Archive for Thursday, August 20, 2009

City leaders to have community forum about a possible ordinance on gender discrimination

The push for transgender rights in Lawrence is moving along slowly, as the city's human relations division set up a study session instead of voting on the issue today. Lawrence would be the first city in the state to give legal protection against discrimination to transgender people.

August 20, 2009


A man who is in the process of becoming a woman walks into a convenience store.

“She” wants to use the women’s bathroom. The convenience store clerk says no. “He” must use the men’s bathroom, the clerk says.

Can the convenience store be cited for gender discrimination?

That’s the type of question city leaders are trying to answer as they ponder whether to approve a new city ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender identity.

Members of the city’s Human Relations Commission said Thursday that they need more time to think over such questions. The group agreed to hold a study session and community dialogue on the subject at 10 a.m. Aug. 29 at City Hall.

“We need to understand what we really are trying to provide protection from,” said Kirsten Krug, a member of the Human Relations Commission.

The ordinance would provide legal protection from discrimination in matters of housing, employment and public accommodations. The new ordinance would protect people who are transgendered, which can include transsexuals, cross-dressers and others who identify with a gender different than their birth gender.

Members of the city advisory board were told that transgendered individuals do fear discrimination in the city. Jay Pryor, who has transitioned from a woman to a man, told commissioners that he had to go to three different doctors in Lawrence before finding one that would treat him.

“They told me that they would prefer not to treat me,” Pryor said.

That real-life scenario also created questions for some commissioners about how a new law would apply. Would the doctors be guilty of discrimination, or do they have a right to refuse treatment because they don’t believe they have the expertise to treat people who have had such specialized procedures?

Ultimately, the decision of whether to pass the new ordinance will be up to city commissioners, but the Human Relations Commission has been asked to provide city commissioners with a recommendation. The earliest the City Commission likely will receive the issue is in November.

The Aug. 29 meeting, which the public is encouraged to attend and discuss the issues, was scheduled after several Human Relations commissioners said they were supportive of the broad goal of the ordinance but wanted more details about specific pieces of the issue.

“So much of this was something that was beyond my knowledge,” said Lori Tapahonso, chair of the commission. “If we don’t understand who we really are supporting here, I think we will have done an injustice.”


John Hamm 8 years, 10 months ago

I'm sorry but this is getting ridiculous! Don't you folks at City Fool have anything more important to do? Like finding new companies and jobs for the Lawrence area. Or finding a way to cut spending. Or city waste. If the man is still a man and not yet a woman why should HE be entitled to use the woman's restroom? I guess that means If any man wants to claim "I'm going to become a woman" they could use the women's restroom. Something's wrong with the logic processes at City Hall.

Danimal 8 years, 10 months ago

Men should use the men's room, women should use the women's room. If you're intending to get your plumbing rerouted, keep using the same restroom you have been using until your transition is complete. I would think that common sense would prevail in this situation. Or we could just do away with all public restrooms so that the tiny portion of the population with gender issues doesn't get their feelings hurt.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 10 months ago

"We need to understand what we really are trying to provide protection from,"....

DISCRIMINATION!! In 29 states it is still legal to fire someone because they are gay, and they are also discriminated against for housing.

KS 8 years, 10 months ago

This should be a no brainer for left wing Larrytown. Just think guys, now you will be able to go into the ladies room. Gez!

WHY 8 years, 10 months ago

I hope they pass this so women have to pay as much as men do for car insurance.

Women only get 70 cents for every dollar a man gets which is unfair because now the man only has 30 cents.

Equality now.

Noweigh 8 years, 10 months ago

I know that common sense would be way too much to ask in a situation like this in Lawrence. Can't wait for the "testimony" during the public comment phase. Meanwhile, pot holes, common-sense traffic solutions, job creation, etc. rage on unabated. If you "choose" to "identify" with the opposite gender, you absolutely know what you're signing up for in advance. What an absolute waste of time and city resources.

KS 8 years, 10 months ago

So, where is Log and Merrill on this one?

BigPrune 8 years, 10 months ago

If a guy has a bra stuffed with cantaloupes and wears a dress and long haired wig and puts on makeup and it's obvious that this she is indeed a he to a store clerk, they have to let this dude go into a woman's bathroom if he claims he is a woman trapped in a man's body, and if the clerk says no, then it is discrimination?

Lawrence, why do I still live here?

bearded_gnome 8 years, 10 months ago

dear fellow posters, I know this will be a terribly shocking revelation to my fellow posters:

*it now can be revealed ... I am a lesbian.

... yes, because I find myself habitually attracted to women, dream about sex with women, appreciate the looks of women [that is unconverted women, and not ersatz women or shemales], I am obviously a lesbian trapped in a man's body.
... I must now be allowed entrance into the women's restrooms all over lawrence.

problem solved.

however, it should be noted that I suspect that most women are at their least attractive while in their secret rooms of resort.

Dan Eyler 8 years, 10 months ago

So is a guy in trouble when a man dressed as a woman enters a mans restroom and I freak out feeling as though I am about to be assaulted so I bust this loon on his head. What if my wife comes screaming out of a public restroom because a guy dressed like a woman enters and completely scares the heck out of her. Is a guy in trouble for confronting the freak. You can write your laws but common sense is common sense. These people need a good therapist and drugs not access to the opposite sex restrooms.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 10 months ago

This isn't just a trans-gender issue. It's about protection from discrimination based on sexual preference, although I must say, I expected the LJW to cloud the issue. This is how the real issues get twisted by the media.

Shane Garrett 8 years, 10 months ago

Only in Larryville. (rolling eyes and shaking my head from side to side.) This is the kind of story that keeps readers interested. Good job LJW.

middleamerica 8 years, 10 months ago

Really? Is EVERY SINGLE COMMENT so far mocking transgender issues?! It's not a joke! The fact that you don't understand it does not entitle you to belittle it!! Do you know how many transgender people are killed each year, how many are targets of violent attacks, or how many commit suicide?

If your child was transgender (no, it's not a choice; do not assume you know unless you or someone close to you is dealing with this) would you or would you not like them to be treated with respect and decency? Imagine if you were forced to use a restroom designated for the opposite gender - would you consider it a problem?

BryanFoster 8 years, 10 months ago

Amen middleamerica. I support the ordinance.

jonas_opines 8 years, 10 months ago

“…Imagine if you were forced to use a restroom designated for the opposite gender -"


BorderRat 8 years, 10 months ago

Years ago I visited a my sister while she was going to school in Wisconsin. A group of us went out to the popular bar for drinks and I noticed the restroom doors only said "restroom." If the door was locked, you went to the other one, if it was locked, you waited until one became available. There, problem solved.

asbury 8 years, 10 months ago

BorderRat: Sounds a lot like an old college hang out "The Stables" (a 3.2 beer joint when 18 was the legal drinking age)....Anyway they had two bathrooms right across from each other. One door said "clams" the other said "oysters". Usually people just stood between the two of them looking back and forth, and then finally just picked one. Once again, problem solved.

asbury 8 years, 10 months ago

On another note, a few years ago when I returned to KU, I regularly encountered a (very obvious) male dressed in womens clothing in the ladies room. I'd be lying if I said it didn't "creep me out".

justthefacts 8 years, 10 months ago

Before I get started let me say that I think everyone who is transgendered, cross-dresses, gay, lesbian, or otherwise not pure as driven snow heterosexual is just as welcome as a friend of mine as anyone else. I could care less who others sleep with or what clothes they like to wear, etc.

But to require that no one ever discriminate based upon such criteria is legally begging for more trouble than most people can imagine. Giving people more "rights" then are already present in the Constitution only gives lawyers more work.

As for the bathroom debate, the door lock idea works well. For those bathrooms containing only one toilet. What about all the big bathrooms that currently exist (schools, big stores, etc.)? Gonna make them uni-sex or force the business to re-tool and create 20 little rooms? Good luck with that.

This looks like an answer looking for a question.

bernice 8 years, 10 months ago

We are promised equal protection under the law. It's about time we all got equal protection. We are tired of saying it's not okay to beat up people in a racial minority, but it is OK to beat up anyone perceived as a sexual deviant. .

Look, despite all the ignorance about gender, not everyone fits neatly into one sex or the other.

See about the gender controversy surrounding an Olympic athlete.

Any public location with three bathrooms should make the family bathroom a unisex facility, as has WalMart.

In general, transgendered people just want to blend in, and go about life without constant confrontation. They obey the laws as best they can, and deal with bigots who make unreasonable demands. Too many have been injured or killed because ignorant bigots have no tolerance of anyone they cannot understand.

I'm very pleased that this city commission is taking the issue to the table. This is one incredibly rare instance in which an unenlightened majority can be wrong.

Paul Decelles 8 years, 10 months ago

Some of the comments here about this issue serve as evidence that the ordinance or something that has the same effect is needed.

BigPrune 8 years, 10 months ago

If the dude dresses like a chick and uses the women's restroom, then he needs to pee like a chick. If a chick dresses like a dude, then she needs to pee like a dude if she is using the men's restroom.

No ordinance necessary as long as the store clerk is monitoring the situation, and if the gender confused party doesn't mind someone watching them pee!

Paul Decelles 8 years, 10 months ago

Hi Prune,

Well the ordinance really isn't about bathrooms it's about non discrimination in housing, shopping, jobs, stuff like that. After all other aspects of our identity such as religion and political affiliation are protected, and since gender identity is a big aspect of our identity it makes sense that it deserves some sort of protection.

I think part of the problem here is that not every one fits the gender binary and people who don't make those that do feel uncomfortable.

Gender identity and plumbing don't match up well for some and it goes much deeper than "a dude" dressing like a chick. Labeling such folk as "gender confused" is not accurate for many transgendered any more than it is to label you as "gender confused".

Paul Decelles 8 years, 10 months ago

Nobody answered smitty so here goes:

smitty asked:

"Explain how to visually tell the difference between a drag queen and a transgender for the sake of society, please?"

Draq queens are performers and usually dress "over the top". Now I bet some drag queens are transgendered but not all of them are. Transgendered people around and about tend to want to blend in and you may not even notice them.

By the way there are f to m drag kings but that is quite different than, say Jay, who has been featured in an earlier article and is an f to m transgendered individual.

Do these categories overlap and maybe grade into each other? Yup, but that's a function of our tendency to try to stick people into neat little boxes.

vegetablegirl 8 years, 10 months ago

All-for the record, these "commissioners" on the Human Relations Commission volunteer their time. No one is paid.

bernice 8 years, 10 months ago

Well, Smitty, nobody said this would be easy. We are only saying that there needs to be some ordinance so that beating up on crossdressers is no longer merely an unregulated blood-sport.

Of course there are unanswered questions, and questions for which there are no obvious answers.

As for parental confusion, yes, I think some children need some protection from their parents, that same as any children in a physically abusive family.

I'm sure the commission would welcome your constructive input.

Paul Decelles 8 years, 10 months ago


Now I have not seen what the Lawrence proposal would say but generally such ordinances protect gender identity and expression. Also I am not a legal scholar, just a biologist but here are some thoughts for you:

As for your first question...I am not sure what you are getting at as you are conflating being gay/lesbian with being transgender. Presumably if some one is trying to sort things in their own minds out the ordinance as written currently would protect them just as it does some one who is trying to sort out their religious affiliation.

As for your second questions about parents. No these ordinances have nothing to do with how parents deal with their children. Standards for how their parents raise there kids are by definition different than for interactions between adults.

As for the third issue about religion. Generally anti discrimination ordinances make exceptions for religious groups. So were I to apply for a job in a religious setting and were known to be a transgendered individual presumably it would be OK not to hire me.

But if a religious organization provides a public accommodation, e.g. housing for the homeless then it is not clear to me that they could discriminate. Even here its not clear since for instance as I understand it Catholic hospitals are exempt from providing abortion services.

There are kids that from a very young age express or understand their gender identity differently than assignment based on their "plumbing" and there is a lot of controversy as to the best way to help these kids. Child abuse is child abuse whatever the reason for it though.

Janet Lowther 8 years, 10 months ago

There are a number of issues to be considered here, lost in the bathroom argument:

By what authority does the convenience store clerk demand a person use a specific restroom? I know some women who look as masculine as some men do, and a few men who are sometimes mistaken for women.

IIRC there is a case wending its way through the courts where a natal woman was kicked out of the ladies' room 'cause she didn't look feminine enough.

People need to learn to mind their own business.

As for me, I'm all in favor of one-person restrooms where which is which and who is what doesn't make a difference.

bernice 8 years, 10 months ago

Indeed jrlii, the Supreme Court says that "equal protection under the law" is totally inconsistent with "separate but equal", and benefits accrued to citizens should not depend on who or what you are.

DonnaMarie 8 years, 9 months ago

Smitty, why does everyone make this about bathrooms?

There's more to it. Imagine you were discriminated against because you are fat (so am I) in matters of housing, employment and public accommodations. You couldn't get a job, or your employer fired you for being overweight. You couldn't rent an apartment because you were overweight.

If this was happening, wouldn't you want an ordinance to protect your rights?

In all the locals where anti discrimination laws have been passed based on gender identity and/or expression, there has been no case of a guy using the women's bathroom, where the guy wasn't transgendered. And there have been no sexual assaults resulting from these laws.

Note that there are trans folk using the ladies room already in most places, like Lawrence, and there have been no sexual assaults by these folk.

DonnaMarie 8 years, 9 months ago

But, let's revisit the bathroom.

Look at it this way. Let's say that trans folk are required by law to use the bathroom commiserate with their birth sex.

Your wife/daughter enters the bathroom in a public place. A transman (female to male transsexual) follows her in. This person looks like a man, even has a beard.

What is your first instinct? Call a cop or go in and rescue your wife/daughter.

Say a cop goes in and drags "her" out in handcuffs. Don't think the city wouldn't get sued.

Many would attack the transman without asking questions.

Say you attacked "her". Since the law required "she" use that restroom, who is in the wrong? You the attacker, of course.

You plead ignorance. Ignorance is no excuse under the law. You end up in jail, because some law wouldn't allow the transman to use the men's room.

Because of that law, many parents and spouses would constantly worry if the guy going into the restroom was a real guy or a transman.

And what's to keep a guy (sex offender) from going into the women's restroom and claiming he was born a woman? Is there going to a strip search for everyone?

I'd rather see folks use the restroom commiserate with their appearance.

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