If you're a woman, but to some you look like a man, should you be prevented from using a woman's restroom?
Posted Oct. 16, 2007 – Khadijah Farmer admits she’s been mistaken for a man many times before. After all, she sports a short ’do, wears a men’s-style blazer and slacks, stays away from makeup and speaks in a baritone voice.
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So when a bouncer stormed into the ladies’ restroom at the Caliente Cab Company restaurant and demanded that she get out, she figured she’d explain things, as usual, and the red-faced enforcer would back out of the bathroom after apologizing profusely.
“I said to him, ‘I’m a female, and I’m supposed to be in here,’” said the 28-year-old lesbian, who had stopped at the restaurant during a Gay Pride celebration in June. “After I came out of the bathroom stall, I attempted to show him my ID, to show him that I was in the right place. He just refused to look at my identification. His exact words were, ‘Your ID is neither here nor there.’” After refusing to see her ID, the bouncer forced her and her party to pay for their food and get out of the restaurant, Farmer said.
“Needless to say,” Farmer said in an interview with BET.com on Monday, “that night was incredibly embarrassing and quite humiliating. I didn’t do anything but go to the bathroom. “This was an incident that went over the top for me.”
So, after a long discussion with her parents, Farmer decided that "this was not something I was going to keep quiet about.” She contacted the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed a suit against Caliente Cab Company, alleging it discriminated against her based on how she looks.
You won't believe what Farmer's lawyer said the restaurant suggested as a peace offering. Go to the next page to find out.
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The issue for Farmer, who insists that she’s not trying to look like a man, is that she shouldn’t have been kicked out of the restaurant, regardless of what she looks like. “What exactly does a male look like and what exactly does a woman look like?” Farmer asks rhetorically. “I am a woman…I would not have felt comfortable going into the men’s bathroom.”
New York City already outlaws gender discrimination in the workplace, Farmer’s lawyer, Michael Silverman, told BET.com, but he argues that it should be expanded to include public accommodations, as well.
The Caliente Cab Company said it investigated Farmer’s allegations and met in “good faith” with her representatives to resolve the matter, but restaurant officials say that Farmer and her attorney are only interested in money. “The complainant is not interested at all in getting the truth here,” said a statement on the restaurant Web site. “She is threatening continuous weekly protests of our business rather than expose the facts to the light of day.” The company said it has never discriminated against anyone.
But Silverman said that Farmer’s motivation has never been money.
“Our meeting with [the restaurant] was not very productive at all,” he said. “They started off the meeting saying that ‘we will never pay’…” but, being that is a civil rights case we are perfectly OK with at least discussing compensation.
“They offered Khadijah a free meal,” he added.
Said Farmer: “This is so much bigger than money. Money is so small, as opposed to fighting for a cause.”
If you're a woman, but to some you look like a man, should you be prevented from using a woman's restroom? Click "Discuss Now," to the right, to post your comment.
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