Ultimately, no, but I believe it’s a mistake to underestimate the power of violence. A year later the tell-tale neon signs of the power of violence are more than obvious in the life of Chrissy Polis, forever to be known as the transwoman severely beaten in that Maryland McDonald’s. What is not so obvious is the power of that same outrageous and gratuitous act of violence in my life.
I’ve been living as Denise now for almost a year. Nobody outside the parts of family that still can’t comprehend me as a woman ever refers to me as anything other than the woman Denise. This last Sunday morning marked my return to the pulpit and public speaking after being gone about 13 years and as Denise. I was at a middle school choir concert last night with hundreds of other parents as Denise. Another parent a few chairs down called out, “Hey, Denise!” I waved back. Nobody else paid any attention.
And yet every time I consider using gender specific restrooms in a fast food restaurant, I consider, if only for a moment, whether it’s safe, whether I can get by with waiting. I’ve never been assaulted verbally or physically. I’ve never been accosted by security or management. I seldom get any dirty looks. But the power of violent hate is so great that even when I’m not the target of that kind of violence, the thought still occurs – is this something I really need to do?
I’m not going to stop using female restrooms. I’m there for the same reason as every other woman. When you got to go, you got to go. And sometimes I need a mirror; there’s no such thing as lipstick that stands up to a cup of black coffee that I have ever seen! But I’d like others to know that violent acts of hate based on gender identity, sexual orientation or gender itself (as in rape) echo around in minds and spirits for a very long time and they are intended to do that.