|akorn (tranarchoi) wrote in ftm,|
@ 2002-02-04 23:02:00
trannyboy arrested for using men's room
A transman who my roommate is sort of seeing was arrested at Grand Central Station the other day for using the men's restroom. There were fucking riot cops there. He called her after it all happened and told her the whole story. The whole community is outraged. Poor Dean. Now he has to go to a court trial. All he wanted to do was pee and leave :(
It is all over the trans listservs, and it is even all over the news. We are trying to spread the word.
There's also a link in there to a photo of the riot cops after the arrest.
From: dean spade [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2002 1:49 PM
Subject: pee crimes
Friends and Allies,
I'm writing to update you on the events of this weekend involving my arrest
(with two friends) for using the 'men's' restroom at Grand Central Station.
I have received many concerned and supportive emails and calls, and I wanted
to take a moment to give everyone the full story of what happened, and some
thoughts about the significance of this experience.
On Saturday (2/2/02), I participated with my affinity group in the anti-WEF
rally at 59th Street and the long march that followed curving around down
toward the Waldorf Astoria. By 5pm, after 6 hours of being outside in the
cold, we were all very tired and needed to use the bathrooms and get some
food. We went to Grand Central station, and headed toward the bathrooms on
the Dining Concourse level. I entered the "men's" room, as is my custom, and
was followed in by a cop. As I was looking to see what stalls were open, he
approached and asked for my ID. I explained that I was in the right
bathroom, that I am transgender and I understood his confusion, but I was
just going to use the bathroom and leave. Craig came in after the cop
because he was worried about me, and as the cop forcefully asked for my ID
over and over, Craig said "He's in the right bathroom, please just let him
pee and we'll leave." Craig even volunteered to show his ID to the cop if it
would help. When I realized that the cop wasn't going to leave us alone
despite our explanations, I said "Let's just leave, I'll pee somewhere
else." At that point, we tried to walk past the cop and he physically
restrained us by pushing us up against the wall and blocking our exit while
he radioed for back up. Ultimately, we were thrown to the floor and dragged
(with me screaming "I was just trying to pee! Help me!" to the tourist and
protester onlookers) through the station. Our other friend Ananda was also
arrested while trying to advocate for us.
We were held for 23 hours at 3 different precincts. I was placed with Ananda
with the "female" population. Craig was housed with the "male" population.
It was a typical jail stay with the usual discomforts: lack of food and
water, freezing cold, overcrowding, filth, and verbal harrassment. Also
typically, most of the people we met inside had been arrested for crimes
like being poor, being non-white, being homeless, etc. The most emotionally
challenging part for me was the transphobia I encountered from the court
attorney who represented me at my arraignment. He came to the cell around
noon yesterday (2/3/02), read the police statement on my court documents,
and asked why I was in the "men's" room. I explained that I am transgender
and I customarily use "men's" rooms, go by a male name and pronoun. He
wrinkled up his face, said with a very dismissive and disapproving attitude
"That is your business. I don't care." and then asked me what my genitalia
is. I asked "Why is do you need to know that?" Being unfamiliar with state
court criminal proceedings, and having been told by the National Lawyer's
Guild attorney who visited us in our cells at Grand Central that the
arraignment was a formality that did not require his assistance, I was
unclear as to how much detail about my situation would be required for this
attorney to do his job at the arraignment. Also, having experienced on
numerous occasions the inappropriately personal questions asked by some
people who are hostile about my transgender identity, I was on guard to make
sure that I would only have to engage in such a conversation if it was
relevant to my legal case. The attorney took offense to my questioning the
relevance of his inquiry about my genitalia, and communicated that if I
would not cooperate with him, that was my problem. Because I was unsure
about what would happen to me if he would not advocate for me vigorously,
and because I feared being given a bail I could not meet, I ultimately
suffered the indignity of having to satisfy his curiosity about my genitalia
by explaining it. Even then, he said dismissively about my transgender
"well, that is your personal business" and left without giving me any
information about what would happen in the courtroom. For the next several
hours, I was deeply concerned about the quality of representation I would
get in the courtroom, and whether I would be released on my own
recognizance. Having never been arrested in a situation in which I was not
prepared for arrest before, having never been arraigned individually, and
having never been represented by a court attorney rather than pro bono
counsel before, I was very concerned that I might not be released.
Much to my relief, I discovered upon entering the courtroom that it was
filled with friends and allies wearing "Living Trans is Not a Crime"
stickers. Having them there, I knew that I would be safe. The prosecutor
described my crime by saying "Defendant was asked for identification.
Defendant responded, 'I am a man. I am a transvestite.'" If it wasn't so
disturbing, it might have been funny. After that, the Judge released me on
my own recognizance. Within the next half hour, Ananda and Craig were also
released. All in all, we spent 23 hours in jail. I am being charged with two
counts of Disorderly Conduct, one count of Trespassing, one count of
Resisting Arrest, and one count of Obstruction of Government Administration.
Ananda and Craig are being charged with Obstruction, Resisting, and
Disorderly Conduct. Our next court date is March 6. I will continue to
update all of you on the progress of our case and our organizing efforts.
As a final note, I will tell you a few of the things these arrests have made
me think about. First, I am outraged, of course, by the double-bind in which
gender segregation of bathrooms leaves transgender, transsexual, gender
variant, and genderqueer people. Like many people, each time I use a public
bathroom I face the fact that no matter what choice I make, I may encounter
harassment and potential violence and arrest. My level of bathroom anxiety,
of course, is increased by the weekend's events. However, I am hopeful that
the increased visibility of this problem afforded by the media coverage of
the arrests and the organizing we will continue will result in policy
changes about bathroom segregation. I hope that this arrest will spark
campaigns to provide safe, non-gendered bathroom options for all people in
all public spaces. I intend to continue vigorously advocating on this issue.
Additionally, this arrest raises questions about the practice of indicating
"legal gender" on state identification cards. It is my belief that just as
"race" has been eliminated as a category on state identification (in most
states, to my knowledge) gender should similarly be eliminated. Had I had
"M" on my ID in this situation, I could have shown it to the officer.
However, I might still be arrested, and then I would have faced the
possibility of being housed with a male population in jail. Would this have
been safe? I tend to think it would not. However, with "F" on my
identification I face the continual problem of having my preferred gender
terms not aligned with what is on my ID. Either choice, for people like me
who face the possibility of arrest in an increasingly aggressive police
state and who are targeted for harassment due to gender identity, is unsafe.
Despite the discomforts of the weekends events, I have hope that much good
will come from these arrests. We have been contacted by various legal
organizations interested in our case. I hope that we can use legal and
political means to change the police policies regarding bathroom enforcement
and transgender arrests, increase awareness of bathroom gender enforcement
issues amongst other organizations and institutions that have gender
segregated bathrooms, and increase awareness of transgender experience
generally. I was glad to hear from my sister in San Francisco that the
arrests were announced at an anti-WEF rally she went to, and to see that
they are being covered by the Independent Media Center and other groups
focused on the WEF events. I think that it is a step forward to have
anti-capitalist activists and movements considering transgender issues and
participation. I was also overwhelmed by the response of our friends and
other allies to our arrests. I am deeply grateful to everyone who advocated
for us and who showed their support in court and by email and phone. I feel
like I am an incredibly lucky person to have so many trans and non-trans
friends up in arms over trans politics.
As you may know, I am currently working to start up a new law project
focusing on the needs of low-income transgender, transsexual, genderqueer,
and gender variant folks in NYC. It was funny to spend a week writing a
grant about issues such as the discriminatory treatment of this population
in criminal justice contexts, as well as the inadequacy of many lawyers to
provide sensitive and appropriate services to us, and then to experience
these very problems myself on the weekend. The experience has reinforced my
commitment to this work.
Thanks for reading this long email. Feel free to pass it on to anyone who
might be interested. I will continue to update you on the progress of our
case and any other events we plan. Please contact me if you have ideas for
strategy or resources that may be helpful.
P.S. Here's a photo of riot cops fretting over the sweet people who were
advocating for us when we were still being held at Grand Central. As I'm
writing this, the photo is mis-captioned, identifying me as a "transgender
woman." We've asked them to correct that.