Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Am NOT Lovin' It

I have used restrooms at McDonald's while traveling in this country. And I have been told to leave those restrooms because I was mistaken for a man. So when I watched this confrontation in a Baltimore-area McDonald's I was horrified. I was angry. And I thought, "This could have been me."  It could have been any one of us.

Violence against transgender people is not funny, even though the McDonald's employee taping this attack seemed to find it a hoot. The irrational fear of someone trans totally mystifies me. And yet, for the transwoman or man, it is not merely mystifying. It is terrifying.  Public spaces, especially restrooms, are particularly tricky and often the most volatile spaces for a trans person to enter. 

I am not trans, but I am what some call a "gender non-conformist" lesbian in that I don't look like a stereotypical woman because my hair is short, my shoulders are broad and I don't wear dresses or make-up.  This isn't something that makes me uncomfortable.  But I can see in the faces and the eyes of others that my look freaks them out.  When I enter a woman's restroom in a McDonald's or a gas station or any place that is not in a private residence, I find myself a little anxious and very cautious.  I basically am trying to go in, do what I need to do, and get out lest I have that unfortunate situation of "mistaken for a male crisis" where a person leaps to a conclusion about my gender and turns a simple pee stop into a pissy snit about "the man" in the ladies room.  

 In this way, I have walked a few steps in the shoes of my trans brothers and sisters.  And observing this rampant ignorance of the public hurts.  Watching it unfold in such violence as was unleashed against Chrissy, the transwoman beaten in this video, makes me want to throw up.  Trans, gay, straight, black, white, immigrant: as Shakespeare would say, "If you cut us, do we not bleed?"

McDonald's issued the following statement on the incident:
" We are shocked by the video from a Baltimore franchised restaurant showing an assault. This incident is unacceptable disturbing and troubling. McDonalds strives to be a safe welcoming environment for everyone who visits. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of customers and employees in our restaurants"

I just don't think that's adequate.  I am tired of corporate apologies with all the right words about being "safe" and "welcoming".  It's time for the McDonald's, the Wal-Mart's, the Targets, the many mega companies with all the tax breaks known to humankind to put some of their corporate muscle into action. 
  • Refuse to finance the political campaigns of those who promote hatred against people, especially LGBT people.
  • Get behind efforts to fight bullying in the schools.
  • Adopt non-discrimination policies in employment and accommodations... and publicly back those local governments that make such laws for their communities.
Corporations only exist because people cause them to exist.  And people can take a corporation down.  Yes, McDonald's: I'm talkin' to you.   You don't deserve a break on this one.  Take responsibility in a more active way.  Your words of apology, for me, are just as empty as the calories in your food.

Change.org has a petition to sign calling on a response from McDonald's to this attack.



Anonymous said...

This is awful. I didn't know about it. Good for you to report it and I remember when you were mistaken for a man at a MacDonald's and I was very upset and furious with the woman and told her off.


MadPriest said...

There is, as you Americans say, an elephant in the room, with this situation. There has always been an unacceptable percentage of gay people, men and women, who are bigoted towards transgender folk. Many in the gay community regard trans people as freaks and an obstacle in the way of gay equality.

So, any serious campaign to stop the hatred towards transgender people in the general population has to start in the gay community. This will involve sacrifice because there will be occasions when justice for gay people will be held back if they insist that transgender grievances are addressed at the same time as their own.

I would suggest that lesbians are probably the ones to launch such a campaign as they have been through the same struggle to make themselves heard in the gay community. Another elephant in the room being the unacceptably high level of misogyny among gay men.

SCG said...

Absolutely, MP!!
And you are correct: there is an elephant in the room when it comes to the Trans Community being linked with the gay community. And I can only speak for my tiny corner of queerdom in my even tinier corner of Florida to say, "The times they are a-changin'" in large part because we have a trans community that shows up and wants to be counted, and there are groups in our city (such as PFLAG and Mickee Faust) that are making way for them to be seen and heard. I hope that spreads. And, yeah... it'll probably be the lesbians who open those doors 'cuz we're just so political that way. Better to be the door holder than a door mat!

MadPriest said...

Thanks, SCG.

I'm glad the times are a'changin'.

I first came across this situation in Quentin Crisp's autobiography. But I experienced it firsthand in English clubs during the seventies and early eighties. It was when the macho scene was at its height. Deejays would actually viciously rant on about transgender people between playing songs.

Perhaps, in England, there was a bit of jealousy involved. We have always had a high regard for transgender performers of both sexes - they are part of our culture. The punk scene, in particular, was very welcoming and artists such as Jane (Wayne) County moved to England because of the lack of prejudice here. Unfortunately, gay people, especially men, were still being beaten up in the streets far too regularly at the time.

JCF said...

Another elephant in the room being the unacceptably high level of misogyny among gay men.

Thanks for this, MP. As much as I love Joe.My.God (and other predominantly gay-male sites), the misogyny therein is severely depressing.

Whenever a male is a homophobe, there's anger, but it's flavored w/ an amused "one-of-us": the presupposition that the male homophobe is, in his own orientation, gay.

But if a WOMAN is homophobic, she's just a "cunt". End of discussion. The anger is dehumanizing, and frankly, annihilationist. It comes across that they just want all homophobic women---and maybe ALL women, except their BFFs and favorite divas?---ELIMINATED. It's the exact flipside of the hatred they abhor.