Livin’ it up at the Hotel California

// 7 June 2008

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 bird of paradox)

Comments From You

Lauren O // Posted 7 June 2008 at 9:29 pm

If I remember correctly, “proving she was a woman” just entailed showing ID that said she was legally female. And, yeah, after that, she should have been left the fuck alone.

Sarah // Posted 9 June 2008 at 4:44 pm

Some of those comments were really awful – lots of ‘she asked for it’, ‘what else did she expect’ (sounds familiar!) and some even suggesting she deserved physical violence. What is it about people not fitting their gender stereotype that provokes such hostility and aggression?

Not to mention that the same people would probably have been equally outraged had she gone into the men’s bathroom. Sometimes you do need to use the bathroom, what was she supposed to do? I guess in some people’s worldview, she’s supposed to not exist at all.

Anne Onne // Posted 9 June 2008 at 6:39 pm

Sarah, that’s precisely it. It’s chilling, but I think you’ve hit it on the head. People like this are not willing to make any allowances for trans people to be integrated safely into society, and live unharassed, because they don’t want them to exist. Anybody outside the neat boxes of gender is such a foreign concept to them that it seems to threaten their very world.

I remember a long time ago It had never occured to me that someone would do something like this, but I had a lot more faith in people back then, which I now think was unjustified.

Helen G // Posted 9 June 2008 at 8:15 pm

Sarah: Most of those comments are classic ‘blame the victim’ reactions. But nobody questions that it was three security men who followed her into the restroom – and nobody asks why they couldn’t have waited until she came out of the restroom.

The whole thing is a disgrace but I still think those guards should have left her alone after they’d confirmed her identity.

Sarah // Posted 10 June 2008 at 9:02 am

Helen, I completely agree – I hope I didn’t give the impression otherwise.

Shev // Posted 12 June 2008 at 4:52 pm

My mate went to a club night recently, and went into the girls toilets – was promptly kicked out by a screaming toilet attendant (when it was pointed out that actually, she was technically a girl, she justscreamed, “I don’t care, get out”), went into the mens toilet, and was instantly kicked out again. And when you’re off your face, it’s not a terribly good idea to explain to big scary door supervisors exactly why the gender binary harms all of us, when all you really need is a wee.

Tip for all those gender-ambivalent – legally, you are allowed to use the disabled toilets (if there are any). My partner does this whenever possible. Otherwise, I stand bodyguard. Even when she’s not actually challenged, you just would not believe the filthy looks she gets. I honestly believe that single sex toilets are some of the most policed spaces as regards gender, and very often actively dangerous.

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