Monday, June 12, 2006
Help Me Howard: Transgender
Everybody knows guys go to the men's room. And lady's to the woman's room. But what do you do if most people consider you somewhere in the middle. That's a question for Help Me Howard. Here's seven's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--Raj spends a lot of time on makeup and clothes.
Raj: "I'm transgender."
Raj was born a male .... and wants to become a female.
Raj: "I have not had the full sexual reassignment surgery."
To be blunt Raj has male genitals and breasts like a woman.
Legally he is still man.
But in Raj's heart, she's a woman.
"Do you ever dress as a man?"
"When was the last time you were a man"
Raj: "Probably about ten years ago."
But being a man and looking like a woman can make your life difficult -- and dangerous.
Raj: "A few years ago I was brutally beaten up by two guys at a gas station and I had to fight for my life. It was really bad."
Raj gets by and recently got lucky and found a good job.
Everything was nice except for one question: which bathroom does Raj use.
Raj: "I would not be able to use the female bathroom because they were afraid that it would offend the women at the workplace. As far as using the male bathroom. That was not something they wanted me to do because of my safety."
So Raj was told to use a unisex bathroom... But it was in an entirely different building.
Raj: "The problem with that is that it's a distance."
Its so far away that Raj sometime get's docked pay because it takes so long to go back and forth.
Raj: "My co-workers go to a bathroom a few steps away. For me to go to the bathroom, it takes more time."
Even worse on the weekends that building is closed and Raj has no unisex bathroom to use.
Raj: "There's times that I've actually had to go out and go to the bathroom in my car. And a few times -- crying."
For Raj, it's humiliating. The simpliest thing has become so complicated. Instead of walking into a nearby mens or womens room, Raj has to go outside in the bushes.
Raj: "I don't really think that they realize it."
Raj is afraid to complain and risk getting fired.
Raj: "When you're someone that's been scrutinized and ostricized, when you're given a chance you don't want to create too many waves. So you kind of roll with it and hope that things are going to get better."
But it has not gotten better.
And after months of holding it in -- literally and figuratively -- Raj called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Even though Raj lives as a woman, the law considers Raj a man because he still has male genitalia. And while she does not have the legal right to use the womens room, an employer has to provide an easily accessable bathroom for Raj. And being in another building that is closed on the weekends is easily accessible."
The Save Miami Group -- which looks out for gay, lesbian and transgender rights -- says, despite what the law says Raj is no threat and should be allowed to use a stall in the women's room, in part because its what doctor's require.
Howard Finkelstein: "If a person is dressing as a woman because she is going to become a woman, it's required for her by her doctors to act as a woman so she is to use the woman's bathroom."
Raj didn't want us to bring this up with her company, afraid it would get her fired.
But, of course, her boss will see it, and Raj says, maybe other employers will as well.
"It may opens minds to what someone like myself goes through. And there are going to be people who are employers who will see this and think about it and hopefully it might get better."
Patrick Fraser: "Or some business owners who don't have a unisex bathroom may decide to avoid the problem by not hiring someone like Raj. Now can his company fire Raj over this bathroom issue, Howard says probably not, but he can't be certain because the law is in it's infancy and no-one knows where it will end up."
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