Baltimore rallies against anti-trans violence

Hundreds of people rallied last week to protest the brutal beating of Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman from Baltimore’s working-class eastern suburbs, at a local McDonald’s. Polis was attacked by two teenagers when she tried to use the restroom. The prolonged, merciless assault was photographed by a McDonald’s employee; several other employees stood around watching and did nothing to help. An older woman tried to intervene but was punched in the face, and the beating did not stop until Polis fell to the floor with an epileptic seizure, and the attackers were warned that police were on their way.

As is all too often the case, the attack, which occurred Monday April 18, drew little media attention until the video was posted on the Internet and went viral five days later, with hundreds of thousands of views. Fortunately, Polis, although bruised and shaken, was not badly injured. Her attackers have been charged with assault.

A week before the attack on Polis, a bill to extend anti-discrimination protection to transgender people in Maryland failed in the state legislature after months of effort by trans advocates and allies. The bill, HB 235, had passed the House of Delegates by a wide margin (86-52) but was sidetracked by the Senate President, Mike Miller, a Democrat, when it crossed over to the upper house. After intense grassroots pressure, the bill was finally moved to the appropriate committee, approved and sent to the floor on the last day of session, with commitments of support from 27 of the Senate’s 47 members. But Miller worked behind the scenes and turned around seven Senators who had promised to back HB 235, and it was killed 27 to 20 on a vote to recommit.

Miller later said that he opposed HB 235 because it would be harmful to families, and, since no member of the legislature has hired a transgender staff person, he didn’t think legislators could require businesses to do what they wouldn’t do themselves. The anger this caused in the state’s LGBT community turned to rage after the Polis beating. We are reorganizing ourselves to bring the case for trans rights to the public and mount a successful effort next year.

To view the video of the attack (warning: it is extremely violent and potentially upsetting), visit these pages at www.bilerico.com or www.lgbtqnation.com.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

The Eleventh Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance is being observed in about 150 localities around the world this week, commemorating more than 160 transgender or gender-different people who have lost their lives in the last 12 months due to anti-trans violence. In the United States alone, more than 90 local observances are planned.

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) began with events in two cities in 1999, and has grown exponentially since then, largely by Internet and word of mouth. The primary day of observance, Nov. 20, was chosen to mark the murder of Rita Hester, a transwoman, in Boston on that date in 1998.

Transgender and other gender-different people continue to be subject to major risk of hate-motivated violence as well as severe discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and services and other areas of life.

The rise of TDoR has paralleled the growth of an active movement for equality for trans people. Since 1999, anti-discrimination laws and ordinances have been adopted in 12 states and scores of municipalities and counties in the United States, up from one state and a handful of cities, mostly college towns, before that date.