It’s not often I run across a news story (or a film or book) that captures my experiences in the Land of the Free.
Khadijah Farmer, a New York City lesbian, stopped to eat with two friends, during NYC’s LBGT Pride celebration in June of this year. The restaurant, the Caliente Cab Company, physically ejected Farmer for using the women’s room, even though she offered to show her ID which proved she was female. Through Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, she filed a lawsuit this week.
More than once I’ve been warned that I was in the women’s room, as if I had made a mistake. I suspect my tiny physique and mirthful reaction convinces an accuser of her error, despite my short hair and sensible shoes.
Most women become contrite and apologetic when they realize their mistake. A few times, though, someone has become hostile and condescending, as if there is something wrong with me because I’m not femme enough for her. I keep things light by replying, “The world is amazingly diverse, isn’t it?”
I can easily imagine the public humiliation that Khadijah Farmer felt, as the bouncer pounded on her locked stall door. I mean, really, was the guy on drugs, or did he forget to take his drugs that day? What an overreaction. I hope the Caliente Cab Company restaurant fires the bouncer, issues a public apology and pays Farmer a substantial sum. Humiliation isn’t free.
Being physically ejected from a bathroom stall for not dressing according to someone else’s standards of role attire, is not that far away from hanging a noose outside your office for not having the right skin color. Undoubtedly, the latter is a bit more frightening given recent eruptions of US racial tension. Since Farmer is black, and the bouncer refused to look at her proffered ID indicating she is female, it’s easy to suspect that race was an issue as well.
Few of us can forget the murder of Matthew Shepard or Brandon Tina. Recently, John Aravosis complained that gays, lesbians and bisexuals have to include transgender or transsexual (“T”) people in our political movement for equality. He fails to grasp that 1) we’re all equally viewed with derision by our enemies, thus equally subject to violence and discrimination; and 2) united we stand.
Farmer’s case highlights another point Aravosis misses: Farmer is not transgendered, yet suffered from T-discrimination. Her case raises the T discussion to a legal level, which Avavosis is well advised to follow. Part 2 of the Gay USA interview includes a lucid discussion of sex, gender, and role discrimination, showing how this type of discrimination impacts straight women as well. In Part 3, Michael Silverman of www.transgenderlegal.org explains more of the legal issues behind the action filed on Farmer’s behalf.
As one blogger wrote, “Effeminate gay men and ‘butch’ lesbians are subjected to anti-transgender bigotry as well as anti-gay bigotry. For many in our country, 'transgender' is equal to 'gay,' and there's little distinction when it comes to hate.” At this same blog site, someone else writes, “ALL lesbians, gays and bisexuals are engaged in transgender behavior.”
While Aravosis would further alienate sexual radicals from each other, Khadijah Farmer shows how that is not even possible in a world that deems some of us too butch to pee in public restrooms.