July 11, 2017 at 3:53 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C., Rehoboth officials misgender trans women
Jessica Hawkins, gay news, Washington Blade, misgender trans women

Sgt. Jessica Hawkins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In separate incidents that activists say they hope were rare occurrences, city government employees in D.C. and Rehoboth Beach, Del., during the past week directed transgender women to use the men’s bathroom or locker room at a public facility.

In the D.C. case, an employee of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation told several trans women entering the city’s Banneker Pool on Georgia Avenue, N.W., on July 1 that they needed to access the pool through the men’s locker room, according to an account of the incident by the local online news blog dcist.

Among the trans women asked to use the men’s locker room, dcist reported, was D.C. police Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, who serves as supervisor for the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit. Rebecca Kling, an official with the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the trans people came to the pool to participate in the second annual D.C. Trans Pool Party that Kling organized.

Kling said she didn’t directly witness a female desk clerk at the pool asking the trans women to use the men’s locker room and who reportedly addressed Sgt. Hawkins as “sir.” But Kling said she spoke to several people who informed her of that taking place.

Kling noted that once she brought the matter to the attention of the manager of the Banneker Pool he immediately assigned another employee to the front desk and that employee treated the trans visitors with respect and had no objections to their using the locker room that matched their gender identity – the women’s locker room.

Kling and transgender advocate Ruby Corado also noted that the “misgendering” by the pool employee of the trans women marked the second year in a row in which attendees of the annual Trans Pool Party were treated improperly by a DPR employee assigned to work at the Banneker Pool.

DPR officials responded to last year’s incident by promising to provide additional training for all DPR employees on LGBT-related issues, including the fact that the D.C. Human Rights Act bans discrimination against LGBT people. The Human Rights Act, among other things, requires that transgender people be allowed to use public bathrooms or other facilities, including locker rooms, that match their gender identity.

“As far as trans persons being mistreated, as far as I could see once everyone got into the pool everyone had a great time and everyone was treated appropriately,” Kling told the Blade in discussing this year’s Trans Pool Party on July 1.

“We take all concerns seriously and we address them immediately,” DPR spokesperson Gwen Crump said in a statement. “DPR has and will continue to train employees regarding sensitivity to LGBTQ guests,” she said, adding, “[W]e want every DPR facility to be a welcoming experience for all guests.”

In the Rehoboth Beach incident, Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks told the Blade a female transgender visitor called police in the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, to report being mistreated by a city attendant working at one of the public bathrooms located next to a bandstand near the boardwalk.

Similar to the D.C. pool incident, Banks said the trans visitor complained to police officers who arrived on the scene that the attendant directed her to use the men’s bathroom instead of the women’s bathroom, a development that violates Delaware’s human rights law. The Delaware human rights law, similar to D.C.’s law, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and allows trans people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Steve Elkins, president of CAMP Rehoboth, an LGBT community center, said Banks invited him to attend a meeting on Monday with him, the Rehoboth city manager, and other city officials to discuss the bathroom incident. Among other things, Elkins said City Manager Sharon Lynn, who’s a lesbian, said she would arrange for city employees to be briefed on the state human rights law and its application to issues affecting transgender people.

“The police acted appropriately in the way they handled this,” Elkins said. “The bathroom attendant is being counseled.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • This is the home of the United States government, and where the Constitution of these United States should be respected, along with the Bill Of Rights it contains. Here with our country coming to it’s 241st year this July. It’s sad that even today people are ignorant of what it states, and gives no thought, of what it promised to all of US. The simple phrase that “All Men are Created Equal.” [Women also] It was basically said after the Civil War, to Protect the African Americans. How about now, it’s time to protect Transgender people as well as the Afro Americans that are still oppressed. We are supposed to be protected, and now we have a GOP pushing Theocracy on all US Citizens, and denying rights to Trans people. DC should be following the Constitution and not GOP leaders.

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