Twenty-five year-old Ally Robledo was slapped with a misdemeanor public trespass order by the police last week. Why? Because being a trans woman and using a women’s bathroom is just too much to handle for her local grocery store.
“I’m struggling here in this rural community… Now I feel even more vulnerable,” Robledo is quoted as saying. “I’m a female trapped in a man’s body. It’s natural for me to go to the ladies’ room. Getting the no trespassing order for a public restroom was really painful.”
The trespass order came courtesy of Rosauers supermarket in Lewiston, Idaho, and it’s backed by the local police force.
“A male [sic] subject who was using the female restroom, and that made some women customers uncomfortable because of the appearance that a male was using their restroom,” Lewiston Police Captain Roger Lanier said while at the same time betraying a startling propensity to dehumanize.
But he’s only a police captain and, in his own words, “Society has yet to define exactly what makes a transgender. Far be it from a police department in Idaho to try to define that.”
A minute just to marvel at the ignorance in that statement.
Lanier explains that in the lead up to police involvement the store’s security officer had received complaints “over a couple of days” about someone going into the women’s restroom and “urinating while standing up” and that this made other female customers “very uncomfortable.”
To be frank I don’t care if she pees standing on her head while twirling plates, it’s no one else’s business but hers. And really, just who in this story is acting in a disturbing manner when you have people informing on others and how they urinate?
The police in this case have been quick to point out that under Idaho law the store has the right as property owners to invoke a trespass order, which they apparently did in order to make the issue go away.
Not so fast though. A representative from the Transgender Law Center has hit back, saying this is a clear case of discrimination. To sum it up, all people need to pee and must be given adequate accommodations to do so.
Is a court challenge possible here? Perhaps.
Ally Robledo’s gender expression is clearly female, therefore she certainly couldn’t use the male restroom or she would have likely incurred the beady eye of the store’s security guards or worse — she’s quoted as saying she has previously faced physical violence when using a male restroom. With the store not providing her any kind of viable facilities to use, and in effect creating an unvoiced ban on trans women using their facilities, there may be a case to answer.
Americans, and specifically those belonging to the Religious Right, seem to have an unhealthy fascination with what trans people do, or are going to do, in public restrooms. Here’s the big secret: trans people do mostly what everyone else does. Go in, pee, wash your hands, leave. What is it about this people are not getting?
We often hear that there is a possibility that allowing trans women to use the facilities that align with their gender could put children or other women at risk. Not only is this incredibly offensive for its implication that trans women are men in dresses waiting to sexually abuse the innocent, it’s also untrue.
In no area where trans-inclusive public accommodations protections have been enshrined in law has this ever directly led to any kind of reported predatory physical or sexual attack against women or children.
Currently, only 13 states — of which Idaho is not one — and Washington DC protect trans people from discrimination in public accommodations. The exact definition of “public accommodations” differs from state to state however and without a federal law to give comprehensive coverage, using a public restroom remains a source of great stress for trans people who risk by just using those facilities the chance of having the law brought down upon them, humiliation at the hands of other members of the public, or even violence.
The problem is, as the police captain’s callous disregard for talking about Robledo with any level of human respect shows, this is all still institutionalized.
States like Arizona are manufacturing ‘Produce Your Papers to Pee’ bans on trans people using the bathrooms that accord with their medically recognized identities, and let’s not forget Tennessee Senator Bo Watson (R) who last year said he would “stomp a mudhole” through a trans person. No meaningful apology was ever offered, and no rebuke from fellow Republican lawmakers or the party at large was made.
While a sea-change in opinion on gay marriage has already happened, the trans community is still fighting every day for a whole host of basic civil rights. Needless to say, it’s time to quit policing how people pee.
Image credit: Thinkstock.