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Lesbian Mistaken for a Man, Ejected from Restroom, Receives Settlement

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday May 13, 2008

A lawsuit brought on behalf of a lesbian thrown out of a women's bathroom at a restaurant before being ejected, with her friends, from the premises, has been settled by the plaintiff and a New York eatery.

The suit was filed last fall on behalf of Khadijah Farmer, a Hell's Kitchen resident who was in Greenwich Village after attending last June's Pride events. While in the West Village, Farmer, her partner, and some friends stepped into Caliente Cab Company, where they were enjoying appetizers when Farmer left the table and headed to the ladies' room.

On the way in, according to Farmer, a woman exiting the restroom seemingly mistook her for a man, because she made a point to tell Ms. Farmer that she was about to enter the ladies' room.

Farmer replied that she was, actually, a woman.

This sort of exchange was not entirely new to Farmer, who summed up her experience later by saying, "I'm not the most effeminate woman in the world, nor do I try to be, but people still find it necessary to let me know that they think I'm in the wrong bathroom."

According to an Oct. 9, 2007, article published in the New York Times, Farmer was still in the stall when a male bouncer entered the restroom, having been erroneously alerted that a man was using the women's facility. According to Farmer, who was aghast at the invasion and the confrontation, she called out, "I'm a female, and I'm supposed to be in here."

Said Farmer, "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, and he just refused to look at my identification."

Added Farmer, "His exact words were, 'Your ID is neither here nor there,' which means that my ID didn't matter to him."

After escorting Farmer back to the table where her friends and partner were waiting, the bouncer insisted that the party pay for the food they had already ordered and then told them to leave the restaurant, the article reported.

The New York Times account was part of a City Room blog reporting on the filing of the lawsuit on Ms. Farmer's behalf by The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF).

The transgender advocacy group took the case even though Ms. Farmer is not transgendered: she was born, and she remains, female in gender.

But the incident serves, as a July 17 article published at EDGE observes, as an object lesson "that points up some of the core issues about society's definition of gender, and challenges the rules of what is 'acceptable' within the realms of gender expression."

Continues the EDGE article, "This drama presents a daily trial for persons who are transgender, as well as those who express gender traits counter to the traits associated with the sex they are born with."

In a May 13 press release, TLDEF announced that the parties involved in the suit had settled, and as part of the settlement had met every demand made by TLDEF, including the addition of language to the company nondiscrimination policy to make it more inclusive of gender identity and gender expression issues, sensitivity training for employees around gender identity and gender expression issues, the adoption of a gender-neutral employee dress code, and the payment of damages to Ms. Farmer.

The release quoted Farmer as saying, "I'm very happy that the restaurant has taken appropriate steps to ensure that all patrons, regardless of how masculine or feminine they appear, are treated with dignity and respect."

Added Farmer, "People come in all shapes and sizes, and they shouldn't be discriminated against because they don't match someone's expectations of how masculine or feminine they should be."

The release included a quote from Michael Silverman, the executive director of TLDEF. "People are routinely harassed and abused when they fail to conform to expectations about gender, especially in places like restrooms," said Silverman, who also served as a lawyer on the case.

Added Silverman, "Today's settlement marks a step forward in ensuring that people have equal access to public accommodations like restrooms and restaurants without regard to their gender identity or expression."

A second press release announced the TLDEF had scheduled a May 13 press conference, slated to take place at the New York State Supreme Court.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.