Bathrooms in Arizona, Letters to The Advocate

Michele DeLaFreniere, a trans woman in Arizona, is suing a bar that kept her from entering.

The bar’s owner objects to having been quoted as saying he doesn’t want “her kind” in the place, but does admit that he’s blocked trans women from coming to the bar because of the bathroom issue: trans women were being harassed in the men’s room, and female bar patrons didn’t want the trans women in the women’s restroom.

As the story was reported in The Advocate, Anderson told the AP, “There was no place I could put these people.”

Two letters to the editor about the issue weigh in on the side of keeping women’s restrooms free of trans women, one calling them “men” and the other calling them “‘women’.”

Yet another “women’s space” issue, but I’m not sure the best answer is simply to insist that trans women use the ladies’ rooms. Education, unisex bathrooms, – surely there are more intermediate ways of handling this instead of just telling women – who may be ignorant but also fearful, for good reason, of sharing bathroom space with people they view as male. Convincing women raised female that trans women are not male requires a hell of a lot of education, which will take time, so what do we do in the meanwhile?

(My thanks to Joanne Herman for the heads-up.)

(Xposted to Trans Group Blog.)

6 Replies to “Bathrooms in Arizona, Letters to The Advocate

  1. Brazil city mulls transgender bathrooms
    Michael Astor, Associated Press
    published Thursday, December 15, 2005

    RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — For most, it’s a choice of the men’s room or the women’s. A Brazilian city is trying to give an option to those who don’t fit easily into either category.

    A bill passed by the Nova Iguacu city council Tuesday would require night clubs, shopping malls, movie theaters and large restaurants to provide a third type of bathroom for transgender people. Mayor Lindberg Farias will decide whether to make it a law.

    “A lot of lawmakers didn’t want to deal with this issue, but it’s a serious problem in society,” said city Councilman Carlos Eduardo Moreira. “It’s a way to put an end to prejudice.”

    Moreira, a 32-year-old policeman on leave from the force, said he got the idea when dozens of transgender people showed up for a local samba show.

    “It was a real problem. The women didn’t feel comfortable having them in the ladies’ room, and the men didn’t want them in their bathroom, either,” said Moreira, who is married and the father of two children. “I’m not doing this for my own benefit.”

    He said the “alternative bathrooms” could also be used by men or women who didn’t mind sharing space with transgender patrons.

    Moreira said there are nearly 28,000 transgender residents in Nova Iguacu, a poor city of about 800,000 on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

    Moreira said many transgender people are reluctant to go out because there’s no bathroom for them. He denied that the cost of building a third bathroom would be a big problem for restaurant or club owners.

    “It requires an initial investment, but after that, the establishment will end up making more money because it will have a larger public. And transvestites like to spend,” he said.

    The issue has divided gay groups. Some feared it could segregate gays, while others said it recognized a problem within the gay community.

    “At first we were against the law, but after some discussion we decided we had to support it because it addresses a real problem for a segment of the gay community,” said Eugenio Ibiapino dos Santos, a founder of the Pink Triangle Association, a gay group in Nova Iguacu. “We see it as a way to open a discussion about civil rights.”

    Brazil is generally more tolerant of homosexuality than other Latin American countries, but discrimination still exists.

    A study conducted by the Candido Mendes University in Rio de Janeiro found that 60 percent of Rio’s gays had met some type of harassment, and 17 percent said they had experienced physical violence.

  2. As usual, the burden of this kind of dispute falls almost exclusively on those who, through accidents of genetics, don’t happen to “blend in” (I hate the word “pass,” which, to me, implies pretending to be something you’re not). Trans women who do blend in (wherever they are on the “spectrum”) are appropriately gendered as women; they go right into the ladies’ room and nobody even notices. Those who don’t, whether they’re a first-time crossdresser or a post-op trans women with papers to prove it, have the problems. And they’re the ones who would end up having to put up with intermediate solutions like education or unisex bathrooms (which are a great idea for those who want them, but not, imo, a great idea as an enforced alternative to the ladies’ room for those who happen not to blend in, for the next 75 years until everyone’s properly educated, while their more fortunate compatriots sail on by). Of course, if someone has transitioned and does have legal status as a woman, and female I.D., then, regardless of their appearance or whether someone views them as male because of it, they certainly have a legal right to use the women’s bathroom, like any other woman.

    As do people who, regardless not only of appearance but of legal status, happen to live in those jurisdictions with laws barring discrimination on grounds of both gender identity and expression. Of course, someone like that who doesn’t have acceptable gender-appropriate identification, and doesn’t blend in, has to be prepared to be barred from the ladies’ room, and then take legal action — at least until people who live in those jurisdictions (both business owners and police) *are* sufficiently educated to understand what the law provides. Until then, unfair as it is, such a person has to decide how willing they are to stand up for their rights — or, from another viewpoint, to “force” themselves into “women’s space” — in the face of social disapproval.


  3. Gosh, I’ve used the women’s rest room when dressed en femme at gay bars many times and none of the women seemed to mind, or if they did they didn’t say anything. I assume this is a straight establishment?

  4. being a new woman this has been a dilema for me.At my place of worship most restrooms
    are uni-sex.But in public,well let me tell you.I have had some uncomfortable moments.
    The need to go potty overcame the worry about what other women thought.Yhe fisrt time
    was frighening.”will women accept or berate me?”Most just look at me,and carry on.One,
    asked me what i thought i was doing in thier bathroom?
    I was wearing a dress and heels at the time.I just told her,”Look at me,do i look like i should
    use the men’s?”She just looked disgusted and walk awawy.

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