But Not A Sissy. Why?

Screen-Shot-2012-09-05-at-9.43.22-AMEvery quarter I ask my women students if any of them had been tomboys when they were little. Many hands enthusiastically shoot into the air. The women often have fond memories of their time climbing trees and digging in the dirt.

Then I ask men students if any of them had been sissies. The class bursts out laughing. One hand might sheepishly creep up.

One man claimed the question was unfair since the word “sissy” is stigmatized but “tomboy” is not.

Actually, there isn’t a non-stigmatizing word for a boy who acts like a girl. And there’s a reason for that. Any boy who acts like a girl takes himself down to a lower status. He becomes demeaned.

A girl who acts like a boy, on the other hand, doesn’t harm her social standing. At least not until she gets older and the behavior takes on lesbian overtones.

Another student thought I was exaggerating the problem. For his term paper he asked men and women on campus whether they had been tomboys or sissies, and whether they had ever thought about being the opposite sex.

When he asked women if they had ever wanted to be a man, or wondered what it would be like, many said they had. When he asked about being tomboys when they were little, they often reminisced on that happy time.

But when he asked men whether they had ever wanted to be a woman, or been curious about what it might be like, stunned reactions were the rule: “What!? Are you serious?” When he asked if they had been sissies when they were young, men turned an angry eye and asked, “Are you looking for trouble?”

He’s lucky to have finished his research and still be alive and in one piece.

This is just one of many examples of how we “gender rank” men above women in our society.

What difference does it make?

Devaluing females and femaleness ends in all sorts of problems: Women expect less for themselves, including pay and power in relationships. In societies and subcultures where masculine is valued over feminine we find higher rates of rape, wife battering, gay bashing, daughters-for-sale, and female infanticide.  STDs are more widely spread. Women’s sexuality becomes repressed. The list goes on.

Gender ranking. It’s all about empowerment and disempowerment. But as we become more aware of the problem, we can create change.

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My Son Likes Girl-Things. Is He Gay?

il_340x270.409005563_ivtpRandom Moms across America think they know: My son has got to be gay. He wears khakis today but wore a dress to school from age 4 to 6; he used to do ballet and still doesn’t like sports; in preschool he was all about playing princess but now is all about Pokemon; and, in spite of the clear gender divisions in third grade, he plays with both girls and boys. I mean, what straight boy is into that kinda freaky gender mash-up?

This mom knows better, and she goes on to remark that, actually, butch boys can grow up to be gay, and fem boys can grow up to be straight.

Interestingly, few moms worry that their little tomboys will grow up to be lesbians.

But this mom gets LOADS of advice on how to turn her son “boyish.” Take away the girly toys and clothes, and enroll him in sports!

So much worry about girly boys.

Yet what we think of as “girl stuff” turns out to be “boy stuff” in other times and places.

Boys shouldn’t wear pink? Years ago the country staged a great debate on whether pink or blue should designate girls or boys. Some advocated pink for boys – such a robust color! Blue is so dainty.

The Cabbage Patch craze of the last generation led a lot of boys to want dolls. One of my little boy cousins got one for Christmas. Today most people would call him a manly man, complete with wife and baby. (And G.I. Joe is a doll, too.)

Ancient Roman men wore skirts, though the one on the left is armored! (A likely relief to some macho men out there.)  Other Roman men wore dresses (robes).


And we mustn’t forget men in tights, circa “Romeo and Juliet.”


Moving on to the court of the “Sun King,” Louis XIV, we find him wearing lots of lace, ruffles, curls, and color. And gracefully posed!

The American founding fathers had considerably less glitz, but they still wore more color, lace, ruffles, and curls than most men today would be caught dead in. They also hired instructors to help present a more graceful appearance. One of my male students asked, “Ok, but what did the manly men wear?” This is what they wore!

In more modern times, Scottish men can still be partial to skirts, though they call them kilts. Below are traditional and more recent versions of the garment.


Judges, priests, and scholars also continue to wear “dresses” today.


Perhaps the most surprising expressions of manhood come from a culture entirely different from our own: the Wodaabe of Nigeria in Africa. There, men adorn themselves with makeup and jewelry. Because white eyes and teeth are part of the beauty ideal for men, they often roll their eyes and show their teeth to show off these features.


In our own time and place there’s Rod Stewart, who seems to be strongly hetero by all accounts. But check out these shots:

Rod and Britt        
                                                                                 © Chris Walter

There’s a difference between sex and gender. Sex is biologically-based. It’s made up of our genes (xx for girls, xy for boys), hormones (testosterone, estrogen), anatomy (vagina, penis, breasts, etc.). But gender is all made up. Or what cultures make up to mark biological differences.

If clothing, makeup, jewelry and toys aren’t naturally “boy” or “girl” things, how can doing “boy” or “girl” things mark sexual orientation?

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