WaPo Notes 'New Hope' for Transgendered: Dudes Using Ladies' Room

Maryland's state Court of Appeals recently blocked a ballot initiative to overturn a Montgomery County law that would, among other things, give transgendered persons the right to choose which public restroom they will use, regardless of their biological gender.

That "Ruling Inspires New Hope For Transgender People," exulted the Metro section front page* headline for Washington Post staffer Ann Marimow's September 15 story.

Marimow noted the fact that the ballot initiative did clear Maryland's hurdle for making the November ballot, but buried it in paragraph nine, which made the print edition beyond the jump on page B6.:

Opponents of the law, including some parents and religious groups, gathered more than 25,000 signatures to put the measure to a vote. They worried that the law was written so broadly that it could allow a cross-dressing man, for instance, to gain access to locker rooms at health clubs. They also unsuccessfully tried to add exceptions to the law for hiring by religious institutions and schools. To opponents, the court's decision disenfranchised the thousands of people who signed petitions.

Although there are 25,000 of them in the D.C. area, Marimow failed to quote an opponent of the law and used paragraph 10 to return to the biologically male Allyson Robinson, a transgendered woman (biologically male) she featured in the lede paragraph as welcoming the court ruling because "it means accompanying her young children to public restrooms in Montgomery County without worrying that someone will call the police.":

But for transgender women such as Robinson, the County Council's passage of the law was a key reason she chose to live in Montgomery when she moved to the area this year from Texas to take a job at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization.

Before settling on a townhouse in Gaithersburg, Robinson and her family sought to rent an apartment. She worried, unnecessarily as it turned out, that the landlord would want to pull out of the lease upon meeting her. Until the law took effect this week, Robinson said, the landlord could have rejected her application because she is a transgender person.

In the past, Robinson has also worried about taking her four young children to public restrooms at restaurants, because she fears that someone will identify her as a transgender woman and call security.

Besides Robinson, Marimow quoted three other people in the story, all of them supportive of the Montgomery County law. One of them is a journalist for NPR's flagship station in Washington, D.C. :

[Colleen] Fay said she hoped the media attention to Montgomery's action -- and the court's decision -- would embolden her county to follow and raise awareness to help demystify transgender people.

"It's invisibility that leads to fears and the icky factor that makes some people react by saying, 'I don't want to deal with that,' " said Fay, arts editor for WAMU radio's Metro Connection, a show she helped launch as Peter Fay in 1995.

In December, when Fay moved back to Maryland from the District after many years, her old driver's license information identified her as male. Fay said she was hassled by a motor vehicle clerk, who refused to change the designation to female.

*The story was below-the-fold on the front page of the District & Maryland Home Edition of the September 15 Washington Post Metro section. I'm not certain where the story, if it appeared at all, was placed in the Metro page of the Virginia Home Edition.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.