Previously sent to various papers in April.
On Monday April 18th, a woman was attacked and beaten at a Baltimore, Maryland McDonald’s. As the video recorded by an employee went viral on the Internet over the Easter long weekend, my thoughts turned to Charles McVety and the potentially violent effects of fearmongering rhetoric.
McVety made news recently when his anti-gay, anti-Islam venting earned him a reprimand from the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, and the Christian television network CTS voluntarily dropped his program. Earlier this year, when a bill was winding its way through Parliament proposing to add transsexual and transgender people to human rights legislation, McVety was loudly fomenting panic that human rights for trans people would result in sexual predators attacking women and children in restrooms. While we’re in the midst of a federal election, McVety is still trumpeting this in order to frighten people into voting his way. This “Bathroom Bill” rhetoric has no substance since trans people have used public restrooms for decades without incident, and in fact the meme was a political tactic developed in the state of Maryland, by a religious right group that developed the “notmyshower.com” website in 2007. This is the same Maryland where four years of trans-panic led to the violent beating of a 22-year-old woman while employees watched (and videotaped). From the Baltimore Sun:
“They said, ‘That’s a dude, that’s a dude and she’s in the female bathroom,’ ” said Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, who said she stopped at the Rosedale restaurant to use the restroom. “They spit in my face.”
… The video shows two females — one of them a 14-year-old girl — repeatedly kicking and punching Polis in the head as an employee and a patron try to intervene. Others can be heard laughing, and men are seen standing idly by.
Toward the end of the video, one of the suspects lands a punishing blow to the victim’s head, and Polis appears to have a seizure. A man’s voice tells the women to run because police are coming.
The Harper Conservatives opposed adding trans people to human rights legislation because they felt it was unnecessary. But human rights protections are necessary exactly because this irrational fear persists. It’s necessary exactly because trans people still get conflated with sex predators and child predators, or labeled as “sick,” “perverse,” and “freaks.” It’s necessary exactly because people become so clouded with assumptions and myths that they argue for our deliberate exclusion from human rights under the pretext that granting them would be “dangerous” or “scary.” It’s necessary exactly because this bias is so entrenched that people think nothing about broadcasting it openly as though fact. It’s necessary exactly because this “ick factor” response is seen as justification for not allowing an entire group of people to share the same space, to terminate their employment or to evict them. It’s necessary exactly because it is so pervasive that discrimination becomes not only likely but inevitable — especially if there is no explicit direction in law to the contrary on the matter, and people perceive the opportunity to make an exception.
And in the meantime, if people like McVety are going to decry what they perceive as censorship and call for full freedom of fearmongering, then they had best consider Baltimore, Maryland and the knowledge of where their rhetoric leads.