Alex Blaze

Trans woman assaulted on Black Friday

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 05, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Akasha Adonis, Black Friday, id, Jackson, kohl's, Tennessee, transgender, transsexual

The Tennessee Equality Project is reporting that a woman, Akasha Adonis, was assaulted during a fight at a Kohl's in Jackson, Tennessee, before the store opened on the day after Thanksgiving. She lost three teeth and her jaw was broken. When police showed up and saw that the gender of the name on her ID didn't match her appearance, they got rude and dismissive. She's stuck with $6000 in medical bills.

Akasha.jpgThe TEP has a more detailed report. The details about what started the scuffle are unclear (and without everyone's side of the story available it makes sense not to try the assailant in the press considering there are already conflicting narratives about what started the fight), but the police department's actions seem fairly clear. They didn't consider Adonis's injury serious even though she lost three teeth and had to go to the hospital, the officer's report omitted a witness's statement, the police haven't even asked Kohl's yet for the video surveillance tape, and they haven't done anything to find the assailant.

To literally add insult to injury, the police report misgendered Adonis and a Kohl's employee referred to her as "he/she/it" on Facebook.

Honestly I think it's too easy for the first part of this story, the assault(s), to be written off as just Black Friday craziness, people getting too excited about savings and that excitement turning ugly.

kohls-evil.jpgIt's hard to imagine what they were getting so excited about at Kohl's, and how that excitement and greed could turn violent. Adonis and the others in the dispute weren't waiting in line for free stuff or great stuff. They were waiting there to pay slightly lower prices on already overpriced stuff in a store that changes prices and "sales" often enough to keep people confused about what everything is really worth.

Not only are the people waiting in a state of either confusion or misinformation, they place enough value on the act of consumption that they get greedy for the ability to shop more. It's something more than greed that makes people fight to give someone else their money.

I'm not reproaching the people involved for showing up early to buy stuff or for going to those sorts of stores. In fact, I was actually at a Kohl's when it opened on Black Friday too, but was then reminded that the store is already seriously overpriced for what it is and left without anything, and ended up waiting in line at Best Buy. So while I have almost eliminated the amount of time I spend in chain stores other than my local grocery store, I'm not too far away from this myself.

But where's the reminder to people that they're just waiting there to save a few dollars? I don't think people are as shitty as they get portrayed every Black Friday and most people remember their humanity and not to take it all that seriously. But the environment has been created to promote greed and confusion, when combined with excitement and anxiety, can produce bad behavior.

So, yeah, I hope Adonis sues the police (she's already filed a complaint), but Kohl's can't be let off the hook either. While these sorts of stores have been adding security agents right and left, no one showed up to break up this fight. They didn't call an ambulance either, and when the story started being discussed one of their employees responded with transphobia. Most importantly, through complex, sophisticated, and well-researched techniques, the manipulated people to behave the way they did in the first place. If corporations want that kind of power they should at least be held responsible for when their little mind games turn ugly.

And, of course, they should find the alleged assailant(s). But it's unlikely that they'll get them now, this long after the fact, especially considering that getting the police to care at all about this crime has been like pulling teeth.


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The news about Kohl's being involved in transphobia is interesting. When I first started transitioning, I had several painful interactions with staff at Kohl's, ranging from hostile stares at checkout up through being chased from the women's part of the store multiple times. This mostly happened at the store east of I-69 on 96th Street in Indianapolis, but also at the one on 82nd Street across from the Fashion Mall.

I never encountered helpful, considerate, kind, or even professional staff at the stores I mentioned above (actually, I always hated shopping at Kohl's even in the past because I disliked their staff and their selection). Perhaps others have had better experiences at other stores, I dunno. All I know is that I won't buy anything from Kohl's, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else, either.

FWIW, I had a lot of the same issues at Macy's at Castleton Mall. Penney's on the other hand, has always been awesome!

@Carol I think that your story only exemplifies the dramatic regional differences of intolerance toward transgender people. I live in Champaign, Illinois -- only two hours from Indianapolis -- and we have a thriving, diverse community.

I shop at Kohls frequently and the staff are both welcoming and inviting, notwithstanding my overtly gender variant ways. Last time I visited Kohls, a female attendant stopped me and asked if I would be interested in seeing a new women's clothing line. She showed me some skinny jeans that she said would be very flattering on my figure, and would save me a great deal of money over another name brand. I also recall a couple of times when cashiers went out of their way to compliment me on how attractive my outfit was. I've also had positive experiences at Bebe Sport, Famous Barr, and Wet Seal. In fact, they have no qualms with me using their women's dressing room either.

So it's not fair to pinpoint an entire chain store as being the problem. There are many different factors that come into play. (It would almost be as counterproductive as presuming that an entire race of people are irredeemably bad, because of the actions of a certain few.)

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!

"So it's not fair to pinpoint an entire chain store as being the problem. There are many different factors that come into play. (It would almost be as counterproductive as presuming that an entire race of people are irredeemably bad, because of the actions of a certain few.)"

I'm not too comfortable with the idea of comparing harsh judgement of a chain of stores to racism.

That is fair enough. I should rephrase then that it is more productive to place the onus on those who are culpable. Believing that all Kohls stores are suddenly transphobic is an extraordinary reactive response (particularly given their cooperation in the investigation) and does not benefit the victim or the transgender community. It sounds to me more like a regional tolerance issue that should be addressed. Remember businesses are not autonomous. They consist of everyday human beings, who are fallible.

--Randall

This is an extremely messed-up case -- much luck to Ms. Adonis and her mother.

There is an online petition at Change.org, if any of you are into those things (I'm still not sure if they do much good myself).

I think I should warn you, though, that the transphobes have found the TEP post, so the comment section is quickly devolving into the usual ignorant garbage.

Working in a chain retail store, I can say with certainty that these corporations are all fairly evil. I get a little sick to my stomach every time I have to try to pressure someone into signing up for a credit card with a 25% interest rate as part of keeping my job.

Regan DuCasse | December 5, 2010 5:16 PM

I don't know what to think sometimes about people getting THIS nuts over ANYTHING in any kind of store!
They are THINGS, not PEOPLE. There is no one's safety or life worth this.

As for the neglect of the local police, it's a disgrace and a dereliction of duty. ANY innocent human being that is assaulted with injuries THAT serious, the police are OBLIGATED to take care of a victim.
This IS like Jim Crow all over again, where knowing who to trust and who would do their duty in uniform, was impossible.
A lawsuit is valid in this case. And if anyone with a prejudice against the LGBT community over LITIGATION or hate crimes: this is exactly the point.

Hate crimes laws aren't about just the PERPETRATORS.
The hate can go right up the chain of law enforcement and justice too. If a peace officer, judge, juror or investigator hates or has prejudice, then justice can easily be denied a victim of ANY crime. And for those charged with justice, they too should be concerned that justice is rightfully applied.

I hope Ms. Adonis gets some compensation for this. She deserves it.

Sounds like yet another police force needs some diversity training. I hope she has the perseverance to see the complaint through to the end, enduring likely yet another victimization via the general police propensity to back each other up with no regard for the truth in the face of a civilian complaint.

I believe the important message here is that a transgender individual was a victim of neglect by the local police department. While I appreciate your negative fixation with Kohls, it is also one of the few department stores I still frequent -- simply because of their quality of service in consideration of my gender identity.

I agree that the onus was on the Kohls' staff to respond to the assault. However, there is no credible indication that their lack of attention was indicative of insensitivity toward the victim on the basis of gender identity. (Adding to the reports, the company has been fully cooperative with the ensuing investigation.) So that perspective may very well be overblown and not even relevant to the circumstances.

I realize that people rarely if ever talk about (or want to talk about) how the legal system does enact swift justice, but I frequently get stares of awe and amazment when I tell people my story because the daily news is always so quick to feed us the negative spin for these types of crimes.

I was assaulted and battered last August in a public park. Needless to say, all of the witnesses ignored my cries for help, and continued on their way laughing snidely at my predicament -- limping and screaming, with clothes torn and glasses broken.

My friend, however, ran to a pay phone for help. The police responded with the utmost of urgency and professionalism despite my openly claiming to be transgender. During the initial interview, the officer asked "Please don't take this offensively, but I am required by law to ask if you are out here working for money." Even before letting me go, he asked what had been broken or stolen for the record. I showed him my little black purse with the torn strap, and he said "Don't worry, I think I can get that all fixed up for you." Then he searched his belt for a small pliers, and mended it right there on the spot, insisting that the other officer hold the flashlight still so that he wouldn't make any mistakes. Then before letting me leave, he asked whether I would be alright. He was clearly concerned about my morale.

Within a matter of hours, I got a call at home from the police officer notifying me that they were taking the suspect into custody, and asking me to verify several details of the report. The suspect was then placed in jail and charged with committing a hate crime. The case went to court within a matter of just five months -- which is very atypical for an aggravated battery case in the state of Illinois. In fact, there was no need for a trial because the defendant pled guilty and was convicted of a felony. He was then sentenced to jail time and ongoing probation, as part of a plea bargain.

The Victims Services department kept me constantly informed about the progress of the case, and during the course of the investigation I even received a call from the Victims Services Director of the States Attorney's Office, who spoke extensively with me to address my ongoing concerns.

I explained the runaround while attempting to submit an Order of Protection with the Circuit Clerk and the Sheriff's office (NB: victims of hate crimes are not entitled to court mandated no-contact). She expressed her greatest sympathies for the shortcomings of the legal system and offered advice on becoming more involved politically and to use my experience to advocate for new laws in Illinois to protect victims of hate crimes similar to mine.

She even suggested that I petition the court for an Order of Protection, knowing that it would be denied -- simply to empower myself in the process. I did so, and showed up in court for the hearing. I submitted my statement, and the judge explained with unwavering professionalism the law of the State of Illinois as it stands. He didn't dismiss my concerns nor did he treat me unjustly compared to anybody else in the courtroom.

Even after the criminal case itself finally went to court in January, one of the Victims Services counselors offered to sit down and speak with me about all of the details of the case including my rights as a victim, and provided me with resources to keep informed. Surprisingly, throughout this entire ordeal, the only intolerance I continued to experience was from everyday encounters in public places.

So, all in all, I think it is important to realize that we can use positivity to promote change. While I certainly empathize with Akasha and her family for this terrible experience and wish her well in her fight for justice, I hope that we can also remember that there are success stories in the transgender community that can empower us as well.

--Randall

Harley Duryea | December 11, 2010 1:45 PM

Not only will I boycott Kohl's about this, I am spreading the word to everyone I know and urging them to do the same