If you happen to be passing through Grand Central Station and nature calls, you just might want to hold it until you get home, because, this week, officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided that transgendered people have the right to use the bathroom – men’s or women’s – of their choice on New York’s subway system.
Helena Stone: “I’m a 24-hour woman.”
The agreement was reached following a lawsuit filed by Helena Stone – formerly known as Henry McGuinness – who was arrested twice in 2005 and once earlier this year for disorderly conduct after using the women’s restroom at Grand Central Station.
Stone, 70, who is a telephone technician for Verizon, worked regularly at the transit facility when the arrests happened.
A police officer allegedly called Stone “a freak, a weirdo and the ugliest woman in the world” and warned, “If I ever see you in the women’s bathroom, I’m going to arrest you.”
Stone, who claimed to be forced to use a cup after the arrests instead of a bathroom, filed a complaint with New York City’s Human Rights Commission and became a cause c?l?bre with the sexual-minority community in the city.
“That’s the only bathroom I use,” Stone told a rally. “That’s who I am.”
The agreement reached by MTA is similar to a policy instituted by the Human Rights Commission for government and other public bathrooms in the city. MTA will pay Stone $2,000 in damages for legal fees, according to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which handled the case. MTA also agreed to conduct transgender-sensitivity training for employees.
“I’m thrilled with it,” Stone said of the agreement.
Not all transit riders shared Stone’s enthusiasm, however.
“I would not like that,” Gloria David, a retiree from Connecticut told the New York 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.”
Concern was expressed by another rider that sexual predators could now dress as women and lurk in women’s restrooms.
For Rena Gantz, a 23-year-old college student, the settlement was a non-issue.
“It doesn’t bother me because it is a reality,” she said. “If they believe they are women, they should be treated as one.”
And that suits Stone just fine.
“I’m a 24-hour woman,” Stone declared. “I just feel like a woman and I like to wear women’s clothes.”