US transphobe barbarity: UK law

A quick heads up on a truly disturbing incident in the US – and one which underscores the fact that I am unlikely to be leaving this country for a while yet.

The incident involves a woman being hauled out of a McDonalds restroom by two other women and being savagely beaten until she had a seizure, whilst employees not only just stood by.. . but filmed the incident.

Utterly, utterly beyond belief.

The word in various circles is that the victim was a trans woman. Doesn’t much matter one way or the other since it appears that the attackers believed her to be and that was a reason given for their attack.

Where in the world is safe?

Out-takes? First, my non-travelling: here in the UK we are very well served by the fact that current legislation pretty much means that a trans woman (or man) has the right to access gender appropriate facilities. Since starting to transition, I have never once gone back to male facilities both because that would feel wrong and…well, I would feel infinitely less safe in them. Same whether you’re talking loos or changing.

I know that I am mostly OK being out and about in public and going to the loo. I don’t have the first idea about how the law and culture work overseas. I don’t know whether I would be breaking the law in various countries if I dared to use the “wrong” loo – and I wouldn’t be aware, possibly until too late, if I was walking into a cultural hornet’s nest.

I understand from all I read that the US is far harsher in its treatment of trans persons using toilet facilities. So until I start to read otherwise, that’s the US out for me. But I don’t know how Europe treats us either.

I know that France is in theory good on trans issues, in practice quite transphobic. What happens if I am out in Paris and need a loo? Do I get to go to one with no questions asked? Or do I face abuse and possible arrest? Awful.

Do we need legal protection?

Second, I see from some of the comment on the thread I linked to above that various posters are claiming that an equality law would not have stopped this. Well, there’s some truth in that: if someone wants to hit you (or rape you, or kill you) I suspect that having a law on the books saying “don’t: that’s transphobic” would not do much to stop them.

But this misses the point almost entirely. In the past year I have had one or two raised eyebrows and a couple of women checking with the management as to whether I had the right to be in the women’s facilities. The fact that the answer back has been an unequivocal “yes” instantly protects me from the vigilantes who might then decide to have a go because I’m “not allowed”.

Equally, I have had one nasty incident in the last 12 months, when a guy decided to do his public bit and “protect” women by barring me from the women’s changing rooms at my local leisure centre. His argument? If I went in, he’d hit me. That’s pretty straightforward and I went along with him to talk to the centre management.

They have since agreed, with no quibble, my absolute right to use those facilities. The police were informed and they had words with the guy: explained he was lucky he wasn’t being arrested and charged.

This has two results. First, my confidence, temporarily dented, has been quickly restored: imagine a different outcome where the centre was equivocal and actively hostile and the police weren’t on my side. Yuk!

Second, the word will have gone round. He may disagree with the law, but I expect he will have told his mates and sure: nothing will stop the gung-ho, the idiots. But any who might have been borderline about whether to intervene now know better.

This incident shows as well as, better than, any intellectual argument why some rights need protecting.

jane
xx

About janefae

On my way from here to there
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to US transphobe barbarity: UK law

  1. Helen Wilson says:

    This story in my local paper brings home the reality of if a man wants to go into the woman’s toilets he will do. What he wont do is dress as a woman as so many fundie religionists or rad fems claim.

    http://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/local/cubicle_man_may_have_screw_loos_1_2613663

  2. anderson666 says:

    This of course is another horrid case of a trans person, or someone perceived as a trans person being attacked in a McDonalds… of course it doesn’t matter who is attacked, it’s horrid and disgusting, and even more disgusting that no-one really makes a hard enough attempt to stop it, and to film it happening…. there are no words for this…

    It does highlight though that in the US for trans people going to the restroom is something they have to fight for the fundamental rights just to be able to do… is it media that’s the key to this happening… i don’t feel it is in the traditional sense, but i think we need to look at some of the homophobic stuff that is inherent in the rapping area of music…

    i also feel there is still a huge wealth of misunderstanding due to belief and upbringing, positive media will help in the future, widespread condemnation and outcry is needed and I’m sure we will hear the likes of the president making a statement on this, but a clear message to Mcdonalds is needed too, and this can be so demonstrated by hitting them in the pocket… that’s where they learn the fastest…

  3. Natacha says:

    I was utterly shocked at seeing this sickening video as well, and TBH the US looks like it won’t be seeing me anytime soon.

    I have had no problems in France (well Paris) nor Germany, Holland, Denmark, Spain, Japan and Sweden in terms of using the loos, so I wouldn’t be too discouraged about travelling. In fact I would be more concerned about many parts of the UK than these countries.

  4. Martha says:

    thank you Jane and Natacha, this is something that has been of concern to many of us. I thought that looking up the ledislation for each state would be enough but it seems not:

    Lamda Legal can only offer this:

    “Some cities and counties have dated ordinances that purport to ban people from using public restroom facilities “designated for the opposite sex.” These ordinances are the exception rather than the rule, and — where they do exist — are rarely enforced. But biased law enforcement officers have occasionally sought to use these ordinances against transgender people. Other jurisdictions have sought to prosecute transgender people for “trespassing” in a restroom. While it is appropriate for transgender people to use restrooms that match their gender identity, remember to prioritize your own safety and be aware of the possibility of police harassment. If you are arrested or cited due to public restroom usage, contact Lambda Legal right away”

    http://www.lambdalegal.org/our-work/publications/facts-backgrounds/nothing-but-the-truth.html

    I think as in other areas, local knowledge (ask the person you are visiting before travelling) will be the best guide.

    Happy and safe travelling all!

  5. Martha says:

    thank you Jane and Natacha, this is something that has been of concern to many of us. I had thought that looking up the legislation for each state would be enough but it seems not:

    Lambda Legal can only offer this:

    “Some cities and counties have dated ordinances that purport to ban people from using public restroom facilities “designated for the opposite sex.” These ordinances are the exception rather than the rule, and — where they do exist — are rarely enforced. But biased law enforcement officers have occasionally sought to use these ordinances against transgender people. Other jurisdictions have sought to prosecute transgender people for “trespassing” in a restroom. While it is appropriate for transgender people to use restrooms that match their gender identity, remember to prioritize your own safety and be aware of the possibility of police harassment. If you are arrested or cited due to public restroom usage, contact Lambda Legal right away”

    http://www.lambdalegal.org/our-work/publications/facts-backgrounds/nothing-but-the-truth.html

    I think as in other areas, local knowledge (ask the person you are visiting before travelling) will be the best guide.

    Happy and safe travelling all!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s