Transgender people now have the right to use any restroom they choose in New York City’s public transit system under an unprecedented deal revealed this week.
According to the New York Daily News, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has agreed to allow riders to use MTA rest rooms “consistent with their gender expression,” the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund announced.
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’m a 24-hour woman,” Stone declared proudly, “I just feel like a woman and I like to wear women’s clothes.”
The MTA also agreed to pay Helena Stone – formerly known as Henry McGuinness – $2,000 in damages to cover legal fees.
“I only wanted to go to work and live my life as who I am,” Stone told the New York Post.
The agreement calls on the MTA to sponsor a transgender sensitivity training programme for its employees. Michael Sullivan, Stone’s lawyer, called the settlement of the complaint with the Human Rights Commission a “milestone” toward recognition of the city law that prohibits discrimination against transgender men and women, reports the Post.
Stone, a Verizon telephone technician, was arrested three times over the past two years after using the women’s restrooms at Grand Central Terminal, where she was assigned to repair pay phones.
Stone – who has been transitioning to become a woman over the past 10 years and wears female clothing and make-up – was arrested twice in 2005 and once this year. She was charged with disorderly conduct each time.
Stone said that during one arrest, an MTA cop called her “a freak, a weirdo and the ugliest woman in the world.”
This past January, the third time she was arrested, three male MTA cops entered the women’s restroom, searched Stone, then told her she didn’t belong there before she was cuffed. Stone said that since her office, which is located inside the sprawling transit hub, has no bathroom, she has had no other option but to urinate in a cup.
The MTA dropped all criminal charges against Stone in March after the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund, which represented her in her complaint, staged a rally on February 28 outside Grand Central Terminal.
Some Metro-North riders at Grand Central were stunned by the ruling. “I would not like that,” Gloria David, a retiree from Connecticut, told the Daily News. “I have nothing against gay men or drag queens, but they can use the men’s room. I just don’t want to go to the bathroom next to a man.”
One rider feared predators might dress as women and lurk in the women’s room, reports the Daily News.
But Rena Gantz, 23, a college student, shrugged off the settlement. “It doesn’t bother me because it is a reality,” she said. “If they believe they are women, they should be treated as one.”
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