Free to pretend to be you or me

It’s wrong from the headline on.

I was harassed at an In-N-Out bathroom for being a black trans woman

No. Not for being either black or trans, and not exactly harassed either, although that bit is tricky.

Subhead:

Ahead of a crucial supreme court decision, LeahAnn Mitchell writes about her experience with discrimination

That is, a guy who calls himself LeahAnn writes about his experience of using a women’s toilet.

“Is there a man in the bathroom?”

I was seated on the toilet in the stall of a women’s restroom of an In-N-Out when I heard the manager yell.

I had stopped at the burger restaurant in the Bay Area for a late lunch last spring, and was alone in the bathroom when the manager entered. “Sir, sir – you’re not supposed to be in here,” she said.

“Ma’am, it’s just me in here,” I responded.

I thought she would leave and that would be it. But I’m a black transgender woman, and people don’t just let us live our lives.

 

But just living your life is one thing, and using the toilets / restrooms / bathrooms designated for the opposite sex is another.

On the other hand if it’s true that Mitchell was alone in there, the manager could have just waited for him to leave…But then again how could she be confident of what he was doing in there? How could she be confident he wasn’t lurking to take photos under the partition or to stand on the toilet and peer over it? It does seem intrusive to yell at him when there’s no one else in there, until you remember that other customers, including little girls, could join him at any time.

But Mitchell doesn’t pause for a single second to think about that. It’s not part of his story at all. His story is all about him and how persecuted he is…because not everyone is thrilled to see him use the women’s toilets.

The manager came up to the stall door, and started looking through the cracks. She appeared to be scanning my body up and down. I got very scared. I clenched my purse to cover myself. I felt she was trying to look at my genitals, attempting to determine my gender. I asked her to leave while she continued to ask whether I was a man.

If that really happened, it does sound creepy, but the claim that he got very scared is ludicrous, and insulting. He’s a man, and the manager is a woman. He didn’t get scared.

After that it’s endless blah blah blah about how traumatized he was.

I’m a musician and was preparing to be a headliner at a Utah pride festival, I had just been featured in Billboard. I was signing a deal to compose for a ballet. I wanted to focus on my career.

But what had happened exacerbated my anxiety, stress and paranoia. For a while, I wasn’t leaving the house – fearful of being harassed. I grew increasingly depressed, to the point that I was dropping the ball on my life. I started waiting to get home to use the bathroom, because I felt like it was the safest thing to do. I had regressed and had to rebuild my strength just to walk in and use a bathroom.

 

If you’re a woman, welcome to Tuesday.

Newsflash: women get harassed, a lot. Women have experiences forced on them that make them nervous about using public toilets, changing rooms, elevators, trains, buses, shops, the street…pretty much all public territory, and sometimes private as well. And LeahAnn Mitchell, whether he knows it or not, has a very good chance of being a source of some of that nervousness. We don’t know how big or muscular he is, but in any case encountering a man in an isolated place where only women are supposed to be is not automatically rendered unalarming by the fact that he’s wearing a dress. Quite the contrary in fact. I find Mitchell’s complete indifference to all that repellent. He never so much as mentions it.

 

Discriminating against a person simply because you don’t like who they are should be against the law. No one is asking for special accommodations.

Yes they are. Demanding to be allowed to use the toilets reserved for the opposite sex is indeed asking for special accommodations.

I know my rights. California’s laws are very clear: I can use the bathroom that matches my gender identity.

So a 6’6″ football player can use the women’s toilets if he says the magic words “my gender identity”? What if he has a string of convictions for sexual assault? Still ok?

So I filed a discrimination complaint against In-N-Out. I wanted changes in policies. I wanted the company to learn and understand. They will have other LGBT customers.

Lumping it all together as “LGBT” confuses the issue. LGB customers don’t have issues with which restroom door to push open (apart from the occasional confusion over very butch lesbians or very femme gay men). This “I demand to be allowed to use the opposite toilets” item is strictly a trans demand, which is in tension with existing rights. It’s really not obvious that the trans demand should override those existing rights.

In a recent mediation, In-N-Out’s lawyers made it clear that they do not feel the company did anything wrong. It felt as if they told me I was worth nothing. They offered me a settlement that I found offensive. I said no.

“Felt as if” doesn’t cut it. “Felt as if” is not a legal argument. “Felt as if” is how we got in this ridiculous mess. Saying “No we aren’t going to let men pee in the women’s toilets” is not saying “men who want to pee in the women’s toilets are worth nothing.” The two statements are quite different. Dressing this garbage up in the language of civil rights struggles is just a cheat…just one more cheat in a long line of them.

But I won’t be silent. When it comes to black and brown trans folks, it feels like we don’t matter. Why can’t we exist in peace and have the same rights other people have?

They aren’t the same rights other people have. That’s the whole point. They’re inversions of the rights other people have. Women have the right to safe, private places to pee, and men who identify as trans want to get rid of that right and replace it with their right to be in women’s safe, private places to pee.

Why should somebody else’s opinion of what I should be get to dictate what my existence is?

Well, let’s see…because that’s just how it is? For everyone? We are what we are, and not something else. We’re free to fantasize that we’re better than what other people see of us, but we’re not free to force other people to share our fantasies. But here’s the good part of that: it means that none of us can be forced to share other people’s fantasies about themselves – including LeahAnn Mitchell!

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