Chrissy Lee Polis: A Rally for Peace

For many of us who have been following the story of Chrissy Lee Polis, the 22-year-old transgender woman who was brutally attacked in a suburban McDonald’s near Baltimore ten days ago, it’s been a difficult week. Watching the story go viral provided a sobering look at the amount of phobia and ignorance that still surrounds many people’s concepts of both gender and race.

The attack occurred on April 18th, when Polis stopped at the restaurant to use the ladies’ room. Polis told the Baltimore Sun that she heard her assailants saying “that’s a dude, that’s a dude – and he’s in the female bathroom.” Immediately afterwards, she was beaten, dragged across the floor by her hair, and kicked by two teenagers as a McDonald’s employee recorded the attack on his camera phone and other workers stood by idly. The cell phone recording of the attack (TRIGGER WARNING: extremely violent) shows several employees gawking and laughing as the attack progresses. A sole employee makes an attempt to break up the fight, but retreats almost immediately. A grandmotherly woman attempts to come to Polis’ aid; a police report revealed that she was punched in the face by one of the assailants when she tried to intervene. After two minutes, Polis collapses into a seizure on the floor. The McDonald’s worker who is taping the scene warns the attackers that they need to flee because the police are coming.

A crowd rallies outside the McDonald’s where the crime took place

Coverage of the story on the web has been as painful to watch as the footage itself. It was awful to witness the first wave of discussion, which appeared almost exclusively on white supremacist blogs, with transphobia piling on top of racism as details about Polis’ identity emerged. It was painful to watch mainstream, high-traffic blogs use the word “tranny” in their coverage (the best example of this being, if memory serves correctly, Time-Warner-owned blog Smoking Gun, though their posts appear to have now been scrubbed of the slur). And it was painful to watch Polis’ own twin brother continually refer to her as “my brother” and pointedly use male gender pronouns at her support rally (here, at 1:15). All around, a damning look at the country’s state of gender awareness, or lack thereof.

Polis has been released from the hospital, and spoke to the Baltimore Sun about her experience living as a transwoman in her neighborhood. The McDonald’s employee who filmed the attack has been fired. Both attackers have been apprehended and charged with assault. Hate crime charges may or may not be applied to the case; we’ll likely know in about a week.

In the face of the ugly, seething hatred that surrounds this story, the most encouraging element has been the turnout of support. Over 135,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the McDonald’s Corporation holds its employees accountable for the assault. More inspiring than anything have been images of the rally held at the scene of the crime this past Monday. Hundreds of people showed up outside McDonald’s to voice their solidarity with Chrissy Lee Polis. One of the right-wing hate sites covering the assault early on asked the question, “what happens when sanctified leftwing grievance groups collide over black homophobia?” In their small imagination, people can only choose one side: black vs. white, gay vs. straight, trans vs. cis. There are no gradations or complexities in their world.

Except, that’s not what the images and footage of this rally show us. There are people from all across the race, gender and class spectrum standing up for Chrissy Lee Polis. Trans activist Dayna Beyer, who helped organize the rally, recounts the event:

What was initially intended to be a vigil as the victim appeared severely injured… evolved into an upbeat rally of a united community demanding an end to violence and discrimination.

Having been involved in far too many vigils for murdered trans women over the years, and accepting the general apathy in both the trans and LGBT communities, I expected 30 people to ultimately show up. Instead, 300 did.

…when the program ended and the crowd would have normally dispersed, a funny thing happened. No one left.

People mingled for another 75 minutes until the lights were turned out in the parking lot. There had been no trouble, no counter-demonstration, no hate speech – just love and sisterhood and camaraderie. Locals and activists, gay and straight, cis and trans.

Maryland still has a long way to go. Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate voted down a bill that would have provided protection for trans people against discrimination in housing and employment. Before the bill even hit the Senate, language pertaining to use of public accommodations was stripped from it. Blogger Amanda Hess writes, “opposition to the bill largely focused on the toilet issue—a hysterical concern over gender non-conforming people sharing public restrooms.” Perhaps the tragedy of this event will push lawmakers to rethink their position.

Perhaps things will change.

Image by Anne’s Legacy Photography

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Louis Theroux: America’s Most Hated Family In Crisis

Before we begin, can I just ask you to look at that title. Do you see it? See how it overflows its banks, cascading down onto a second, blissful line? Nadya recently changed the headers so that we can do that. Have you any understanding of how wondrous this is? Do you have any idea how difficult it was for a grandiloquent fuck like myself to pare down my excessive verbiage to fit on one line? My post titles are going to run a paragraph long for weeks I expect.

Alright, that’s enough. I can see that you are entirely too enthused about the little bit of web coding. It’s time to bring you down a few notches; somewhere closer to a normal state of hopelessness and despair. To that end, The FAM present America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis Louis Theroux’s hyperbolically titled follow up to The Most Hated Family in America, both done for the BBC. The titular family is that of Fred Phelps, alleged drug addled abusive husband and father, who heads the Westboro Baptist Church, the Evangelical church, and pop music parodists, infamous for their picketing of, among other events, the funerals of American soldiers. Theroux’s previous visit had taken place 4 years ago, and since then, a number of members had left the church, including one of Fred Phelps’s sons.

Both of these documentaries (I was unable to find the first in its entirety to link here) are stunning for the ignorance on display. Like Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s 2006 documentary, Jesus Camp, Theroux presents a group of people whose bigotry is presented as devotion to divine scripture. Phelps and his ilk manage to out-crazy the participants in that film, if only because of how vociferous their dogma is, how naked their hatred for anything or anyone that differs from what they believe, and how complete and thorough its grip is on them. Perhaps the most disturbing scene in the entire hour is when Theroux interviews Grace, the youngest daughter of Shirley Phelps, accompanied by three other family members to make sure he doesn’t try to corrupt her with his words, speaking for her so that her answers may more closely align with the church’s teachings.

In the end, I suppose it winds up being more voyeuristic than anything, playing to a morbid fascination with just how far the depths of idiocy can go, just how awful people can be. Still, it serves to remind us that, yes, there are people who walk this Earth who really think this way and who, for the time being, are not going anywhere.

Niche Market

It’s hard to imagine who the intended audience was for the “Stuffed” Girl’s Heads* from Honor House Products Corp. Certainly, there was and, no doubt, still is a well entrenched consumer base comprised of misogynists who would perhaps guffaw at the site of such an item or nod sagely, in possession of the belief that women are, indeed, nothing more than trophies. Despite this unfortunate reality, I have a hard time believing that anyone would actually buy something like this. No, this strikes me as the perfect gift for the laziest of movie serial killers; the star of some Grunge-era slasher film in which the villain is too stoned and jaded to actually get up off the couch in his parents’s basement to slay a cheerleader.

Regardless, for the low price of $3.35 you get the complete array of hair colors, those being blond, brunette, and redhead, affixed to a genuine mahogany base (notice no quotation marks there, so you know that shit is real.) The downer here, of course, is that the head is only 3/4 scale which may not completely sate your blood lust unless you have a Beetlejuice inspired fetish to go along with the murderous psychopathy. It also has the unfortunate side effect of putting a damper on the “realism” touted so often in the copy. That said, as the article suggests, it would no doubt be a conversation starter, though that conversation may take the form of a hushed exchange with authorities over the phone while the owner is in the other room.

Via Vintage Ads

*Also, who decided on the placement of those quotation marks. I mean, “Stuffed”? Shouldn’t they be around “Girl’s Head”? Shouldn’t the implication be that the head in question is not a real goddamn head and not that it isn’t actually stuffed? Maybe I’m over-thinking this.

Company’s Eloquent Response to Homophobic Gripes

So, Someone on the Internet recently got upset about the gay romance in the new Dragon Age 2 game released by BioWare. So threatened was this person that he felt the need to post a long, butthurt rant on the BioWare forums titled “Bioware Neglected Their Main Demographic: The Straight Male Gamer.” The disgruntled fan writes, “in every previous BioWare game, I always felt that almost every companion in the game was designed for the male gamer in mind.” In Dragon Age 2, however, “it makes things very awkward when your male companions keep making passes at you. The fact that a “No Homosexuality” option, which could have been easily implemented, is omitted just proves my point.” He complains that the straight love interests are too “exotic,” and is disappointed that instead of having more heterosexual romances to choose from, the game instead has a gay romance. ” The best part is when he says, “it’s ridiculous that I even have to use a term like Straight Male Gamer, when in the past I would only have to say fans.” Boo fucking hoo.

The response from David Gaider, a Senior Writer at BioWare, was elegant, incisive, and generally spot-on:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– perhaps a bit more eloquently, since it’s apparently of dire concern to some.

The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.

More than that, I would question anyone deciding they speak for “the straight male gamer” just as much as someone claiming they speak for “all RPG fans”, “all female fans” or even “all gay fans”. You don’t. If you wish to express your personal desires, then do so. I have no doubt that any opinion expressed on these forums is shared by many others, but since none of them have elected a spokesperson you’re better off not trying to be one. If your attempt is to convince BioWare developers, I can tell you that you do in fact make your opinion less convincing by doing so.

And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want… The very best we can do is give everyone a little bit of choice, and that’s what we tried here. And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least.

It goes on, but you get the gist. It’s rare that you see a big company so clearly defining privilege. Good on them.  [via Slim]

Stay Classy, Kenneth Cole

“Walking around SOMA, we find this little gem. Stay classy Kennith Cole.” [via Flickr]

Earlier today, Kenneth Cole twatted, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at -KC.” After a massive Twitter outcry, Cole hastily scrubbed the tweet and attempted to backpedal. “I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues,” claimed the designer in a two-sentence apology on Facebook, admitting that posting the tweet as unarmed protesters in Cairo were getting shot was, perhaps, “poorly timed.”

However, this morning at 2 AM, San Francisco residents spotted this mysterious and super professional-looking decal on the window of Kenneth Cole’s SOMA location.

Are any Coilhouse readers in other cities perhaps encountering similar window displays at Kenneth Cole store locations? If so, please send pictures. We will gladly update this post with images of Kenneth Cole storefronts from around the US.

The FAM: We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

The management would like to apologize for the spotty nature of the Friday Afternoon Movie over the past few weeks. Rest assured that the worthless hack responsible for the content of this feature is currently being flogged with rabid badgers. The management would like to assure our readers that, should the aforementioned hack survive the aforementioned flogging, the FAM will return next week with actual content. In lieu of this week’s FAM, please accept this video of a parrot singing Drowning Pool’s “Bodies”. We thank you for your patience and hope you have a pleasant weekend.

The Racist Undertones Of Marmaduke

WHITEPRIDETV.COM has a varied lineup of video content for the modern white supremacist to educate themselves and keep up on the latest in good old American racism. From This Is The Klan to The White Woman’s Perspective Thomas Robb and his group of camera wielding bigots cover the entire gamut of life as an ignorant douchebag. They also, thankfully, have some children’s programing to help Confederate flag waving parents educate their offspring in the proper manner.

The programming in question is The Andrew Show which is, in case you had not already figured it out, “A Show for White Kids” (Finally!). Plopping the blond-haired youth in front of a green-screened bookcase, WHITEPRIDETV.COM lets the little tyke go at it, tackling the issues that face white kids today. This particular episode deals with the film Marmaduke, an unremarkable film in nearly every way except for the fact that it is a metaphor for racial tension; specifically the denial of land to white people by people of other various and sundry races. So goes Andrew’s thesis, a thesis he does not expound upon his, presumably because his point is so self-evident even a child can see it.

It is an unfortunate reality that even the worst among the human race can procreate, taking an otherwise unfettered mind and twist it with their own, poisonous worldview. It is, perhaps, worse when they give them their own television show to parrot that moronic bile.

Via Videogum : The Daily What

FAIL-tastic Mother of London Forgery at the AMA’s

UPDATE 11/24/10 11:45 PM: reports that the person responsible for the yellow replica is Brea Stinson (@breabstar on Twitter), a fashion stylist represented by Balan, Inc.

Stylist Mariel Haenn is not responsible for this look, and was not involved in any aspect of Willow Smith’s styling for the AMA’s. I’ll be following up with a new blog post to clear up any confusion.

You guys all know Mother of London, the fashion label of designer and artist Mildred Von Hildegard. We’ve featured Mother of London in Coilhouse issues 01, 04 and 05, and we previously blogged some of Von Hildegard’s incredible creations here and here. Yesterday, an outfit very similar to one of Mother of London’s most iconic pieces appeared on ABC’s American Music Awards, worn by 10-year-old pop star Willow Smith, daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett. Yet the poorly-made yellow garment was created by an unknown designer without Von Hildegard’s knowledge or consent.

Mother of London knock-offs are nothing new. But the innocuous ModelMayhem fashion shoot or occasional Etsy neckpiece doesn’t damage Von Hildegard’s business nearly as much as a replica for a mainstream celebrity. Von Hildegard makes her living by loaning out pieces for music videos (Kerli, Natalia Lesz), commercials (Got Milk?), and by doing celebrity styling (most recently, she has dressed The Black-Eyed Peas, Juliette Lewis, and, in an outfit ironically similar to young Willow’s knockoff, adult performer Belladonna). Despite some of these big-name clients and her notoriety in the alf-fashion world, Von Hildegard remains a struggling independent designer. Now, she will never be able to loan out this top, one of her signature pieces, to any other celebrity, as it’s been seen on ABC and covered by dozens of mainstream fashion blogs. “Sad thing is,” Von Hildegard says, “I could have totally made her a G-rated version of this top and would have enjoyed doing so! I’d never heard of Willow until today, but she’s cute and interesting.”

The designer of Smith’s outfit remains unknown, but several blogs attributed the design to Willow Smith’s official stylist, Mariel Haenn, before the Mother of London connection was made. Celebrifi wrote, “the outfit, which included a grey one piece, a belted one shoulder top and slouched boots, was more than likely a custom made creation from stylist Mariel Haenn.” So far, Haenn only claims credit for styling Rihanna at the awards, and has advised bloggers to “check ur facts.” Responding to a Coilhouse inquiry, Haenn wrote: “To be honest I have no idea who ‘styled’ her or the designer. Wish I did. I don’t ask my clients who they used when I’m not available.”

Coilhouse will continue to investigate. In the meantime… WHIP YO HAIR GIRL:

(via Mer, thanks!)

The Jonas Lara Legal Defense Fund

All images by Jonas Lara.

Jonas Lara is a celebrated artist and photographer who “has made a career tilting his camera toward the unconventional terrain of urban landscapes. He first developed his unique visual approach capturing high school friends’ nighttime antics in skateboarding and graffiti. Lara strongly believes he shares a visual language with architects, engineers, painters and other artists who challenge the conventionality of gravity and space.”

Last February, Lara was arrested while documenting graffiti artists painting a mural in Los Angeles. The photographs he took that night were intended to be part of a series Lara’s been developing for years– a “body of work [that] involves documenting artists both in their lives and in the process of their artwork.” This series focuses on a wide range of artists, not only graffiti writers.

Lara was “apprehended” along with the two graffiti artists by the LAPD, and charged with felony vandalism. His camera and equipment (lenses, memory cards, batteries) were all taken as evidence, and have yet to be returned to him, in spite of his dependence on them to make a living. Lara’s charges were later lowered to a misdemeanor, then changed to “aiding and abetting”, which carries the same sentence as the crime of graffiti-painting. Lara says:

“I have gone through the several stages of this case and my next step is the Jury Trial. If I lose my case, I can face up to a year in jail and have my license suspended. I need your help raising money to cover costs to hire a private attorney and related legal expenses…  Part of the artist portrait series was featured in an exhibition put together by the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles.”

According to a PNDPulse article about Lara’s arrest, the artist appealed for help with the case to rights organization like the ACLU, but was told him they do not get involved in criminal cases. “If convicted, the Art Center College of Design graduate and former US Marine would be unable to enter the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, into which he was recently accepted, in September.”

Does something about this irrational, bullying, trumped up, effed up charge rub you the wrong way? If so, donate to the Jonas Lara defense fund. You know how it goes, comrades. A dollar here, a 5-spot there… it adds up so quickly. Let’s make sure this artist gets a fighting chance.

Lou Ponders The Infernal Nature Of Barack Obama

As you may or may not know Lou Dobbs — journalist, Birther, and cranky old man — resigned from CNN last week for the second time, for reasons that have not been made clear though it is speculated that he wanted more time to devote to his hobbies, like hunting illegal immigrants for sport; a hobby which has single-handedly kept this wonderful nation of ours from being overrun by a merciless tide of humanity intent on taking all the jobs that no one like Lou Dobbs wishes to do. Besides his outdoor hobbies, however, there are whispers that Mr. Dobbs may seek some sort of public office, thereby helping him to protect even more of America than he could alone in a tree stand armed with only his trusty rifle.

With that in mind, Mr. Dobbs has been making the rounds, getting his fleshy face out there and shaking his jowls gravely for the benefit of the public so that they may become more accustomed to his craggy, experienced folds. No appearance thus far typifies the direction that the Lou Dobbs Express will take than this recent interview on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor in which the GOP’s favorite amateur pornographer asks the Border Baron — without even the slightest hint of irony — if he thinks that Barack Obama is the devil to which Lou, sounding every bit the glorious statesman he is destined to be, answers that no, Barack Obama is not the devil. He is just a terrible president. And a terrible person. Also, he may eat babies. In fact, he likes the taste of babies so much that he may mandate that every heterosexual couple in America must produce an extra baby which will be harvested by illegal, Mexican laborers for his sole, gastronomic satisfaction.

Or not, I’m just still flabbergasted that this question can be asked in full view of the public with a seriousness usually reserved for matters that are, well, not insane.