Thursday, February 5, 2009

HIPPO creates unisex bathrooms

the Hippo decided today to change two single stall bathrooms into unisex bathrooms (the bathrooms on the saloon side of the bar).

They expressed that the community is very important to them and they want to do what they can to create a space that is welcoming and supportive (my words, not theirs).

that said, I also learned that the Hippo has received several threatening emails. What happened last Friday is absolutely not ok. But neither is threatening violence or implying a threat of violence. That is unacceptable.

thanks for listening

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

more links

check out these blogs:


and Queers Bash Back


good post with even better links to some laws that we might need in b'more

petition for unisex bathrooms

here's the link to the petition for unisex bathrooms at the two biggest GLBT bars in Baltimore.

Please note, Grand Central Station was included in the petition in an effort to be equitable, not because there has been a similar incident at Central.

PeeFree Petition

What Started It All

I got a phone call this morning that made me very sad.

Last night at the Hippo there was a drag show. Which was fun. I was there, but I left about half way through. The dogs had been home alone for about 6 hours and Bella has a bladder the size of a - well, what's smaller than a pea? A dust particle?

Here's what happened.

After the show, a person who identifies as transgendered went to the bathroom. I'll call him Abe. He prefers male pronouns and dresses in a way that folks would identify as either male or androgynous. Abe went into the boys bathroom, as he always does. As he had in fact, done two previous times that evening. A Hippo employee was in the bathroom, saw Abe, questioned his gender, grabbed him by the shirt and physically threw him out of the bathroom. Abe is about 5' 6" and not physically threatening.

Here's where I should add that, no, I'm not talking about my brother Owen. But, he was there and witnessed a large part of what went down.

When Abe tried to explain that he was transgendered and felt most comfortable in the men's bathroom, he was told that he had to use the bathroom that matched his driver's license.

This policy was then confirmed by the manager of the club. Some not so nice things were said. In fact, I'm sure people on all sides of this discussion said some things that were far from polite.

I am horrified. And upset. And deeply offended on so many levels.

First of all, the Hippo staff should know better. They are part of the queer community and regularly host gender performance events. The Hippo is one of the oldest gay bars in the country.

The legal aspects of changing the gender on your driver's license are very personal and can be complicated. If you are a resident of Maryland, it requires that you be in both medical care and psychotherapy. This also usually necessitates a name change and birth certificate change. If all of these documents are not changed at the same time, the individual becomes vulnerable to charges of fraud. Changing your birth certificate must be done where you were born and the requirements vary from state to state. Some states require significant medical intervention in order to get a birth certificate changed. In many cases these interventions include surgery.

Surgery is expensive and rarely covered by insurance.

In other words, a person can be quite far in their transition and choose to not change the gender on their drivers license. They may not have the economic resources to do so, or they may not want to engage in the medical interventions required by the state in which they were born.

Or, they may not identify with a binary gender system. Which frankly, lots of folks don't. In which case, jumping through a lot of hoops to change your gender from one box to another doesn't make sense.

But, when faced with a choice of a male or female bathroom, most folks know which bathroom is a better match for the gender between their ears. And, when it's safe, they'll use that bathroom.

Everybody needs to pee.

A gay bar on drag night should be one of those safe places. That should be dependable. Like that the sun comes up in the morning. White shoes shouldn't be worn after labor day or that the Pope is Catholic.

But that's not what happened at the Hippo last night. Instead, some trans people were made to feel unwelcome. Marginalized. Like freaks.

Various folks are trying to set up a meeting with both the owner and manager of the Hippo. I'm hoping that they just need some education.

I'll keep you informed about what happens. In the meantime, use your own judgment about which queer bars you choose to support.

Discriminating against any of us is absolutely unacceptable.

Thanks for listening.