Monday, May 25, 2009

Trans Women Can Pee At Denny’s In Peace

image On October 25, 2007,  Brianna Freeman of Lewiston was informed by Denny’s that she no longer had the right to use the women’s bathroom after a woman complained and threatened to call the police.   She called Brianna “a man,” though she was clearly dressed and behaving as a woman.  In a bid to placate cis bigotry, Denny’s informed Brianna that despite her long patronage she would not be permitted to use the woman’s bathroom until she had completed sex reassignment surgery.  Feeling that this was patently unfair, Ms. Freeman took this issue to The Maine Human Rights Commission.

In their defence of what is clearly obvious bigotry they employed trans panic.

The incident in question happened on Oct. 25, 2007, when Brianna Freeman of Lewiston – formerly known as (male name redacted)  - used a locked stall in the ladies room while "dressed clearly" as a woman, according to the investigator's report.

Another customer complained to the manager about sharing a public restroom with a man, said attorney Chad Cloutier, who represents the Rockport company Realty Resources Hospitality LLC.

"The customer was very upset, was irate, had threatened to call police," he said. "A few days later, management decided that it would be in the best interest of Denny's to ask the customer to use the men's room until sex reassignment surgery."

Freeman was a regular customer of the restaurant. After being banned from the ladies room, Freeman filed a complaint with the commission on April 17, 2008.

Cloutier argued to the commission that a discrimination decision would require that Maine businesses essentially decide whether a person is transgender or if they might want to use a particular restroom or locker room for purposes of "sexual perversion."

Making this accommodation is a violation of a woman's right to privacy, he said in a press release, as well as a "significant risk to the health and safety of [the restaurant's] customers, particularly children."

"It's almost an untenable position for businesses," he said. "It really is a slippery slope. This claimant may be perfectly safe and use the bathroom in a perfectly normal way, but what's to prevent a person of some devious intent ... the right not to share a bathroom?"

In a 3-2 decision the commission ruled in Ms. Freemans favour.  Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, told the Bangor Daily News it wouldn’t be safe for Freeman to use the men’s room. 

I believe the point about safety is particularly salient.  Though cis bigots attempt to position trans people in public bathrooms as a threat, clearly it is Ms. Freeman who would be in danger if she entered a mans bathroom.  Trans people have been using the appropriate bathroom since Christine Jorgenson had her surgery and I have yet to hear of any incident in which someone lost their mind and became violent or abusive.

image is what dominant bodies use to justify their bigotry, however what they fail to admit is that what they truly fear is a loss of undeserved privilege.  Clearly upon examination of criminal behaviour it is the trans person that has more to fear than the cisgendered body.   Though not specifically about trans issues Kravitz explores social fear in the song below:

Conditioning to hate and them to blame
Their search for God is just the same
Machines for hearts, how warped a view
Forgetting that they're human too
Waiting like a branded steer
Who first will launch the burning spear
When every day may be your last
You think we'd learn from our past

It very much reminds me of the white panic that is used to justify the systemic racism that has become socially normalized.  POC are constructed as a threat to safety and therefore it is understood as acceptable for Whiteness to establish and maintain social inequities.   Consider once again that when we examine the history of violence that it is POC who should live in fear and not Whiteness.  The false fear meme is repeated with the same props held out as extremely vulnerable.

When interracial marriage was first becoming an issue, it was the children that were constructed as facing danger.  Today as cis bigots attempt to deny trans rights, children are once again being operationalized to represent a group that supposedly face danger.  Using children in this way is particularly disgusting in that they function as a tool of convenience in a society that has proven repeatedly to care very little for their well being.   When they can be used to maintain privilege,  we suddenly care about their well being, however when it comes to their education, or right to be free of violence, and even health suddenly their rights or needs are irrelevant.

Cisgender bigots want the right to discriminate because it allows an expression of oppressive power.  A trans person in a stall using a bathroom poses no threat. This is no different than forcing people of color to use separate drinking fountains.   We have been down the road of social exclusion and bigotry countless times and each time we fail to accept the concept of basic equality and shared humanity.  I am thankful that Ms.Freeman won her case, however she never should have been placed in a position where she was forced to resort to The Maine Human Rights Commission in the first place.

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