Transgender woman ticketed for using women's restroom
A Dallas transgender woman, who is a U.S. Veteran, was issued a ticket for disorderly conduct after using the women's restroom at an area hospital.
"This is 2012, and I've been transitioning since 2006, and I've never had a problem until I went to Parkland Hospital," Paula Witherspoon said, whose legal name is Paul Witherspoon, according to MSNBC
Witherspoon said, on April 25, the day of the incident, she was at the hospital with her husband, who had a follow-up appointment after suffering a heart attack, the Dallas Voice
An officer with the hospital’s police force wrote the citation for a class-C misdemeanor after a Parkland Hospital representative said the hospital received a complaint from a concerned female patient about a man in the women's restroom.
But Witherspoon said she doesn't even remember seeing anyone else in the restroom until she walked out.
"There was a lady there that said, 'That's a man.' I just ignored her and kept going," Witherspoon said.
Minutes later, she said a Parkland police came over to her and said they weren’t there to decide whether she was guilty.
“Then they wrote me a ticket,” she told the Dallas Voice.
MSNBC states that "Witherspoon said she offered to show the officer a transition letter from her doctor that states, "She is expected to use facilities consistent with her external presentation, which is female."
But Parkland police told her they have to go by what is on her license, Witherspoon said.
"It was definitely humiliating, degrading," she said. "I felt like I was being discriminated against."
posted the following statement from Parkland Hospital: "Because of the complexity of the issue, the incident is currently under review. Parkland strives to treat patients, visitors and staff with dignity and respect, as well as provide a safe environment at all times."
MSNBC writes that anti-discrimination laws in 16 states and the District of Columbia provide protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people, but Texas is not one of them, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is calling for lawmakers in New York to pass legislation that will offer such protections.
And there's a question about the sequence of events.
The letter from her clinical psychologist at the Dallas VA Medical Center, Gloria J. Emmert, provided to Dallasvoice.com
, is dated April 27, 2012 ---- two days after the incident.
The letter states in part the following:
“Paula Witherspoon is a U.S. Veteran that receives care at the Dallas VA Medical Center," Emmrt begins. "As a frequent visitor to the Dallas VA Hospital, she is expected to use facilities consistent with her external presentation, which is female,” Emmert wrote. “Please assist this Veteran by supporting the application of this ethical approach in all Dallas settings.”
Ken Upton, a supervising attorney in the Dallas office of Lambda Legal, told the Dallas Voice that lewd conduct is the closest thing he could find in Section 4201 of the Texas Penal Code, the statute listed on the ticket.
Upton also said Parkland will have trouble defending the case.
“The officer doesn’t know if anyone else was in there,” Upton said, so his testimony would be hearsay. And if the complainant wasn’t in the restroom, that person was not a witness to any lewd behavior.
Upton said the officer probably figures Witherspoon will either pay the fine or it’ll be dismissed, the Dallas Voice reported.
“And he doesn’t care,” Upton said, adding that the officer couldn’t have written a ticket for simply using the wrong bathroom.
“That’s not a crime in Dallas,” he said.