For me, one of the worst terms of abuse is to be called ‘it’ – usually it’s just another piece of street harassment that goes with the territory of being a trans woman who doesn’t ‘pass’ very well. But, so far, I have not been subject to what’s commonly termed ‘restroom panic’ – unlike Tanya White, who (according to the Los Angeles ABC affiliate) was told by hotel security staff to leave a women’s restroom, despite “proving she was a woman” (does that mean what I think it means?)
And Tanya White’s crime, the reason she was confronted? She “looked too masculine”. The discrimination (on the basis of apparent gender) shown by the three male security guards is bad enough – as is a major hotel condoning such discrimination by its employees.
As Autumn Sandeen says in her commentary over at Pam’s House Blend:
“Many members of the public believe it’s okay to be bigoted towards people whose gender presentations don’t fit within societal norms”
And this is at the heart of the problem. Tanya White presents in the ABC video in a way that, at first glance, suggests that she is indeed male. And she says that she was dressed in an almost identical way at the time of the incident. On the basis of her appearance alone, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the security staff would question her going into a women’s restroom. What is unacceptable is the conduct of those security guards. After “proving she was a woman” (what does that mean?) she should have been left alone.
The really discouraging thing is the number of aggressively hostile comments left at the ABC site. If nothing else, they are indicative of just what a long struggle we still face, if we truly want to see an end to the socially-constructed aspects of gender.
(Cross-posted at The F Word on 7 June 2008)
©2008 Helen G