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Reflections as 2011 Comes to a Close

| Dec 12, 2011
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Back in 1989 I heard the story of Big Rhonda, a transsexual who was to transsexualism as entrepreneur Neil Cargile was to crossdressing.Rhonda had been by all accounts larger than life, too tall, too wide, too everything to pass successfully as a woman. And so she cared not one whit whether she passed or not. She was being who she was and was comfortable with herself and the world around her.

Unfortunately, Rhonda lived in Alabama, where, in the late ’80s she was shot and killed by a redneck who told authorities, “I always wanted to kill a queer.”

The lesson to be learned in Atlanta in 1989 was this: we were on our own. Rhonda’s murderer got off scot-free, and so would ours, if it came to that. Society’s checks and balances didn’t apply to us because we were so very far outside the pale.

As 2011 draws to a close, I’m gratified to know that our killers no longer automatically go free, and horrified to know we are still getting abused, killed, and discriminated against with astonishing regularity.

This year saw a horrific attack of a transwoman by another customer at a Baltimore McDonalds and an unjustified Tasering of a transsexual woman by rangers of the Bureau of Land Management.

Twenty-two-year-old Chrissy Lee Polis was dragged from the toilet in the womens’ bathroom by two teenage girls, ages 14 and 18. The reasons for the attack are still in dispute, but what isn’t in dispute is the behavior of Vernon Hackett, the employee who videotaped the attack and immediately posted it on the Internet. Hackett was subsequently fired.

Forty-three-year-old Brooke Fantelli of San Diego was Tasered in the crotch by rangers as she stood calmly with hands up; she had just told them she had been born a man. The attack on Fantelli was also videotaped via cell phone.

The difference in these cases and Rhonda’s is one of blow-back. Polis’ case resulted in an immediate outcry. The Internet lit up like a candle, there were vigils and petitions, and there was talk about hate crimes charges for the attackers. In September 18-year-old Teonna Monae Brown was sentenced to five years for assault; the identity of the 14-year-old has been withheld by authorities.*

It’s a bit early to report on the reaction to Fantellis’ assault, but so far Bureau of Land Management officials are saying its officers acted appropriately — even as to the placement of the Taser dart. I expect this one will be huge as well.

What a difference twenty-something years makes!

I just wish Big Rhonda had lived to see it.

* Because the victim at McDonalds was white and her attackers were black, there has been dissension about whether the attacks were motivated by race or gender, or both. Many commenters on the story see it as a racial issue and not one of gender, and according to The Bilerico Project, which quoted the Daily Mail, the Maryland state Attorney General looked for justification to file charges for a racially-motivated hate crime.


Berendt, John. (1995, 16 January). High-heel Neil. The New Yorker, 38-45. You can read the article for a fee here.
Forman, Ross. (2011, 24 April). Outrage after trans attack in Baltimore. Windy City Times. Read the article here.
Quigley, Rachel. (2011, 6 December). Horrific moment transgender woman was tasered in crotch by rangers when they found out she was born a man. Daily Mail Online. Read here; scroll down for video.

©2011 by Dallas Denny

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Category: Transgender Opinion

Dallas Denny

About the Author ()

Much of Dallas' work is available on her website. Dallas Denny is a writer, activist, and educator. She holds a M.A. and was licensed to practice psychology for many years. She retired her license after relocating to Georgia. Dallas founded and was for eight years Executive Director of the American Educational Gender Education Service. She started the Atlanta Gender Explorations support group in 1990. She was part of the group that started the Southern Comfort conference and did programming for the conference. She has long been involved with Fantasia Fair, where she was Director for six years. Dallas was editor of the journal "Chrysalis" from 1990-1998 and "Transgender Tapestry" from 2000-2006. She has three published three books and many book chapters and journal and magazine articles. Dallas holds a number of honors, including IFGE’s Trinity and Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement Awards and Real Life Experience’s Transgender Pioneer Award.

Comments (3)

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  1. says:

    I’d advise any tg to be extremely careful. Always stay in a safe zone. Be more careful than necessary. People like those BLM “people” are beyond any educational attempts lift them above what they are.
    Bigots are cowards but sometimes they forget their mortality. I’ve thought about demonstrating it to them
    but that would only get me in trouble. Better to avoid these people or situations that may trigger whatever it is they use for brains. Remember punching little holes in them will only get you in the slammer with worse things than they are. Just avoid them as much as possible. But don’t count on father State to protect you or any dramatic social enlightenment. We’re a long,long,long way from an enlightened and sane society-like 10,000 yearss.

  2. victoria victoria says:

    According to the documentary “All Dressed Up and Nowhere To Go”, Neil Cargile died of malaria while in Guyana. (All Dressed Up was a great documentary, I wish it wasn’t so hard to find nowadays.)

  3. dina dina says:

    I hadn’t heard Neil Cargile’s name in, well, close to twenty years or more, as you say. He/She (?) became semi-famous around the same time that I was beginning to go out in public. He died, as I remember several years later, in some sort of underwater accident (he was a dredging executive as I recall).
    The litany of horrific crimes perpetrated against TG’s for any number of reasons is a blot on the human race and we can hope someday that it will be remembered as a kind of mile marker we (regrettably) had to pass as a civilization – like all human rights struggles.

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