Community seeks solutions, healing after attack on two transgender women
'Rather than picking up the cell phone and videotaping it for Worldstar, what can we do?'
- Maggie Lee
- "I think there is a stereotype, there's prejudice around folks that don't fit within a box or who don't look the way society says," says Everette Thompson, an activist for transgender equality.
In the wake of a MARTA attack that left one transgender woman naked and the unwilling star of a viral video, a group of activists that seeks a safe environment and good policing for all Atlantans is renewing its call, this time on behalf of people like Janell Crosby.
"There's things the community can do, but also there's things we want to put forth ... that the city, MARTA and APD can do," said Everette Thompson of the Solutions not Punishment Coalition, or SNaP Co, ahead of a Tuesday night forum at the Philip Rush Center in Candler Park attended by about 70 people.
Crosby and friend Tyra Woods were victims of an attack captured on cell phone video on May 20 on a MARTA train. SNaP Co, which fights for street-level survival sex workers, with special attention to transgender persons caught in the business, called the MARTA attack a "horrifying display of transphobia and violence."
MARTA Police made no arrests on the scene but have since arrested two men and charged them with disorderly conduct. They've also been suspended from the transit system.
SNaP Co is specifically agitating against any kind of long jail sentence if the charged men are found guilty, preferring restorative justice. Discussion on Tuesday night centered more on how to make all Atlantans, especially transgender persons, feel assured of professional policing and simply welcome in the city and on the train.
"Rather than picking up the cell phone and videotaping it for Worldstar, what can we do?" said Simaya Fogle of Atlanta, one of the attendees at the forum. She and others suggested trans and non-trans solidarity, via a campaign, or training for people who want to help - but don't know how - when they see anti-trans harassment.
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"While I think it's important that we talk about the individuals who were attacked," she said, the alleged attackers "were not raised in a vacuum. There are societal issues that I feel like need to be addressed."
Thompson said "this didn't start with Janell and Tyra being attacked ... there's been this history of Atlanta not being as welcoming to transgender and gender nonconforming persons."
Crosby and Woods have since left town, contacts at the SNaP forum reported, feeling unsafe, poorly treated by MARTA, and nervous that they themselves could be arrested.
MARTA Police Deputy Chief Joseph Dorsey said at the meeting that there is no warrant for Crosby or Woods. "They're victims in this incident," he said.
But overall, said Thompson, "I think there is a stereotype, there's prejudice around folks that don't fit within a box or who don't look the way society says."
There's some security nervousness in the trans community and wariness of the police, said Thompson. He outlined why he thinks that's so.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming people, especially if they are also black or brown, he said, are more likely than most to face employment and housing discrimination.
"There are not even shelters that allow trans people," said Thompson.
That helps contribute to a downward spiral which for too many ends in survival sex work: the dangerous and low-paid job of street corner prostitution. Then if there's an arrest, the cycle gets more deeply embedded.
For a fix, he points to cities like Seattle. There, when police see a loiterer or suspected sex worker, they are trained to ask if the person needs help or a place to stay rather than place them under arrest.