New York Pride Day
Lesbian ejected from restaurant
Published Jul 12, 2007 10:34 PM
Khadijah Farmer felt safe. She was in the heart of Greenwich Village,
historically a center of New York’s lesbian, gay, bi, transgender
communities. And it was Pride Day, the annual event celebrating the LGBT
movement and the victories it has won against bigotry and oppression.
So Farmer, a Black lesbian, was stunned when a bouncer at a local restaurant
ejected her from the bathroom and demanded that she and her friends leave the
premises. Why? Because, said the bouncer, she looked like a man.
Farmer and her fiends had gone to Caliente Cab Company, a restaurant in the
Village, after the June 24 LGBT Pride march. While she was in the bathroom the
bouncer burst in and banged on the stall door, telling her that a customer had
complained that a man was in the women’s room.
Farmer her friends offered to show him her driver’s license as proof. He
responded, “That is neither here nor there,” Farmer told the New
York Blade. He then ordered Farmer and her friends to pay the bill for their
meal and ejected them from the restaurant.
Farmer—together with her mother and the Transgender Legal Defense and
Education Fund—held a news conference July 2 conference outside the
restaurant, announcing that they had demanded that the restaurant take action
to prevent such discrimination in the future.
“I felt violated,” Farmer was quoted in the Daily News. “I
really thought that especially in New York City, especially in the heart of the
Village, things like this had stopped happening.”
TLDEF has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant demanding that it enforce a
policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender
expression and sexual orientation; train its staff to comply with laws
protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and compensate Farmer
for the violation of her civil rights.
The legal group won a similar battle against New York’s Metropolitan
Transportation Authority last year. Helena Stone, a 70-year-old transgender
woman, had been arrested three times by the MTA for entering the women’s
restroom. In October, the MTA settled the lawsuit TLDEF brought on
Stone’s behalf, agreeing to allow people to choose the restroom that is
consistent with their gender expression, to conduct gender training and
sensitivity programs for its employees, and to pay Stone $2,000 in damages.
Farmer’s experience in the Village comes at a time when the area is
undergoing gentrification. People of color, homeless and transgender
communities have faced curfews and police brutality. Last year after the
Halloween parade New York City police beat and arrested several people of color
in sweeps on Christopher Street.
And it is in the West Village that a man attacked a group of African-American
lesbians when they rebuffed his advances. The young women defended themselves
and two men subsequently ran over to help them. At some point in the struggle
the attacker was stabbed in the abdomen and subsequently underwent surgery. The
women, rather than their attacker, were prosecuted, and in June, four of
them—now known as the Jersey 4—were convicted and received
sentences of from three-and-a-half to 11 years in prison.
These cases show that despite the many victories of the LGBT community, bigotry
and violence have not been eradicated. The struggle has won the enactment in
many states of laws that make it illegal for companies to fire, or refuse to
hire or promote someone based on sexual orientation. However, only 17 states
and the District of Columbia protect gay and lesbians in the work place and
only 10 states provide protections based on gender identity.
While New York does not have such a law on the books the New York City human
rights law bars transgender discrimination.
There is no federal law barring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi or
trans people. In April, members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced
the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw workplace
discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A similar
measure was introduced in 1994 but failed to pass.
June Brown, communications coordinator of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in
Manhattan, told Workers World: “The law as it stands protects people
regardless of their gender identities to use the bathrooms of their choice. For
someone to deny a person this unalienable right to use the bathroom based upon
an assumption is an inhumane and ignorant act that should be dealt with
SRLP is a legal advocacy organization created and run by trans attorneys and
activists who have been at the forefront of fighting discrimination against
people of color who are trans, intersex or gender non-conforming in New York
Farmer’s experience shows that it is only by fiercely mobilizing to
demand justice that laws will be enacted and enforced to prevent the
discrimination and humiliation she endured.
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