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Mistaken for a man.
October 10, 2007 7:14 AM   Subscribe

NYC woman files lawsuit after bouncer confuses her for a man and ejects her from women's bathroom. A woman is held in the men's jail after being mistaken for a man. Activists look for solutions.
posted by desjardins (59 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Panel discussion of the first case on GayTV.
posted by desjardins at 7:16 AM on October 10, 2007


Androgyny: the scourge of our culture.
posted by dead_ at 7:19 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


How did the conversation not go like this:

Woman: I'm a woman, you idiot.
Bouncer/Police: Oops, sorry!

or at least this:

Woman: I'm a woman, you idiot.
B/P: Can I see some ID?
posted by DU at 7:24 AM on October 10, 2007


"Activists Look For Solutions" would be a hilarious stand-alone headline.
posted by quonsar at 7:25 AM on October 10, 2007


[Sojourner] Truth's deep bass voice, her height, and her fearless spirit, were seen by some people as evidence that she was really a man. During the course of one of her speeches in 1858, a proslavery doctor led the crowd in demanding that Truth submit her breast for examination. She replied that her breasts had suckled many a white babe, and the exclusion of her own offspring and she quietly asked them, as she opened her blouse, if they too wished to suckle.

Will this battle never end?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 7:26 AM on October 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


DU - she offered to show her ID, the bouncer said the ID was "neither here nor there."
posted by desjardins at 7:27 AM on October 10, 2007


Christ, that bouncer sounds like an asshole. Of course, most of them are - that's why they're hired.
posted by notsnot at 7:32 AM on October 10, 2007


Despite being strip searched and having female genitalia, Soto's androgynous appearance led to assumptions that placed the 47-year-old in a male facility where she had to shower with four other men. Her pleas to be moved to a female facility were repeatedly ignored.

Metropolitan Police Department, I'd like to introduce you to my good friend Occam's Razor.
posted by brain_drain at 7:34 AM on October 10, 2007 [5 favorites]


I can't tell you how many double-takes I've gotten when I go to use public bathrooms - and I am not an A-cup. But some combination of short hair, body language, and clothing seems to translate for many people as "male." Actually, even when I'm wearing a t-shirt with no sweatshirt or jacket over it, I still get called "sir." I had one outraged woman say to me "This is the women's room, you know!" I just stared at her blankly and said "I know." She looked at me - really looked at me - and realized she'd been in error, and got all flustered. I've never been thrown out of anywhere, though. Yet.

But I'm in DC for a few days - I'll be sure to watch my step and not get arrested, since the oh-so-observant cops here can't seem to tell male from female, even when people are naked.
posted by rtha at 7:41 AM on October 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is actually about people being stupid and not noticing the obvious rather than an issue of sexuality, looks or dress codes.

If the activists could find an answer to or legislate for simple, human stupidity then the world would be a much better place.

Oh, and when I read those articles I laughed, couldn't help it.

I'm going to hell..
posted by Nugget at 7:52 AM on October 10, 2007


Christ, that bouncer sounds like an asshole.

Albeit a well-spoken one.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:56 AM on October 10, 2007


That's why I always wear a beard and carry around the sports page. I'm a man....Hey! Wait a minute. I smell a movie script here..Oh..it's been done...'Some Like it Hot'.
posted by doctorschlock at 8:06 AM on October 10, 2007


I agree with Nugget — this is a case of people being stupid rather than the tip of some gender politics legal issues iceberg.
posted by orange swan at 8:08 AM on October 10, 2007


this is a case of people being stupid rather than the tip of some gender politics legal issues iceberg.

People being stupid --and putting others in harm-- because of gender and appearance is a legal and political issue--it happens often. The iceberg may have been just a icecube in Sojourner Truth's day, but not today.
posted by amberglow at 8:12 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


In case anyone missed this related thread a while back...
posted by hermitosis at 8:15 AM on October 10, 2007


Do you really see this as a growing problem, amberglow? I don't. The bouncer was an idiot. The administration and guards at that prision were idiots, relying on their paperwork rather than what they could see with their own eyes. This isn't a trend. These are screw ups that have always happened sometimes, currently happen sometimes, and will keep happening sometimes.
posted by orange swan at 8:16 AM on October 10, 2007


I must be going to hell with you cause when I heard about this on news radio while coming to work I laughed to myself as well. BTW anyone see the family guy episode where Peter punches the manly looking pregnant chick in the face? That came to mind when I saw this just now.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:17 AM on October 10, 2007


If the activists could find an answer to or legislate for simple, human stupidity then the world would be a much better place.

They're working on it.
posted by scottreynen at 8:25 AM on October 10, 2007


Seriously amberglow, is this anything but anecdotal?
posted by butterstick at 8:28 AM on October 10, 2007


The bouncer thing I could see as being "political". I.e. "that dyke isn't going to hang out in MY bar, I don't care what some ID card says!!!" But the prison guards not recognizing a vagina when they see one....I think that's just idiots.
posted by DU at 8:32 AM on October 10, 2007


This happens to me all the time, but in the zoo.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:34 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Think about how awkward and embarrassing it can be on a daily basis to be someone who looks so different than what society expects, whether naturally so or as an expression of their gender identity. Imagine everyone snickering behind your back whenever you're out in public. Life is hard enough without having to worry about crap like this.

Many cities are growing faster than their ability to adjust culturally. Public and private space are growing more blurred as people live, work, and play in closer quarters than they're used to. It's not so much that the issue at hand is a growing problem, it's that our awareness of what has always seemed a very small problem needs to grow in order to allow people a their share of the dignity most of us take for granted.
posted by hermitosis at 8:35 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Since when is ones dignity anyone elses responsibility?
posted by butterstick at 8:41 AM on October 10, 2007


Yeah, dignity is my own; respect comes from others. Dignity often comes from deciding that others' respect isn't worth a sacrifice.
posted by breezeway at 8:45 AM on October 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hurf durf. It's not, of course. Which is why you're perfectly welcome to cozy down into your own little life and only worry about these things once it's your own ass getting bounced out of a public place humiliatingly over a matter as arbitrary as your appearance.
posted by hermitosis at 8:57 AM on October 10, 2007


That's not my point, it's yours. I guess I shouldn't have responded, or should have made it clear that I was responding, narrowly, to the phrase, "allow people their share of the dignity most of us take for granted," which seemed counterproductive to me: dignity isn't something we "allow" people "shares" of, and it's important to me to disabuse folks of the notion that it is.

That "hurf durf" hurt, though. Nice one.
posted by breezeway at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2007


Sorry. I figured it would be obvious that "hurf durf" was aimed at butterstick.

Really, though, if it's about semantics on the term "dignity", then let's just go with your term instead, "respect". Which is not to say I have to laugh at your jokes or go to your parades or think your culture's art is keen. But I do have to respect your innate personhood, and while it might not always be illegal to do otherwise, behaving as such is bound to incur legal liability at some point or another. Or physical liability when you pick on a dyke who has decided that she is not, in fact, inclined to leave the restroom just yet and hands you your own rosy red ass.

I don't think we're in disagreement here in spirit, it's a shame how easily words get in the way.
posted by hermitosis at 9:23 AM on October 10, 2007


Unisex bathrooms, jails, and prisons. Obviously it will cost more for these in order to ensure comfort and security, but the dividends of equality will be excellent.
posted by ewkpates at 9:31 AM on October 10, 2007


Good because I'm not arguing that the bouncer isn't a dick. I just didn't think people being dicks was news anymore.

So I may be losing the context of our argument, but again, how is being humiliated grounds for a lawsuit?
posted by butterstick at 9:38 AM on October 10, 2007


It just is.
posted by hermitosis at 9:43 AM on October 10, 2007


Oh, that's great, hermitosis; I also don't think we're really disagreeing.

The idea of respecting innate personhood, though, is one that I certainly hold, though I sadly don't expect it of others. I'm afraid, however, that the legal liabilities lie with the one lifting her hand not the one doing the disrespecting.

I jump on this hobbyhorse because I see the demand for respect to be an increasing problem, at least here in the states. It's a problem that makes itself worse as people see themselves and others more and more as parts of groups and those groups as opposing forces; respect based on an individual's group identity is often demanded regardless of the individual's actions and words, which might disincline us from showing much respect at all.

And here's where it all becomes a trap: I have an innate Quaker respect for everyone, but I don't like to be fooled. When folks prove to me that they aren't worthy of extra respect, I still hold onto that respect of innate personhood, but I cease to regard them. That lack of regard is often taken as a lack of respect, and is maybe the same thing, really, when it boils down to it. I'm not as good at being me as I wish.

But if we were taught that dignity, which is innate and tied to self-respect and self-regard, was the goal (instead of the respect of others), then we would all, I think, be less keen on how well others meet our criteria (and how well we meet the criteria of others), and we might be less combative. We'd certainly be more satisfied.
posted by breezeway at 9:45 AM on October 10, 2007


You just used google to say "nuh huh times 10!".

And without damages, those lawsuits are considered frivilous, no?
posted by butterstick at 9:47 AM on October 10, 2007


That bouncer would be beside himself at Yankee Stadium during the seventh inning stretch. When women are as likely to show up in a men's room as men. And it's not a big deal. The gal that used the stall I had just left ran into me outside and bought me a beer as she explained her refusal to wait in a 15 minute line to use the ladies room and miss the bottom of the seventh when Derek Jeter was coming up.
posted by notreally at 9:59 AM on October 10, 2007


Secret....strong enough for a man...(giggle)...but made for a
wombat.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:00 AM on October 10, 2007


People win them all the time, butterstick. But I shall restrain from linking to a google search of "humiliated+lawsuit+awarded" in this case.
posted by hermitosis at 10:00 AM on October 10, 2007


how is being humiliated grounds for a lawsuit?

Severe emotional distress. Remember the Star Wars Kid? In 2006 the boy finally came to terms with his classmates and received CA$351,000 in a lawsuit between three of the four classmates.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:01 AM on October 10, 2007


Yeah, but I thought in SWK and FratBoys v. Borat, they were suing because TONS of people saw them get humiliated, which I could see as a case.

Getting humiliated in front of friends and strangers in a restraunt isn't really the same thing. Prior to filing a lawsuit, I don't think Khadijah Farmer really had to worry about people pointing her out in the street as a result. In her case, the publicity of it all seems self-inflicted.

I just don't see the damages here, besides emotional. Even then they seem minor.
posted by butterstick at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2007


I just don't see the damages here, besides emotional. Even then they seem minor.

Well, suffice to say it may be a little more complicated than we get in a news story. Peering in from a distance and dismissing the damage as merely "emotional" really just sounds incredibly presumptuous and unfeeling.

If you were barged in on in the restroom, marched out to your table and made a public spectacle (and how could any such scene not be really really visible in a small downtown restaurant?), called a liar, and then evicted from the premises (and still made to pay for your meal), how long would it be before you felt comfortable in a restaurant again? Or in that neighborhood, where people saw you treated like a pervert or a criminal? Would you think twice about going to the gym? Or using the restroom at work?

Seriously.
posted by hermitosis at 10:48 AM on October 10, 2007


butterstick: It's a problem that makes itself worse as people see themselves and others more and more as parts of groups and those groups as opposing forces; respect based on an individual's group identity is often demanded regardless of the individual's actions and words, which might disincline us from showing much respect at all.

I don't see how this has anything to do with the cases being discussed, unless by "group" you mean "women." I don't see where she announced herself to be a member of any special interest group when she was in the restaurant. She simply went to the bathroom. I suppose if she had wanted to make some sort of statement about gender ambiguity, she would have gone to the mens' room instead, or demanded that there be a unisex bathroom. Instead, she just went to the bathroom. That's all. The woman in the second article didn't claim membership to any special group, either. She said that she was female. That's all.

From the first article: "The fact that the bouncer refused to look at Ms. Farmer’s identification card before ejecting her demonstrated that he was judging her simply by how she looked, Mr. Silverman said."

Whether or not she was humiliated, that's not cool. The bouncer denied her service based on the way she looked. If it had been because she was black, there would unquestionably be grounds for a lawsuit, whether or not she felt "humiliated."
posted by desjardins at 11:13 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, suffice to say it may be a little more complicated than we get in a news story. Peering in from a distance and dismissing the damage as merely "emotional" really just sounds incredibly presumptuous and unfeeling.

Ok, so then what was damaged besides her feelings?

And to your "mile in her shoes" point, it seems a bit exagerrated. Presumptuous even.

I honestly think that if an incident like this forever scarred you to the point that you could no longer enjoy any of the examples you cite (which add up to quite a bit) then you could have a case.

However, it's a far cry from being humiliated by a douchebag to becoming a paraih.
posted by butterstick at 11:15 AM on October 10, 2007


Unisex bathrooms, jails, and prisons.

Bah. Clearly, the most cost-effective solution is to legally require all restaurant patrons to display their genitalia in full public view at all times.

Freedom is on the march!
posted by oncogenesis at 11:16 AM on October 10, 2007


It's a problem that makes itself worse as people see themselves and others more and more as parts of groups and those groups as opposing forces; respect based on an individual's group identity is often demanded regardless of the individual's actions and words, which might disincline us from showing much respect at all.

Hey desjardins, it was breezeway, not butterstick, who said that, and it was in an aside addressing the semantics of "dignity," not specific to the article in question.
posted by breezeway at 11:24 AM on October 10, 2007


This may be a complete derail, but I used to think of 'emotional distress' as a bullshit reason to sue someone, and and even more bullshit reason to be awarded anything.

At least until my car got stolen.

Now, long story short, in January, car got stolen from my apt. complex parking lot. It was found cleaned out and wrecked a few days later, insurance paid out, got a new car, got on with life. It sucked, a lot, and it was a huge hassle, but it happens. I dealt with it.

Now a grand total of two weeks later, my shiny new(er) car is wrongfully towed from my apt. complex, I discover on my way out to it, carrying equipment for a gig.

The unforseen level of anxiety, worry, and stress I felt between that point and when I finally got in contact with the towing company to figure out just what the fuck was going on, fuck those assholes, I don't care HOW frivolous these sorts of lawsuits are, If I'm not allowed to crowbar everyone involved in the kneecaps, someone SHOULD have given me a couple thousand dollars.

(end rant)
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:25 AM on October 10, 2007


desjardins, that is an excellent point. I think if I had looked at it as a basic refused service on basis of appearance suit, It would make more sense to me.
posted by butterstick at 11:42 AM on October 10, 2007


Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). Elements: Intentional or reckless act; Extreme and outrageous conduct; Causation; Plaintiff must actually suffer emotional distress. I wouldn't be surprised if Ms. Farmer could convince a jury on this, but the PDF of the complaint at the NYT doesn't claim IIED, and I don't know if NY recognizes it.
posted by exogenous at 1:03 PM on October 10, 2007


breezeway: "it was breezeway, not butterstick, who said that"

Ah, here's the source of my confusion. Ice cream and butter, both dairy products. [Sorry.]
posted by desjardins at 1:05 PM on October 10, 2007


No worries, it is like a big butter churn, I guess. Care for a turn at the dasher?
posted by breezeway at 1:08 PM on October 10, 2007


The "emotional distress" tangent is just that - a tangent. Farmer is claiming "unlawful discrimination in a place of public accommodation." [Complaint PDF]

She was discriminated against. She was denied the use of the bathroom and the restaurant. The discrimination was based on the way she looked. Discrimination based on "gender, gender expression and sexual orientation in places of public accommodation" is illegal in NYC.
posted by desjardins at 1:15 PM on October 10, 2007


breezeway: I'm lactose intolerant, so I'll pass.
posted by desjardins at 1:16 PM on October 10, 2007


I reckon I'll pass, too. Lactose, that is.
posted by breezeway at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2007


buttersick, just can't get behind your view. She was hustled out of the bathroom without being given a chance to display ID. Her party was ejected from the restaurant based on that faulty decision.

Now, if the bouncer had merely expressed an opinion on what he believed the sex of the plaintiff to be, that would be a different story. But this is one of those areas where private citizens (as bouncers) are given quasi-police powers and this suit should highlight that there are responsibilities behind those powers.
posted by telstar at 3:59 PM on October 10, 2007


All I can say about the whole androgyny/genderqueer issue is that the more you're exposed to it, the more 'meh' and shrugworthy the whole thing becomes. The other day I had a customer waiting outside the door with a buzzcut, a goatee, a faceful of piercings and D-cup boobs covered by a tight shirt that read "You Say 'Faggot' like it's a bad thing," and with a big box of used books to sell. I just said, "I'll be with you in five minutes." Answer: "Sure thing, Dude."

(also, the whole bathroom thing, what's the worst that can happen really? A dragqueen sees me shaking off after a vigorous whiz? I'll live.)
posted by jonmc at 5:47 PM on October 10, 2007


Have you seen polyEthylene pam?
She's so good-looking but she looks like a man.
posted by Eekacat at 6:19 PM on October 10, 2007


I saw a woman recently who was clearly taking hormones (and had abundant facial hair despite her breasts) wearing a t-shirt that said "Question gender." I almost said to her "Question gravity too! And four-limbedness"

It's as if the scientific classification of human gender were a political ploy rather than an empirical assessment. Granted there are certainly a very very tiny percentage of people born with ambiguous genitalia and aberrant hormonal development but are we really so afraid of offending other people that we can't acknowledge that such cases are indeed aberrant? If I am convinced that I am actually a tiger trapped in a male human's body does that mean that I actually might be one and deserve to have my delusions respected -- should we build "thinks he/she/it is other fauna" bathrooms so as to avoid offense? At what point is my condition classified as mental illness?

I know a former UVM student who remarked on their ultra-PC transgender bathrooms, not so uncommon on university campuses these days. I'm an extremely left-wing live-and-let-live type however I find this sort of faux-outrage entirely embarrassing in light of say this sort of thing.
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:04 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I am convinced that I am actually a tiger trapped in a male human's body does that mean that I actually might be one and deserve to have my delusions respected

Sure.

*shoots inoculatedcities and makes him into a rug*
posted by jonmc at 7:16 PM on October 10, 2007


"thinks he/she/it is other fauna" bathrooms

Wouldn't a litter box be enough?
posted by jonmc at 7:17 PM on October 10, 2007


inoculatedcities: If I am convinced that I am actually a tiger trapped in a male human's body does that mean that I actually might be one and deserve to have my delusions respected -- should we build "thinks he/she/it is other fauna" bathrooms so as to avoid offense?

There is no parallel here, except in your mind. Your tigerness is irrelevant to going to the bathroom. If you're in the stall next to me, I'm not going to know if you secretly think you're a tiger. Hell, even if you announce it, why should it matter, if your tigerness is not infringing upon my ability to use the facilities? If you claw me or bite my neck, that's assault. But there is no parallel between "acting like a tiger" and appearing androgynous/opposite gender. No matter how masculine I appear, it has nothing to do with you. I've used mens' bathrooms before and I managed not to assault anyone. Likewise, the mental state of tigerness has nothing to do with me. Believe you're an iguana for all I care. I will respect your rights until they interfere with mine.
posted by desjardins at 7:17 AM on October 11, 2007


As long as I can still pee standing up, bring on the Unisex bathrooms!
posted by fraxil at 11:20 AM on October 11, 2007


desjardins has it. This particular case isn't about humilation or emotional distress, it's about unlawful discrimination.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:48 PM on October 11, 2007


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