Activists: Attack on two transgender women is 'horrifying display of transphobia and violence'

Thursday May 29, 2014 04:28 pm EDT

Local trans activists are demanding MARTA, the city, and the public take action after a group of men attacked two transgender women aboard a MARTA train last week, stripping one woman naked.

Five MARTA cops responded to the May 20 incident, but arrested no one and didn't even take statements, according to the Solutions Not Punishment Coalition, or SNaP Co. The attack gained public attention when another rider, adding insult to injury, posted video of it on a website.

"It is a horrifying display of transphobia and violence," SNaP Co said in a statement issued today. "It was an act meant to physically hurt as well as demean and humiliate these women simply because they are trans."

The victims of the attack - identified as Janell Crosby and Tyra Woods - have connected with SNaP Co, an activist group already working with the city on alleged police harassment of trans people in Midtown. Both women have reportedly left town due to the trauma. Crosby criticizes MARTA Police and unhelpful bystanders alike in the SNaP Co statement.

"What if this were your daughter? Your wife? Your mother? What would you do?" she asks. "Would you still have just stood there and watched it happen? Would you have laughed or run home to put it up on the Internet? Why am I any less human, any less worthy of helping?"

As for MARTA Police, Crosby says, "I would like an apology for their treatment of me. They are supposed to serve and protect, and they didn't do that. And they didn't do that because I am a black trans woman."

MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris said in an email that the transit agency's police department is "aggressively investigating this case and making solid progress." He added that it "would be premature to draw conclusions about the motives of those who were involved or the actual sequence of events that led to this unfortunate and disturbing incident" until the investigation is finished.

In an email, Melissa Mullinax, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed, said he "condemns hate crimes of any kind and is committed to the equal rights and equal treatment of Atlanta's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, workers and visitors." She added: "The incident on the MARTA train is disturbing. We understand that MARTA is investigating and we look forward to the authorities bringing those accountable to justice."

The incident reportedly began on the Five Points Station platform, where the men harassed the women, mocking their gender and photographing them. The video of the lengthy attack shows the groups already trading words right before one of the men jumps forward and kicks one of the women.

SNaP Co's Xochitl Bervera tells CL that it's not an isolated incident. Her group is already hearing complaints of other trans people harassed on MARTA, "particularly around Five Points Station." Her group is turning its June 3 monthly meeting into a forum on the issue, soliciting more harassment reports. It's slated for 5:30 p.m. at the Philip Rush Center Annex, 1530 DeKalb Ave.

SNaP Co is asking MARTA to apologize and bring the attackers to justice, including community service with LGBT organizations. It's also asking MARTA and the city to conduct a public educational campaign about respecting trans people and anyone with "non-conforming" gender expressions. The group has also urged the public to contact Reed on Twitter and ask if Atlanta truly was "too busy to hate." The mayor has already told one person on Twitter that he'd hold his appointees to the transit agency's board of directors accountable.

"We're going to call on the mayor to make a statement that Atlanta is welcoming to all people, and respects and protects trans people" everywhere in town, Bervera told CL.

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