Most of us live in a bubble of one kind or the other. Sometimes it is a cultural bubble, if the people that we interact with on a day-to-day basis were all born and raised in the same culture. Sometimes it is a class bubble, if we do not know anyone who makes significantly more or less money than we or our parents did. Sometimes it is a liberal or a conservative bubble, if all of the people that we speak to happen to generally share the same views.
Regardless of the bubble you live in, it is important to be aware of it as the limited view of the world that it is, and that many if not most people in the world do not share your perspective and experience. Sometimes, this means having to share and state things that seem so obvious to you that at first glance you think they barely deserve a second one, let alone repeating.
It is my liberal bubble that almost made me skate over a blogpost published by the ACLU entitled “No, Seeing a Transgendered Person Is Not a Reason to Call 911“. Yeah no shit, I thought, and kept scrolling for a few seconds before I recognized this for the nearsighted reaction that it was.
No. Most unfortunately, it is not obvious to many people. While that may be an incredibly sad truth, it is still a fact, as one Meagan discovered when someone called 911 and had her arrested for trying to check into a hotel on her way to a funeral while being transgender.
There was no emergency. Just two young women stopping for the evening at a hotel. The caller complains that they are “unusual” because they are “two males, but they’re dressed as females with ‘male IDs’ and ‘dressed a little over the top.’” Even the dispatcher is somewhat incredulous that this would prompt anyone to call 911. She questions why the caller is suspicious and the caller explains, that “I just want to make sure they’re not hookers either.”
Meagan wrote about how awful it felt to be targeted and humiliated just because of who you are:
“As a Black trans woman, I am used to unfair and discriminatory treatment, but this was extra upsetting because we were paying customers at a hotel and on our way to a funeral. I felt like I had no rights.”
In case you are inclined to think that this is just one isolated incident which is being blown out of proportion, the ACLU quotes some devastating statistics.
When we filed a complaint on Meagan’s behalf with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, I wrote:
“Just the fact of their blackness and their transness prompted hotel staff to call the police to report suspected prostitution. This…is all too common for transgender women of color who are regularly suspected of engaging in sex work when just walking down the street or going about their daily routines. It is this type of profiling that leads 47 percent of Black transgender women to be incarcerated at some point in their lives.”
As obvious as it seems to most of us, unfortunately to many people it is not obvious that the mere presence of a transgendered person is not sufficient reason to call 911. In a better society, the police would never even respond to such a ludicrous phone call, and the dispatcher would shame the caller for wasting their time and clogging up the phone lines of a service that is there for actual emergencies, not as a place for you to vent your prejudice. Unfortunately we don’t live in such a society, so these things need to be repeated, shared and Meagan and the ACLU need to be vocally supported.
Don’t make the mistake that I almost made, and let your own bubble cause you to ignore important issues that need to be spoken about and shared. This story, as so many others, need to be brought to light until everyone sees it for the obvious statement that it is, and these things stop happening to transgendered people.