There are plenty of reasons why Chrissy Lee Polis, a 22-year-old transgender woman, should have thought twice about going to McDonald’s on April 18. Pick just about any item off the menu, really. High fat, the empty calories, the boatload of preservatives, the environmental impact of beef production.
But one thing she probably didn’t consider was getting the shit beat out of her by a couple of teenage girls while store employees recorded a video and laughed.
That’s exactly what happened at a Baltimore County McDonald’s in Maryland, and the horrific video has been watched thousands and thousands of times.
In the video, Polis is seen being kicked and punched and slapped repeatedly by two girls who are screaming at her, though what they’re saying is unintelligible on the video (I suspect, however, that it is not nice). She screams back at times and keeps trying to walk away, but it’s no use. The girls are nothing if not tenacious. And savage. They just keep coming back with more violence to dish out.
Like I said, I can’t understand anything the girls are screaming or anything that Polis says. After Polis is dragged caveman-style by her hair from the back to the front of the restaurant, an elderly woman stands up and tells one of the attackers to “get off of her” as she tries to break up the attack. The girls are not very receptive to this for some reason. I mean, you’d think that two people ruthlessly attacking someone in the middle of a McDonald’s would be totally reasonable and respectful of their elders. But the girls go right on slapping and kicking and punching.
The manager at the store repeatedly says “stop,” trying but failing to separate the girls from Polis. No other employee attempts to help, though early in the video Polis is on the floor after being kicked and is holding what looks like a plastic shopping bag. As she scrambles to get away, something falls out of the bag and an employee in a red shirt reaches down and grabs whatever it was that fell out. And that’s the last we see or hear of the McDonald’s crew until the end of the video, when we hear someone warn the girls to get out of there because the police are coming and then say, “She’s havin’ a fuckin’ seizure, yo.”
Because Polis is, indeed, having a fucking seizure, and no attempt is made to assist her in any way. Even after someone says, “She needs help right now,” you hear the manager off-camera saying, “They’re on their way” while Polis thrashes unaided on the floor and the girls take off.
The girls, by the way, have names. One of them is 18-year-old Teonna Monae Brown. The other is only 14 years old so her name has not been released as of press time. All I know about her is that she apparently has really cool older friends and that she told police that she and Brown “got into a fight with a woman over using the bathroom.”
In a case of tragic irony, Maryland’s legislature recently stripped the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act of “public-accommodation protections” for transgender people and then failed to pass the damn thing anyway.
The police may prosecute the beating as a hate crime. Not because Polis is trans, but because Polis is white and her attackers are black. Whether race played a role in the attack is not yet clear. That trans-phobia played a role in the attack seems pretty clear.
Teonna Monae Brown clearly has some anger management issues (last year she was arrested after starting a fight at the very same McDonald’s). But it’s more than that. This was not just a couple of girls getting into a catfight. This was a sustained, directed, malicious attack on a person who was unarmed and outnumbered.
Brown isn’t the first person to get it in her head that a transperson is less than human and deserving of violence. But you know what? Thanks to the dumb shit with the cell phone, thousands of people have seen what would otherwise be just another underreported attack on a transperson. This has happened before. And it will happen again. If anything good comes out of this situation, it’ll be that next time fewer people will be able to just stand by and watch.
D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world, she reviews rock ’n’ roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister.