According to this article, the MTA has made the wholly reasonable decision to allow transwomen to use the women’s room:
Helena Stone, formerly Henry McGuinness, stands her ground yesterday outside Grand Central Terminal’s ladies’ room, which can now be used by transgender men.
The line for the girls’ room just got longer.
Men who live as women can now legally use women’s rest rooms in New York’s transit system under an unprecedented deal revealed yesterday.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to allow riders to use MTA rest rooms “consistent with their gender expression,” the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund announced yesterday.
The group filed a complaint against the MTA on behalf of a 70-year-old telephone repair technician who was arrested for using the women’s room at Grand Central Terminal.
The technician, who is assigned to the terminal by Verizon, was born Henry McGuinness but now goes by Helena Stone.
I love how it sets up the oppositional relationship from the very start.
I kid, I kid! Seriously, though, I am a transgender man. Helena, and the women covered under this new policy, are transgender women. It is inappropriate to refer to them as “men,” or by male pronouns. I’m curious: is there anyone out there, particularly anyone in New York, who does not understand the basic concept of “sex change?” Does it not follow that Helena, who now lives as a woman witha woman’s name, must at one point have lived as and been known as a man with a man’s name? Why do all of these articles make a point of our birth names?
I also don’t think it’s quite proper to say that transwomen will be allowed to use all of the bathrooms. This measure was undertaken because transwomen are justifiably terrified of using the men’s room. They’re being let into the women’s room because they are not allowed to use the men’s room. Attempting to use the men’s room means risking physical harm.
Another article, from AM New York, with more information:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to pay $2,000 in damages to Helena Stone, 70, a pre-operative woman formerly known as Henry McGuinness. Stone, a longtime Verizon telephone technician, was arrested three times in late 2005 and early 2006 after using women’s rest rooms at Grand Central Terminal, where she was assigned to repair pay phones.
“I’m thrilled with it,” said Stone, who began hormone replacement therapy 11 years ago. “It’s like the world was lifted off my shoulders after a few months of hell.”
Transit police charged her with disorderly conduct. She say the officers verbally abused her after she presented a man’s work credentials after being questioned, she said. The charges were dropped after a protest in March.
Yes, I’m sure this was all just about wanting everyone to be safe.
The article also brings up another issue:
Silverman is now considering bringing a complaint or civil suit against the Port Authority. Three transgender women, between the ages of 18 and 22, were arrested at the Port Authority Bus Terminal Oct. 3 and charged with trespassing, said Kate Barnhart, manager of Sylvia’s Place, a shelter for gay, bisexual and transgender youth, where the women were clients.
The people most in need of this protection are the ones who are most vulnerable, in other words. A homeless woman can ill afford criminal charges, and probably has no option beside the dangerous public bathroom and the prohibited one.
Dawn Eden takes the position that the boundary should be set according to genitalia: if you have male genitalia, you have to go into the men’s room. This is idiotic. Why? Well, that’s not the standard and it never has been the standard. The rule is based on appearance. If you look like a man, you use the men’s room. If you look like a woman, you use the women’s room. As any butch dyke can tell you, as any passing transwoman could tell you, and as Dawn Eden could tell you if she were ever to buy a soft packer, genitalia don’t matter. No one can really see them, and no one cares. That’s why I don’t use the women’s room.
These transwomen were not constrained on the basis of genitalia, either. It did not matter to the cops whether or not Helena had undergone surgery, and her status will not change in that respect if and when she does. However, they also were not punished under the same appearance standards that apply to cisgendered people. Helena and her counterparts were punished because they were visibly transgender. No one was seriously under the impression that they were there to cause trouble, or that Helena was a may-un, and no one seriously believed that Helena’s best option was the men’s room. This new policy only prevents harassment of people like Helena.
The big objection to this–apart from “Ew! I don’t want to pee next to a dude!”–is the idea that it will give license to predators. I suspect that Dawn Eden and her commenters have never been men dressed in drag, but it’s not an unproblematic cover for predation. It is dangerous for a man or a male-bodied person to walk down the street in women’s clothing. It is dangerous to present as visibly transgender. It is so dangerous that people who want it more than anything sometimes wait until they’re senior citizens to attempt it. It is so dangerous that it would present a disincentive that more than compensates for the slight additional safety afforded transgender people. There are easier ways to sexually assault someone, ways that don’t involve imitating a pariah for the sake of one slender thread of legal protection offered to those pariahs.
Dawn also seems to be under the impression that transwomen who do not present as remotely female, who do not dress and live as women, will use the women’s room. Out of sheer perversity, I suppose. Again, that’s dangerous. All we really want to do is pee and freshen up. We aren’t going to risk our safety for the sake of testing the limits of this policy. We’re not going to remain closeted except when we need to use the facilities. Had Helena been able to go into the men’s room without risking assault, I strongly suspect she would have done so. I don’t think she attempted to use the women’s room until she started presenting as female.
It’s also worth pointing out that there is no policy against notifying security when something is wrong, or when there is someone in the women’s room who seems dangerous. This policy only says that it’s not correct to make that judgment against someone because they are visibly gendervariant, because most visibly gendervariant people are there to go to the bathroom. That only makes sense, given the number of transphobic false-positives that have been enforced against us in the past. How does targeting Helena protect women? It’s good policy from a security standpoint as well.