What is shocking versus what is invisible: Chrishaun McDonald, racism and transphobia
In the early morning of June 5th, a young trans woman of color named Chrishaun McDonald and her friends walked by the Schooner Tavern at the busy intersection of 27th and Lake in Minneapolis. A white, older bar patron named Dean Schmitz stood at the door of the Schooner. According to McDonald's roommate, Schmitz started harassing McDonald, shouting, " Did you think you were going to rape somebody in those girl clothes?" and adding racial slurs. What happened next is unclear. Minutes later, Schmitz was dead and McDonald was in custody. The Star Tribune writes that according to McDonald, Schmitz attacked her and ran into a pair of scissors that she held in self-defense.
Now, in prison, Chrishaun is being held in solitary on a charge of second degree murder. The trans rights advocate who has been trying to meet with her has been turned away repeatedly. She is being charged as the wrong gender and media coverage describes her as a "man". News from the jail suggests harassment and abuse. And let's not kid ourselves - we're looking at a court system where the deck is stacked against trans people, working class people and people of color.
A representative of the Trans Youth Support Network (TYSN) lays out the situation: "The attack on Chrishaun included racist, transphobic, and anti-feminine verbal assaults. These verbal assaults are extensions of the violent machine works of our society that are built upon capitalist exploitation of people of color, poor people, and feminine presenting people. Because she is poor, accessing a competent lawyer was difficult. Without the support of her friends and community, she would have been left with a Public Defender who may not have understood or supported her experiences as a trans woman, as is frequently the case for incarcerated gender non-conforming people. In addition, she is not able to meet her $150,000 bail. Had Chrishaun been able to access bail money, she would have had that much more contact with her family, friends, and community supporters. She is without the freedom to organize support for herself because she's in the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility."
This case is a moment of decision - if we're queer, then it's a moment of decision as queers, if white then as white people, if allies then as allies. Do we close our eyes and say "at least it's not happening to me and I hope it never does" or do we get real about the system that put Chrishaun where she is?