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Baltimore rally to protest trans beating

Employee fired for recording attack inside McDonald’s

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Transgender activists have scheduled a rally in a Baltimore suburb tonight (Monday) to protest the April 18 beating of a transgender woman by two female attackers inside a McDonald’s restaurant.

A video of the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people online after a McDonald’s employee shot the video with his cell phone and posted it to YouTube. It’s been removed by YouTube but can be viewed here.

The video shows two teenage women repeatedly punching and kicking Polis in the head and body as she curled up on the restaurant floor. It was posted on other sites before going viral and creating an uproar within the LGBT community across the country.

Hundreds of thousands of individual views of the video have been recorded by various websites, according to the Baltimore Sun, which has given extensive coverage of the incident.

Polis was treated and released from a hospital near the suburban Baltimore town of Rosedale, where the McDonald’s restaurant is located. Baltimore County police have charged a 14-year-old woman as a juvenile in the incident and said they expected to charge the other teen implicated in the attack, who is said to be 18.

The franchise owner of the McDonald’s where the incident occurred announced on Saturday that he has fired the employee who made the video.

The three-minute video shows another McDonald’s employee and an elderly female customer attempting to separate the attackers from Polis. It also shows other employees and customers standing by, with some laughing.

A police report says the incident began when the two female attackers became upset after seeing Polis enter the women’s bathroom at the McDonald’s. The employee who recorded the incident posted a message on his YouTube site saying Polis was a man dressed like a woman who entered the women’s bathroom.

“And When Told To Get Out Tha ladies Bathroom He Got Smart With Everybody So Tha Two Girls Beat Him Up [sic],” said the employee, according to the website The Smoking Gun, which made a copy of the message before the employee deleted it.

“This is precisely the kind of hatred and bigotry that transgender women and men deal with on a daily basis,” said Caroline Temmerand of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland in a statement announcing the rally.

“We as a society have failed if we cannot do more to protect all Marylanders from this kind of brutality,” she said.

The statement says the rally was scheduled to take place outside the McDonald’s at 6315 Kenwood Ave., Rosedale, Md., at 7 p.m. tonight.

The groups Trans-United and TransMaryland also were involved in organizing the rally.

“Our primary concern is for Ms. Polis’ well being,” said Jenna Fischetti of TransMaryland. “We will support her through this difficult time and we ask that the legal process be unhampered and thorough.”

The statewide LGBT group Equality Maryland issued a statement Friday condemning the incident.

“No person ever deserves to be a victim of violence regardless of their gender identity or presentation,” the statement says. “We encourage the state’s Attorney General to investigate this as a hate crime based on gender identity.”

The statement, released by the group’s board chair Charles Butler, says the group was encouraged that McDonald’s was working with local police to investigate the incident and called on McDonald’s to take appropriate disciplinary action against any other employee that acted inappropriately.

A police report says officers investigating the incident initially classified it as a second-degree assault.

A spokesperson for the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office said the office was investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

The franchise owner of the McDonald’s restaurant in the Baltimore suburb who fired the employee who made the video told the Sun he was considering disciplinary action, including possibly firing, of other employees who may have acted inappropriately in connection with the incident.

McDonald’s corporate headquarters posted a statement on its website condemning the attack against Polis, saying the company was “shocked” by the video. It called the incident “unacceptable, disturbing and troubling” and said the company was working with its franchise owner and Baltimore-area authorities to investigate the matter.

The attack against Polis took place one week after the Maryland Senate voted to recommit a transgender non-discrimination bill to committee, killing it for the year.

State Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, a Democrat who voted to send the transgender bill back to committee, represents the district in which the attack took place.

Montgomery County transgender activist Dana Beyer, who is also among the organizers of Monday’s rally, said organizers have invited Klausmeier to attend the rally.

“We haven’t heard back from her,” Beyer said on Sunday.

Beyer said she and other transgender activists are relieved that Polis, while roughed up badly, does not appear to have sustained serious physical injuries. Toward the end of the clip, she appears to be having a seizure. Beyer said she was hopeful that something positive would come from the incident in the wake of the extraordinary following it has generated online and in the media.

“Things like this always have the potential for being a real spur to action,” she said. “It often takes a tragedy to get people to recognize what’s at stake. Fortunately, she’s fine. If it turns out this galvanizes the community and gets some elected officials to actually listen to us seriously who weren’t willing to do so as recently as two weeks ago, then that’s a good thing.”

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Reed

    April 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Hey folks,
    I was visiting in Baltimore this weekend from Boston. It was SO awful to read and watch what happened to Chrissy. Is there a donation fund for her? I’m sure she could benefit from PTSD therapy and a relaxing trip or two to a spa, or Disneyworld or something fun!
    Also, I understand folks’ interest in getting the police to investigate etc. We need to remember, however, that the police are part of the Prison-Industrial Complex, which has been LGBTQ folks’ ENEMY for a long, long time. Instead of relying on this system built on the institutions of White Supremacy and Hetero-Patriarchy, now would be a GREAT time to have community discussions about alternative responses to these tragic situations than the traditional police-punish/torture model. What will the attackers learn locked up in a cage for years and years? Get a dose of their own medicine through the abuse they’ll surely suffer? Likely. Will they learn to treat trans people they meet in prison and upon release with respect? No. Because the same prisons routinely lock up our trans family and treat them worse than s–t.
    Please spend some time looking into RESTORATIVE JUSTICE and TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE. Friends and I up in Buffalo, NY made a low-budget movie called Night Out two years ago to address what we might do if one of our trans friends was beat up. Some of the things we came up with were community shaming or the attacker(s), healing/reconcialition circles, starting a LGBTQ responder line and safety walk, etc.

    CHECK OUT BLACKANDPINK.ORG for resources

    Clearly, this is also a very important moment for teaching Baltimore folks about trans people, how amazing we are, and why we deserve respect throughout our entire day and night.
    GOOD LUCK Baltimore! You’ve got a lot of important work ahead of you:)
    ~Reed

  2. Doc

    April 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

    This brutal attack was more than assault – it was a vicious racial and transgender hate crime, and these two thugs need to be prosecuted as adults and sent to prison.

  3. Heather

    April 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Its not enough of a punishment for the idiot witnesses to get fired from a shitty job! Something more should happen to them!

  4. Ugh

    April 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    the poor girl wasn’t even fighting back, they kept on going, if someone had not finally have called the police it makes you wonder when they would have stopped beating her? It’s very sad, and I agree people need to realize that this is not how you act and they should be charged as an adult. They both walk away yet continue to go back for one more hit. No McDonald’s employee did anything. The manager/other employees should have thrown them out and locked the door you do not continue to let them keep coming back. If they had been able to drag her outside who knows what the outcomes would have been. It is sad that if the race of both parties were reversed that there would be an even bigger uproar.

  5. Jeanette

    April 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Its sad that the transgender individual experienced these unusual circumstances. I think to avoid this problem from recurring in the near future businesses should begin investing in a third bathroom that can be accessed by “other” for transgenders.

    • Melanie

      April 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Are you freaking kidding? Do you think black people need their own bathroom too? Hey, while we’re at it, let’s re-segregate our schools! Idiot.

  6. Jeff

    April 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    This is what i read form straight media, not from the Blade: the 2 attackers are black, the attackee is white. The Blade reporter seemed to try to be political correctness.

  7. Whitey

    April 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    typical negro behavior. they are raised to be ignorant,violent & uneducated. they call it “keepin it real”

  8. Hell to the No

    April 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Those two young ladies are damn lucky I wasn’t there when they pulled this shit. I’d have picked up one of the metal chairs you see and beaten the two of them to death to save that poor girl. We ARE allowed to act in defense of others! In the meantime, there has GOT to be a way we can send messages and support, even if it’s through the Blade, to this poor young girl to let her know that not everybody in the world is like those savages on the tape…. Blade? Response?

  9. Kat

    April 27, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Reading that she is “fine” makes me uncomfortable. Maybe physically, but emotionally? This poor person! Life must be hard enough for a transgendered person without getting attacked like this.

    Every single person in that restaraunt that saw this is culpable if they did not try to stop it or call for help.

  10. Time For Revenge

    May 1, 2011 at 4:52 am

    It’s a crime to say the least that the McDonald’s employee’s just watched as a young girl was beaten so savagely. Typical black behavior. I will carry a gun if I go somewhere similar.

  11. Paybacks are hell

    May 5, 2011 at 1:31 am

    It’s just more of the same from the black community. They/re nothing but dead weight on society and it’s time this kind of behavior be seriously punished. Assault charges against his 14 yr. old won’t get her much time. The 18 yr old might get a couple of years. So it’s time that all non-blacks start to stand up and make their voices heard. Don’t just stand by and watch a white person get the crap beat out of them by a group of young black thugs. Be sure to protect someone you see being gang assaulted. Do so with extreme malice and intent to harm.

  12. jacquelyn richter

    May 9, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Wow so some chose to follow trans hate with black hate. This assualt is not about race. Leave your race hatred behind it is as ugly as trans hate

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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