It Happened in a Room Full of People

A few days ago, a trans woman was brutally beaten in a Baltimore McDonald’s. The video at this link isn’t so much graphic as it is viscerally disturbing. There’s no blood, but the victim does start to have a seizure at towards the end. The victim has been identified as a trans woman named Chrissy Lee Polis. I haven’t been able to find out more about her condition, other than no death announcement has been made, so she presumably is still alive.

When I first saw the video, it horrified me in a way I didn’t expect. I’ve never been triggered before. I wonder if that’s what it feels like. After I finished crying, I felt numb and empty. While watching the video I kept thinking Why doesn’t she fight back? Please fight back. Please get up. But she can’t, because she’s scared, and hurt, outnumbered, and for most of the ordeal, alone.

And that’s what really gets me. She shouldn’t have been alone. This happened in a room full of people. Two women viciously beat another to within an inch of her life, and in a room full of spectators, the only help that Chrissy got was a brief, half-hearted intervention by what appears to be the store manager (who may have retreated to call in the police), and a brave yet ineffectual stand made by an old woman. In a room full of people, the only two who decided to help were the man with a profit motive, and a woman who was so old she couldn’t do more than say “stop” in a firm tone of voice.

This is why I haven’t cross-dressed in public yet. The furthest I’ve gone was a walk around the block in my ladyboots at 3 AM, to be sure that nobody would see me. I should feel safe in San Francisco, and I’ve seen plenty of trans people out and about.  But last week, a trans woman got severely beaten at the 16th street BART stop, a stop that I pass through regularly. So when I see this video of what happened in Baltimore, and I read about what happened right here in San Francisco, I get scared. If I was on the ground, getting kicked, would it be any different for me?

I told my cis friend about this video when she came home. She’s usually pretty good. But this time it felt like she immediately tried to minimize it, saying that the cameraman taking pictures and putting it online could help find the perpetrators, that the bystanders didn’t want to get hurt and we can’t blame them for that, and so on. She says I shouldn’t demonize them until I have more info.

But I’m not angry yet. I’m in shock. I’m freaked out. I haven’t gotten to anger because I’m still coming to grips with the fact that this happened in a room full of people.

People who, individually, may have had their reasons. People who, individually, might be able to make a good excuse. People who, if they tried hard enough, could explain why an old lady had more guts and compassion than they did.

It happened in a room full of people.

UPDATE: Chrissy speaks to the Baltimore Sun about the attack. She appears to be in good health and recovering well. It appears that the seizures were a problem she had experience with before and was anticipating after she got hit a few times. This is not meant to excuse the girls for beating her into a seizure, or in any way minimize the severity of the attack. She mentions coughing up blood on the McDonald’s glass door. She says she is afraid of going outside now. (h/t to my lovely commenter Alexa who posts the link below)

UPDATE 2: The cis friend I mentioned saw the video for the first time. She wasn’t able to finish it. I think it may be unfair of me to act like she was blowing the whole thing off now. When I first told her about it, my description of the video was a bit hazy and vague; I was still reeling from the shock. Now that she’s seen it, she is just as horrified as I am, which, in a sick kind of way, is reassuring.


2 thoughts on “It Happened in a Room Full of People

  1. I saw the news on this while I was at work and started crying. It’s a truly horrible event and one that deeply scares me. A lot of people online seem to be blaming no one helping the lady on the bystander effect, but I just don’t buy that.

    It looks like the victim has spoken up about the recent attacks on her as well.

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