Jenice Armstrong: Videotaped attack shows teen's intolerance toward the transgender

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A still picture from video of attack at a McDonald's outside Baltimore.

ON A YOUTUBE video gone viral, two female customers savagely attack a transgender woman at a McDonald's in suburban Baltimore.

It was an ugly confrontation last week that reportedly began inside a women's bathroom after two customers noticed that 22-year-old Chrissy Lee Polis had male characteristics.

A cellphone video of the attack recorded by a McDonald's employee shows the suspects, ages 18 and 14, kicking, punching and stomping on Polis as restaurant workers laugh and appear to be thoroughly enjoying the brutal spectacle.

At one point, a perpetrator grabs Polis by the hair and drags her across the floor like she's moving a heavy piece of furniture in her living room.

A sole employee makes an attempt to break up the beatdown, but nothing makes much of a difference until a grandmotherly woman intervenes. Vicky Thomas, 55, a cosmetologist, bravely yells at the two females to stop kicking and punching Polis, who by then is lying helpless on the floor.

Polis then has a violent seizure, lying on her side, her body heaving and jerking. No one else comes to her aid. Polis lies on the floor like an injured deer by the side of a road.

But a McDonald's worker is overheard warning the two attackers to leave because the authorities were coming.

The video has attracted hundreds of thousands of views and will no doubt garner even more because of its savagery and what it shows about the hazards of being transgender in America.

Police have charged two girls in the attack. One, Teonna Monae Brown, 18, of Rosedale, Md., was in the Baltimore County Detention Center. The 14-year-old's name was not disclosed because of her age.

I talked yesterday with a transgender North Philadelphia woman named Desiree Hines, who told me that every time she gets on public transportation, other passengers stare at her - what Hines calls "clocking" her - trying to determine her sexuality.

In Polis' case, it's unclear how far along she is in her transition from male to female.

From outward appearances she looks female, but her assailants reportedly noticed something different about her and challenged her right to use a women's restroom, a not-uncommon scenario for transgender people.

While in college, Hines said, she was prohibited from using female restrooms and ordered to live in a male dormitory or alternative housing, even though she'd been living as a female since age 10. A recent survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality revealed that of 6,500 transgender people surveyed, 61 percent had been victims of physical assault. And 64 percent reported having been victims of sexual assault.

"There's a recognition that needs to happen in America of our existence," said Lorenzo Triburgo, who spoke Tuesday night during a panel discussion at the Equality Forum, which continues through Sunday, about transgender issues. "American culture needs to recognize that there are more than two genders," he added.

That's why events like the Equality Forum are so necessary in terms of raising public awareness.

I'm convinced that employees at the restaurant would have reacted much differently had the victim been born female.

Send email to heyjen@phillynews.com. My blog: www.philly.com/HeyJen.