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.