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NYC Police Arrest Transgender Man for Using Men's Restroom
February 5, 2002 8:39 AM   Subscribe

NYC Police Arrest Transgender Man for Using Men's Restroom The first link is just a post-arrest picture of riot cops and protestors. Read the story here.
posted by SuperGoat (32 comments total)

 
If he looks like a man, acts like a man, and isn't making a production number out of using the men's bathroom, I can't imagine why the cops would bother. There have got to be a million better things to watch out for in New York than whether somebody has the appropriate wee-wee for a particular bathroom. Sounds like this particular officer was looking for somebody to give a hard time.

I am somewhat amused at the victim's double standard, though. He seems annoyed that he was put in the women's holding cell (so far, consistent) but later:

"Had I had "M" on my ID in this situation, I could have shown it to the officer. However, I might still be arrested, and then I would have faced the possibility of being housed with a male population in jail. Would this have been safe? I tend to think it would not."

There's two flavors here, you can be a guy, or you can be a chick, but you can't be either one, depending on the convenience.
posted by headspace at 8:55 AM on February 5, 2002


Sprry, but a
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:01 AM on February 5, 2002


Sorry, but although I'm sympathetic, but he violated the first rule of police contact: do what they ask, as long as its within their right to ask. A cop asking for ID is perfectly legal and a little politeness—rather than trying to flee—would have been called for here. I should add that a woman in the men's room at Grand Central is likely to be a hooker turning tricks or servicing a john, as he should have known.

My response to this and many stories like it is, Who, exactly, was spoiling for a fight?

[Something weird going on here with posting: several of my previews had corrupted characters, and then I get a partial comment above.]
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:03 AM on February 5, 2002


From the person's own account, the police officer only hauled her in because she wouldn't show her id. Like headspace said, if you're dressed as a woman than you should use the woman's bathroom. Also, if a cop wants to see your id, you give it to them. Simple, no?
I also get the feeling that this account doesn't go into the real reason that the situation even started.
posted by hummus at 9:06 AM on February 5, 2002


First off, he wasn't dressed as a woman.
And I have no idea how this started, though from knowing a lot about the history of police treatment of trans-humans in the United States, I can see why he would be apprehensive about a cop following him into the bathroom and then asking to see his I.D.
posted by SuperGoat at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2002


SuperGoat:I can see why he would be apprehensive about a cop following him into the bathroom and then asking to see his I.D.

In Grand Central Station? I don't see it, so please share.

Like other posters, I'm certainly sympathetic, but suspicious ...
posted by magullo at 9:25 AM on February 5, 2002


again, the confused little Leftists at the WEF looking for something, ANYTHING, to protest. They all happened to be around Grand Central, so, hey! Let's cause a disturbance, get the police to come, act like a total bitch when politely confronted, and then scream "Come see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"...

Great.

It would be nice to have an actual journalistic account of what happened instead of Indymedia and a link to someone's Livejournal entry. Considering Indymedia a news source is like turning to the Freepers for their insightful reportage about the issue of gay adoption rights. They are both in the same stiflingly insular dustbin.

Trans-humans? Dear Lord, I never thought I would see the day when being a securely masculine gay man would be considered positively reactionary.
posted by evanizer at 9:25 AM on February 5, 2002


headspace, in response to (your response to) this quote:

"Had I had "M" on my ID in this situation, I could have shown it to the officer. However, I might still be arrested, and then I would have faced the possibility of being housed with a male population in jail. Would this have been safe? I tend to think it would not."

I agree with you, though I tend to think that it's not so much a double-standard, but a fact of life for many trans people. Basically, he feels that he is a man, but also realizes that if he is "found out" to be biologically female, men may get upset - maybe moreso with men in prison. Also, being thrown into jail with women would be hard, because if he doesn't see himself as a woman and doesn't look like a woman, the women probably don't want him in their cell.
It's just a double-edged sword. He gets cut either way.
posted by SuperGoat at 9:26 AM on February 5, 2002


All right, SuperGoat, propose a solution. Dean obviously isn't all that real, or the cop wouldn't have noticed her at all. Most men don't want women watching them pee; heck, I'm from Chelsea and Provincetown and pretty used to fuzzy gender boundaries and I still find it disconcerting.

Should the city provide a third bathroom for those of ambiguous sex? If they did, would Dean use it? Should there be special prison blocks for those who'd be unsafe in one wing due to other prisoners' confusion about their sex and unhappy in the other due to their own?

It seems that Dean puts how she sees herself before how she is seen in a way that makes no accomodation for others' feelings, which is criminally rude. I am a 6'3" 200 lb. man, and I think I would not be welcome there, but if I see myself as a woman, may I use the ladies' room?

(Sorry about the pronoun, but I read that whole story assuming Dean had a weenie and wanted to be clearer. And "transhuman"? That's just goofy.)
posted by nicwolff at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2002


Headspace: About the man's double standard. His fear of being put into a men's holding cell isn't about convenience; it's about safety. A men's holding cell is a violent and terrifying place for an anatomical female living as a man. And in a system so obviously insensitive to trans issues (as illustrated by the man's arrest), he most definitely could not have depended on guards to keep him safe.

MoNickels: Yes, a cop does have a legal right to ask a person for ID, but unless an individual is driving a car, he has no legal responsibility to show ID (we're not in such a severe police state yet). I never plan to be asked to show ID simply for attempting to use a public restroom. If I ever were, it would scare the hell out of me, as this man was scared, and I'm not sure how I would react.

Evanizer: I too would like to see a mainstream news article on this arrest. But you and I both know that it won't happen. Also, I too am a secure relatively masculine gay male. That doesn't make me positively reactionary, nor does it make you reactionary. Your denial of basic rights to trans citizens of the US *does* make you reactionary... just as Jerry Falwell would deny you your rights.

Trans people live in a great deal of fear every day based solely on this kind of behavior. Each day they make difficult decisions based on the fact that they need to pee, change their gym shorts, fill out applications, etc. Dean's reaction to the cop was not only understandable, but I am thankful that he didn't simply cooperate with an insensitive cop's attempt to impose unnecessary order.
posted by kevin-o at 10:11 AM on February 5, 2002


nicwolff and evanizer - I should have clarified. When I said "trans-human," that was my own phrase. I should have said "trans-people" (or "transgender people"). I tend to over-use the word "human" and definitely didn't mean it in the context of that website (the one that nicwolff linked to).
I don't have a solution to the restroom issue. All I can say is that I would not be bothered by a (male to female) transgender woman using the women's restroom (which is the restroom that I use). But that's just me.
posted by SuperGoat at 10:50 AM on February 5, 2002


evanizer: Trans-humans? Dear Lord, I never thought I would see the day when being a securely masculine gay man would be considered positively reactionary.

I wish that being a member of a somewhat oppressed minority would help people understand what it’s like to be a member of an even more oppressed minority, but apparently not.

I would use the term ‘trans-people’ or somesuch to avoid the existing meaning of ‘transhuman.’
posted by Firefly at 10:51 AM on February 5, 2002


After reading all of the above, and the linked article, I'm still not absolutely clear about the biological sex of the individual in question (some of you call the person "he", some "she.") But if the person has XX chromosomes and a vagina then that person has no business in the mens' bathroom -- and it doesn't make one tiny bit of difference how she "feels" about herself. She goes into the mens' room, she should get busted exactly as I should get busted if I put on a dress and went into the womens' room to watch the chicks hike up their dresses.
posted by jfuller at 10:58 AM on February 5, 2002


jfuller: She goes into the mens' room, she should get busted exactly as I should get busted if I put on a dress and went into the womens' room to watch the chicks hike up their dresses.

Despite your less than honourable intentions when using the ‘wrong’ bathroom, there are some people who use it for good reason. Often, a requirement of trans therapy is to live as the desired gender for a long period of time, and one part of life with one gender is to use that gender’s bathroom.

Sexual attraction is a non-issue, otherwise I, generally considering myself a gay male, should not be allowed in the men’s bathroom. (Even though I’m loathe to look at the units of most of the men I see in bathrooms.)
posted by Firefly at 11:03 AM on February 5, 2002


You know what? I'm thinking that a men's holding cell can be a violent and terrifying place for small, physically unimposing men, too. Joe Blow Milquetoast who got picked up on an unpaid parking citation probably is, and feels, just as unsafe as untransitioned transgender man in the same holding cell.

Every decision we make in life has consequences, and sometimes the consequences aren't all that pretty. This person felt he was a man, and has decided to live his life as such. He wants to wear men's clothing, use the men's restroom, and generally be regarded as a man- such is his right. However, he can't pick and choose when he is a man for convenience, even if that convenience is his personal safety.

As a woman, I know that I can't expect to be safe if I walk down a city street alone in the middle of the night. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. I have to decide whether my right to go and be anywhere I want is more important than my safety. This guy has an absolute right to live as a man (and, as far as I'm concerned, should have been left the hell alone and been allowed to pee,) but he also has an obligation to live with all the consequences of that decision, including the unpleasant ones.
posted by headspace at 11:27 AM on February 5, 2002


jfuller: the issue is that because the way this individual chooses to dress and to present himself conflicts with the ways in which society would require him to dress and present himself, he is not allowed to comfortably use either bathroom. If he is a convincing man, he will be refused admittance to the women's restroom. If he is not convincing, then he will be arrested.
posted by kevin-o at 11:30 AM on February 5, 2002


> Often, a requirement of trans therapy is to live as the
> desired gender for a long period of time, and one part of
> life with one gender is to use that gender’s bathroom.

If that's a requirement of trans therapy, then there's the end of trans therapy right there. What a silly, self-obsessed phase it was; thank goodness it's hit the dustbin of history (along with self-esteem.)

Higgledy, piggledy,
Heliogabalus
Lurched through the Forum, his
Bottom a-wag,
Vainly pretending to
Gynaecological
Problems beneath his Im-
Perial drag.
posted by jfuller at 11:40 AM on February 5, 2002


Then (insert appropriate personal pronoun here) should go home to use the bathroom, rather than creating a disturbance and upsetting (insert appropriate personal pronoun here)self and everyone else. I agree with Headspace, when you make a choice (and 'trans gender' is a choice, you have to choose and pay to have that surgery)
you need to be prepared to live with it. For a while, I took to wearing an 18th century outfit, complete with frock coat and hose. I got many strange stares and a bit of jocular harassment. But I did not stand and cry "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" I understood that I was violating a social norm of dress and therefore was prepared to suffer the occasional consequences of that action. I cannot expect everyone I meet to accept my standard of sartorial normalcy any more than I should be expected to accept theirs.

And since the bathrooms at Grand Central are crawling with real actual perverts (so much so that the men's room has a warning label on the door), the poor cop probably was just confused, and mistaked him/her for some perv trying to slip into the wrong restroom.
posted by evanizer at 11:53 AM on February 5, 2002


Of course, the whole issue would have been avoided if we didn't have gendered bathrooms. I don't see why we can't have a "urinal room" and a "cubicle room" and let anybody use whatever they feel they should. Oh well, the tradition just runs too deep.
posted by yesster at 12:11 PM on February 5, 2002


If that's a requirement of trans therapy, then there's the end of trans therapy right there. What a silly, self-obsessed phase it was; thank goodness it's hit the dustbin of history

I'm confused and I take it you're not joking. Are you suggesting that transgendered people shouldn't get therapy? What else would you have them do? Just shut up and deal?

And I don't know that I agree with evanizer's comment that "'trans gender' is a choice". I'm sure most transgendered people would much rather they'd either been born the sex with which they identify, or that they identified with the sex genetics gave them. Gender reassignment (isn't that a great term? "Corporal Johnson, you're up for gender reassigment, report to the medic at 0600") is a long, painful process and I think those who have to deal with such things in their lives deserve a bit more understanding and respect.

We don't have much story here to go on, but it certainly doesn't sound like this was some pervert who wanted to watch men pee. S/he was dressed as a man, identified as a man, and likely would have used a stall with a closed door anyway, so what's the problem? As for "if the person has XX chromosomes and a vagina then that person has no business in the mens' bathroom", please. You can only determine the one with a karyotype and the other by seeing for yourself, neither of which is going to be a likely requirement for public washroom use in the near future, so why shouldn't someone who is, for all relevant intents and purposes, a man be allowed to use the men's washroom?

(On preview: yesster, that's a great idea...but where will we have the sekrit meetings then?)
posted by biscotti at 12:51 PM on February 5, 2002


gender is a social construct.
i'm sick of being a woman or a man, sick of being identified either way outright. i want the urinal room and the stall. i want it all to go away. if we get rid of such strict gender roles - people won't have to go to such great lengths to live comfortably in the world as a 'man' or a 'woman'. just because i fit the qualifications of 'woman' and use the woman's bathroom doesn't mean i want to spend three hours in the bathroom and have long hair in some parts and no hair in others. sometimes i feel like the whole trans movement leads to a stricter gender construct.

rant, yes, it all hit a nerve...
posted by goneill at 1:11 PM on February 5, 2002


goneill: sometimes i feel like the whole trans movement leads to a stricter gender construct.

I think it can go either way. All the trans-people I’ve known have treated gender in a really fluid way. My former roomate, an FTM, hardly tried to fit himself into the standard male roles, he just felt more comfortable identifying himself as male.
posted by Firefly at 1:18 PM on February 5, 2002


> Are you suggesting that transgendered people shouldn't
> get therapy?

I wrote, if using the wrong john as a matter of therapy is a requirement of "trans therapy," as the person I quoted (firefly) claimed, then it can't happen. Note the if-then construction.

I don't for a second believe this is a theraputic requirement. Encouraging persons who wish they were a different sex to pretend very hard that they are what they wish they were, and to obtain increasingly elaborate and expensive forms of drag (e.g. surgery, e.g. hormones) to support their impossible fantasies, is not "therapy." It's a scam, exactly like encouraging someone who wants to be Napoleon to pretend he is Napoleon (and of course spend as much money as he possibly can on facial reconstruction, French lessons, Empire costumery -- and therapy fees.) As vast numbers of self-proclaimed therapists know, if you're not part of the solution there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem.


> What else would you have them do? Just shut up and
> deal?

Not at all a bad idea, considering that an individual who wants to be a different sex from what he/she was born is on all fours with a pig who wants wings. As Thoreau said, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Emphasis on "quiet."


> gender is a social construct.

- goneill


"Biology is fate."

- Freud
posted by jfuller at 1:33 PM on February 5, 2002


jfuller: it appears that you are arguing that gender and sex are the same. If so, there’s not much to say, I guess.
posted by Firefly at 1:50 PM on February 5, 2002


ah, the great freud. i don't really want to get into it - but the gist of current definitions is that sex = chromosomes. i am female. definitely. we all have a sex...
then we get the fuzzy grey area of gender. our culture makes us much of what we are genderwize... so there is this cultural 'man' and cultural 'woman' and we conform to one or the other. or we are supposed to conform to one or the other. we are supposed to conform to the following:
xx chromosome = woman = passive
xy chromosome = man = assertive

anyway jfuller - i really can't take credit for the quote - but thanks for thinking of attributing it to me...
posted by goneill at 2:06 PM on February 5, 2002


> it appears that you are arguing that gender and sex are
> the same.

Why no, the two are not identically the same. But biological sex is the center around which gender is the ritual dance; the notion that one can sever the connection between sex and gender is a real howler. And the further implication, where Dr. Feelgood the therapist says it's OK to sever the connection between mental reality and physical reality, is flatly psychotic.


> If so, there’s not much to say, I guess.

Yeah, I agree, it's late and it's probably going to snow or sleet or something, let's fight another day.
posted by jfuller at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2002


Every decision we make in life has consequences, and sometimes the consequences aren't all that pretty. This person felt he was a man, and has decided to live his life as such. He wants to wear men's clothing, use the men's restroom, and generally be regarded as a man- such is his right. However, he can't pick and choose when he is a man for convenience, even if that convenience is his personal safety.

Personal safety is more than a convenience. To be free from assault and to be secure in one's own body is a right. Taunting is one thing, but I don't think that the worry is being teased or called names. A biological female, attempting to pass as a male, put into custody with male prisoners, runs a very high risk of being sexually assaulted, even gang raped. A biological female, attempting to pass as a male, put into custody with female prisoners, runs a very high risk of being mistrusted and taunted, but a low risk of assault. I don't think "Dean" or any F-to-M transgendered person is being unreasonable in wanting to avoid incarceration in a situation which is so highly dangerous to them. Wishing to be safe from sexual violence, regardless of what crimes someone may or may not have committed, seems perfectly sensible, especially for a sexual minority who is, unfortunately, a much bigger target for violence just going about their everyday life.

But biological sex is the center around which gender is the ritual dance; the notion that one can sever the connection between sex and gender is a real howler. And the further implication, where Dr. Feelgood the therapist says it's OK to sever the connection between mental reality and physical reality, is flatly psychotic.

In the case of individuals seeking gender reasignment, the connection between sex and gender is already, inherently lacking. They feel that they are in the wrong body, their mental reality and physical realities are already in diametric opposition to one another. It's not psychosis, it's gender dysphoria. Psychologists recognise it as a legitimate disorder, you might try being equally open-minded, jfuller.
posted by Dreama at 4:35 PM on February 5, 2002


jfuller, that was really big (read manly) of you to get your last word in and then call for a truce. i'm going to say something inflametory, and then dramatically put my hand up and say, "fighting is wrong".

we appreciate your largesse.
posted by goneill at 7:00 PM on February 5, 2002


> "fighting is wrong"

I said no such thing. I said "let's fight another day." Well, here it is another day, take another shot if you like.


> Psychologists recognise it as a legitimate disorder,

Psychologists? What a malleable, silly-putty crowd. Psychologists recognized homosexuality as a legitimate disorder too, not so very long ago. Last week therapy to "fix" homosexuals, this week "trans-gender therapy." It's strictly a case of flavor of the week.



> you might try being equally open-minded, jfuller.

I'm as broadminded as anyone could possibly wish, except where that conflicts with being correct.

I'm going to enjoy stating this very much: psychological disorder is a social construct. Persons who buy into this particular social construct are welcome to enjoy their fantasy world exactly as they please, as long as they keep it private -- that's how broadminded I am. But they have absolutely no right to demand that anyone else share their fantasies with them, or become their enablers in their bizarre pretenses.

Females in drag invading public mens' rooms and vice versa, in the name of "therapy," doesn't count as keeping it private
posted by jfuller at 8:00 AM on February 6, 2002


psychological disorder is a social construct

I totally agree with you on this. This is a fascinating article on that idea, which touches on gender reassignment surgery briefly. However, almost everything we believe is a construct of sorts, and what it comes down to is, whatever works. So if people were unhappy but made themselves happy by taking hormones and having certain parts of their bodies removed, then what's the problem? (If we're talking about taxpayer backed surgery, that's more complicated, as it's a question of quality of life vs. life, and the disorder that article is based on is also more complicated as it results in disability which can have an effect on productivity, etc).

As for the bathroom thing, I cannot believe someone was arrested for using the wrong bathroom, outside of the gender ambiguity issue. That's just nutty. What is the possible crime? Anything you suggest is totally possible by gay men who are allowed to use the restroom, and anyway, why not wait for the actual crime to be perpetrated before making an arrest?

I also support the non-gendered bathrooms idea, but I mean in restaurants etc, I never worry about that, just use the one that's available. I know it's different than a public restroom at grand central, but still...
posted by mdn at 9:06 AM on February 6, 2002


mdn, of course Dean wasn't arrested for using the wrong bathroom; there's no such crime. I'm not saying s/he should have been arrested at all, but here's my understanding of how it probably happened:

If a cop asks you for ID, you can say "no". But if he's asking you questions and you walk away, you've given him probable cause for whatever he suspected you of in the first place, and now he can stop and search you; if you try to avoid being searched you're probably breaking NYS 195.05 Obstructing governmental administration in the second degree and you're arrestable.

Now, you're right, there's no good reason not to have one big bathroom with stalls. And certainly everyone should have a right to define themselves and do to themselves what makes them happy, and of course gender is mutable both socially and anatomically. But the law has to arbitrate between that right and the right of the majority of the users of the mens' room to be comfortable in their (uh, our) Victorian penis shame.

By the way, the cops in the photo aren't NYPD; those are Port Authority police, who must spend a depressing amount of their time herding male perverts out of the ladies' room. It shouldn't be surprising if they're over-vigilant about an apparent woman headed into the gents'.
posted by nicwolff at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2002


No, wait, maybe those are Amtrak cops. Anyway, not NYPD.
posted by nicwolff at 2:51 PM on February 6, 2002


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