Last week, the blogosphere caught fire with a story of a transwoman named Stephanie banned for life from The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Hotel and Casino for using the women’s restroom at 4 a.m. Shortly thereafter the casino apologized and the entire thing seemed wrapped up. But then Las Vegas writer Steve Freiss spoke to Stephanie and found some inconsistencies in her story raising the question of whether or not her entire story was a hoax.
Bilerico, Towleroad, Dan Savage at The Seattle Stranger, and TransGriot all repeated the story, but only Bilerico bothered to revisit the issue in light of Mr. Freiss’ investigation. Here’s how Bilerico’s Dr. Jillian T. Weiss summarizes Freiss’ article:
“[According to Freiss] the alleged victim had made extremely similar internet allegations about another hotel, except that it involved SWAT teams and dogs, but denied in an interview having made such previous reports, and then [admitted] it when confronted, and [gave] a poor excuse for the denial.
Stephanie also implied that she had faced such bathroom discrimination “dozens of times” even though she herself admits that most people cannot identify her as transgender.
One need only recall University of North Carolina student Quinn Matney who faked a gay-bashing by burning himself to know just how badly such hoaxes insult actual victims of discrimination. We’ve also discussed how repeating unverified reports undermines queer media credibility.
In this case even Dr. Weiss admits that sometimes “people from the trans community… exaggerate or lie outright about events in order to glorify themselves,” something she compares to witnesses at a trial who imprecisely “shade the truth” to present their point of view without intending to lie. Matney’s case is much more clear cut, he faked the attack and blatantly lied about it to police. But the truth of Stephanie’s story remains unclear both because of her inconsistencies and the fact that the Cosmopolitan’s security guards have a “no comment” policy on such incidents.
True or not, Stephanie’s story raises the issue of how bathroom politics negatively effect our transsexual, transgender, and intersex brothers and sisters. Consider the recent brutal attack of transgender woman Chrissy Lee Polis by two teenage girls at a McDonald’s. The girls allegedly targeted Polis because she used the women’s restroom; but her attackers aren’t the only ones threatened by trans bathroom politics. While Polis’ experience and the resulting video from her attack illustrated the consequences of bathroom transphobia, Stephanie’s tale merely muddies the water, leaving all transfolk who experience discrimination sans videotape subject to further doubt.