Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Allegations of A Hoax: Was A Trans Woman Banned For Life From The Las Vegas Cosmopolitan?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 02, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Las Vegas, LGBTQNation, LGBTQNation.com, The Cosmopolitan

In my dozen or so years in the trans community, I have seen many surprising things. One consistent phenomenon is the willingness of people to act out dark fantasies of prejudice, discrimination and violence against trans people. Another consistent phenomenon is what seems to me a disproportionate number of people from the trans community who exaggerate or lie outright about events in order to glorify themselves. I'm no psychiatrist, so I don't know whether the number is larger is or smaller than the general population. Every community has its share. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (east view)These two phenomena create tremendous difficulty for me and other members of the trans community, as well as for allies and just plain folks trying to figure out what's going on here. Who's telling the truth in any individual case? Many trans people are scrupulously honest. But when the story's in the media, and we don't know the people involved, how can you tell the players without a scorecard?

Bilerico reported on this case involving a woman, Stephanie, who alleged that she was banned for life from a Las Vegas hotel last week for the simple act of using a bathroom consistent with her gender identity. This week, however, Steven Friess of LGBTQNation is reporting suspicions that the event was a hoax. If LGBTQNation is correct, 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 admitting it when confronted, and giving a poor excuse for the denial.

But I wonder.

I was not there when the alleged incident occurred and there appear to be no other witnesses, except for security guards from the hotel, which apparently has a policy not to comment on such incidents. I also do not know whether the similar internet allegations are lies. I saw them at the blog linked by LGBTQNation. It's not at all inconceivable to my mind that someone could have a succession of incidents surrounding bathrooms. Mr. Friess concluded that it could not have happened that way from the alleged victim's description of herself:

I'm 5-7, skinny. It's not like I'm a steelworker in drag, absolutely not. I've got better legs than most women do. I'm not altogether horrible-looking. Most people, unless they look really closely, don't take me as a guy. ... I dress conservatively, I dress appropriately.

From this, Friess appears to conclude that no one would notice her entering a public women's bathroom at 4 am. I'm not sure that conclusion follows, particularly in the 24-hours high-surveillance world of a casino. Stephanie did not say that she is never tagged as a transgender woman, only that she looks presentable.

On the other hand, it's also not inconceivable that some people might exaggerate such incidents to gain some well-deserved sympathy. The previous internet report referred to "On that occasion, upon coming out of the bathroom, she was greeted by an entire SWAT team, with bulletproof vests and dogs..."

That does sound exaggerated, at least a bit. On the other hand, there are many canine teams in Las Vegas casinos, checking for drugs and explosives, and 4AM is about the time when they might do a sweep, so as to minimize inconvenience to casino patrons. Check out this blog War On Terror News from December 27, 2010, shortly before the first incident:

12/27/2010 -by 2nd Lt. Laura Balch NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Military working dog handlers from the 99th Security Forces Squadron here worked with 25 canine teams from Las Vegas during an explosive detection training exercise here recently.

Handlers and dogs from local casinos, including the Las Vegas Convention Center; Hoover Dam; Las Vegas Monorail; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Transportation Security Administration; Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the U.S. Marshals Service participated in the exercise.

"There are so many handlers and dogs in the Las Vegas area, I think it's great for all of us to get together and train," said Jon Minnich, a U.S. Marshals Service explosive detection canine handler.

It's not inconceivable that Stephanie could have been confronted by a canine team coming out of the bathroom at a Las Vegas casino in January. She also didn't say that the incident was related to her being trans -- just that she came out of the bathroom and there they were, asking her what she was doing.

If there is one thing I have learned from years of law practice, it is that everyone shades the truth, at the very least, to try to make their positions sound more credible, even judges. Even reporters. Even trans people who have experienced real discrimination. It sounds like Stephanie was being less than precise in telling Mr. Friess that she has experience problems in bathrooms "dozens" of times. As a lawyer, I know that people inherently and endemically speak in imprecise terms, and all it means is that they're not as good as lawyers in speaking precisely. It doesn't necessarily make them liars. We may never know what, if anything, happened at that bathroom at 4am.

Is this story another example of foolish anti-trans bathroom prejudice, showing how we need to change our troglodytic social attitudes? Is it an example of a trans hoax, damaging the credibility of future allegations of rampant anti-trans prejudice? I don't know.

I do know one thing, however.

There is such a thing as combat fatigue. After being constantly under attack for a period of time, being exposed to stories of deaths, beatings, discrimination, and prejudice, and lies designed to simulate the truth -- whether true or partially true or completely false -- one acquires a certain numbness, a desire simply to go away from the noise and the danger and the fear. There was another story this morning about police officers groping trans people in the UK. There will be more such stories -- prejudice is everywhere around us. But whether Stephanie's story is true or false, one reason for its ostensible credibility is that it mirrors many other true stories of actual occurrences.

We have a long way to go in this country to address our many prejudices against minority groups. We have an obligation to move through our weariness, to continue despite our fatigue, to consistently, fairly and objectively address the issues faced by our community. Sometimes that will mean believing a victim of violence or discrimination; sometimes, it will mean raising doubts.

Both are valuable. Both evidence a commitment to justice for the LGBT community.

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I can't help but reflect on the hoax incident at UNC this year. I was caught up in it, but it didn't seem inconceivable to me. And while I do chastise the hoax itself, I still feel sympathy for a kid willing to maim himself for whatever reason he has. And I feel sympathy because I know that in this world, these kinds of stories are far within the realm of possibility. The subsequent stories that have emerged since then only lend more proof to that.

Thanks for the article.

I didn't remember the incident at UNC, so I looked it up. Here's a blog post that shows how much power it gives to the right wing when these type of hate crimes hoaxes occur.

There are hoaxes in the trans community. I think of the one at the Laura's Playground website where a person claimed to be a teenage transgirl who was viciously attacked when, in fact, she was a 40-year bipolar transgender person (living in a totally different part of the country) who wasn't attacked. She made up an entire Internet persona to get attention. It was a huge dust up for a few days and died down after the hoax. Another more recent case involved a trans woman who created a bogus organization which supposedly had umpteen projects in the fire including promising trans people financial support, big trans conferences... etc. The person creating the hoax tried to then get out of it by pretending to have a brain tumor. Ouch!

There are a few things that Friess, however, doesn't seem terribly knowledgable about. I know trans women who are relatively small but are still very "clockable" (sorry for using the word, but...due to certain aspects of their features and, especially, their voices. So, it's not necessarily size and build which automatically gets people recognized as trans. I'm 6 foot and have never had a bathroom problem even with lots of snarky teenagers present yet I've known smaller trans women who certainly have... including some pretty nasty scenes.

One thing which would certainly help is if Stephanie ID'd herself (Friess doesn't mention how he found her to interview her... which also makes me suspicious). Yes, I understand many trans people don't want to publicly 'out' themselves, but there are places she could ID herself which are more guarded... as in certain trans blogs, to certain activists.

It's also not impossible that Stephanie was actually hassled and, as you suggested, 'colored' the incident to make it sound more dramatic. She did have a pic of the "tresspass warning."

I remember years ago, in the early 90s, I was on a usenet group. (Remember usenet?) There was some woman, Sophie, I think was her assumed name, who claimed to be intersexed, and to have been abused, and all kind of things. It sounded dubious to me, but I was relatively new to the community, and held my peace. She later admitted to everyone that she was not anything that she claimed, but had some mental illness that led her to make these claims. It was a sobering experience. I have since had several such experiences. I never immediately doubt anyone's self-identification claims, but I reserve the right to think for myself.

Steve Friess | May 3, 2011 1:53 PM

Actually, in my lengthy blog post laying out ALL the problems with Stephanie's account -- not just those cherry-picked on this blog -- I most certainly did explain precisely how I found her. And, also, this blogger overlooks the fact that she first told me this had only happened to her seldom and in Las Vegas, then later claimed it happened DOZENS OF TIMES and all over the nation. She also initially claimed that other Vegas incidents were mere friendly, casual conversations with security. And yet three months ago she claimed to have been confronted by dogs in one instance and read the riot act in the other. Her story kept changing and, adding to the intense improbability of the factors she claims, it seems clear to anyone other than the most insistent apologist that she story is extremely flawed and probably false.

On another point, please don't speak down to me about the transgender experience. I've covered the trans community for a long time and was a finalist for a GLAAD Award this year for a cover story for the LA Weekly on the life and suicide of a trans LA Times sportswriter.

I can't tell you how disappointed i am that this blogger, who is pretending to try to be fair, would cherry-pick my work and take passages out of context to make me sound insensitive to and ignorant of the trans experience and to go way out of her way to find a plausible way for Stephanie's story to be accurate. That's a disservice to this well-respected website.

I'm sorry you felt spoken "down to." I assure you that wasn't my intention. In fact, I thought I was rather complementary, although, as you noted, I did question some of your points. I do recommend that readers go to your original and lengthy blog that lays out all of the facts quite well. It's true I "cherry-picked." I certainly didn't have room to repeat all of the allegations you made, and that wasn't the point of the post. The point was that it was disappointing to hear of a hoax and the effects this might have on actual cases of discrimination. I think you're being a touch over-sensitive. Kudos to you on your GLAAD finalist award.

The more I think about your comment, Steve, the more I wonder at it.

You expressed your disappointment that I would "go way out of [my] way to find a plausible way for Stephanie's story to be accurate," complaining that it's a disservice to your well-respected website, and noting that you respect the trans community as a long-time reporter who was a finalist for a GLAAD award.

If you understand the trans community as you say, then I think you should understand that, as a woman of transsexual experience, I might have mixed feelings towards this Stephanie, and would think carefully before jumping on the bandwagon that she's a hoaxer. Of course, it does look like she lied or exaggerated, but wouldn't you think that I might have sympathy for someone from my own community who had a rough time, or at least alleged that she did, and wanted to think carefully about whether the story was defensible in any respect? I didn't say her story was true or false; I merely analyzed a few points of doubt. I also said that raising doubts evidenced a commitment to justice for the LGBT community, thus giving you praise.

But that wasn't enough -- you wanted allegiance. I understand the feeling of wishing that everyone agreed with me fully, but it rarely happens. If you're going to be angry, and publicly air your angry feelings every time someone doesn't agree with you fully, you are going to be angry for a long time.

Stephen, this whole incident and your role in it is very unfortunate. The kind of confusion this incident engenders points out very well how it's way past time GLAAD reforms its media guide and makes a distinction between people with a transsexual past and its broad definitions of transgender and all its distortions. The whole mix here is just ridiculous - a very confusing incident at a Las Vegas casino/hotel built by a poster child for the excesses of real estate speculation in the early 21st century that supposedly has something to do with some non-existent "community" , which is supposed to be a political base of support whose aims many of the non members, who have been sucked into the mythical political base, vehemently oppose once they have enough clarity as to what the vague agenda portends. This has been a nightmare to try to sort through the past week.

I was thinking about Laura's Playground, too.

I don't see anything conclusive in the LGBTQNation article that proves that this woman was lying. And perhaps there never will be as the hotel won't comment and she probably won't sue.

But it does appear odd that the hotel would say that she's welcome back if they never banned her and wouldn't even attempt to repair the damage to their reputation by putting out a statement saying that she's a liar. They may have their policy, but usually businesses don't like that sort of bad publicity.

I think there's still a lot of confusing elements to this story on both sides and that Steven Friess and Stephanie have both said some very confusing things. I'd like to know if Steven has any connection in any way to the hotel (such as getting freebies). He has a blog which seems to exist to basically shill for hotels and casinos... in other words he's pretty much dependent on the self-ID'd most gay hotel in the city for a lot of his gossip. That's not exactly disinterested reporting.

I'm not defending Stephanie's SWAT story and agree it sounds like huge overkill for a trans person in a restroom. But if you see cops or security people wearing that kind of gear (which I understand they do sometimes in Vegas) you might ID them as a SWAT team whether they are or not. There are a lot of drunk idiots with guns in that city and they might have a lot of bulletproof wear especially late at night.

Steve Friess | May 3, 2011 1:57 PM

Alex:

have you actually READ my blog, any of my columns or work or listened to our podcast? I am constantly extremely critical of the Vegas resorts when it is warranted. Here's a terrific example:

http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-responsibly-do-casinos-want-you-to.html

How offensive that you pretend to be examining the situation critically and yet you can't even bother to actually do any homework. My record, my work speaks for itself and it's all pretty easy to find.

Steve, so have you in past received "Freebies" from the Cosmopolitan? Are you friends with people who work at the hotel/resort? If so, I think you have a duty to mention exactly what those are in your discussions of this issue.

Steve Friess | May 3, 2011 3:58 PM

I don't accept freebies and I have a cordial professional relationship with some of the PR folks at the Cosmo. And prior to this post, my most recent post about the Cosmo was actually about how it seems that their business is flagging.

Also, what exactly does my background have to do with this? I'm a well-respected reporter who has laid out a set of very hard-to-believe facts in excruciating detail. Your efforts to stretch your own imagination to figure out how to keep believing this story is really what you ought to be thinking about. What is it about your activist victim mentality that forces you to avoid applying simple logic and reason to this case. That I've long been a strong advocate of bringing the true experiences of trans people to light in my journalism ought to bolster my credibility, but instead you're just so desperate to find my motivation. How about the same motivation I apply to all my journalism: The truth.

...

So when you say you don't accept freebies, does that mean you pay to go to all their events... you're not on some kind of door list? Do you get invited to parties or events which happen at that establishment?

It's important because if you have any kind of symbiotic relationship with that business... whether professional or personal, then you're no longer a wholly disinterested party. At the very least, you should have the professionalism to fully disclose the extent of that relationship.

If you saw my posts on this thread then you'd see that I mentioned at least 2 prior hoaxes involving the trans community. Would I be shocked if this were a hoax... no. Would I be shocked if it really did happen... no. Because as a member of the trans community I've seen a hell of a lot of very real discrimination, both personally and to other people and I don't dismiss other stories of discrimination just because everything isn't neat and tidy. Believe it or not, if you spoke to 5 different people who were at Stonewall, they might have very differing stories.

Also, do you know for a fact the total accuracy of how she was quoted by the other writers. Just as you've complained about how Jillian so totally misrepresented you through her choice of quotes, since we don't have transcripts of her other interviews (or yours for that matter) why should I be so certain they're accurately reported?

What I don't appreciate is the snarky even nasty tone of your "journalistic expose." It's not in the least professional and makes a joke of something which could still conceivably be a real case of bigotry even if it didn't happen exactly the way she said. You might think you're some kind of great advocate of the trans community, but when you write using that kind of voice, you just sound dismissive and smug. Personally, I give a damn what GLAAD nominated you for, and wouldn't go out of my way to read any of your pieces in future. :(

the 'activist victim mentality' kinda did me...

What are you talking about? I read your post on the Cosmo days before Jill posted about it here. You're not looking over my shoulder and following what I read, so don't pretend like you know.

I didn't see anything conclusive in your posts. Instead what I saw was maybe one person exaggerating a story about discrimination and you berating her over the phone. That's not the same as proof. And it's definitely not "offensive" to point that out.

It is really a smaller world than many people think it is. When I see something on the net that is not validated I pick up the phone and call someone closer geographically to the incident. If that person has no personal knowledge of what transpired then usually they know someone even closer geographically. After about three or four hops if no one can confirm the validity of the incident then I place it in my suspected hoax file. Most of the time it later comes out that the whole incident was fictitious.

This one smells. I actually hope I'm wrong but time will tell.

That's why I contacted TAG and asked them to investigate rather than immediately jumping up on my little soapbox and yelling for people to boycott. Given that The Cosmopolitan is a participant in TAG's gay-friendly hotel auditing/certification program, I figured that they would be in the best position to investigate the incident.

The TAG representative e-mailed me back in a matter of minutes, saying this was the first he'd heard of it and promising to look into it immediately. Several hours later, he e-mailed me again saying that The Cosmopolitan's TAG approval was being temporarily suspended pending further investigation. I take this to mean that TAG had confirmed that an incident *had* indeed occurred and that that the org is giving the hotel management time to respond.

Given the above, I am rather skeptical of the assertion that it's a hoax, which appears to be based primarily on transphobic stereotyping rather than any actual counter-evidence.

Om Kalthoum | May 3, 2011 12:22 AM

Thanks for the link to the article by Steve Friess. He wasn't afraid to ask the obvious questions.

As far as I'm concerned, Stephanie (if she even exists apart from her telephone persona) blew her own story out of the water with her inconsistent statements and inability to explain those inconsistencies when probed further by Friess.

And as for Stephanie's claim that, "I’ve got better legs than most women do," well, words fail me.

Oh, come on! Stephanie is writing a blog and being colloquial. She wasn't exactly expecting to be pulled up on her every word, and the only point she's making, legs-wise, is...well, that she fits conventional ideas of cis beauty in some respects.

Actually, i probably have very good legs compared to the average woman of my age. It gets commented on by cis women in those conversations that you have sometimes (or at least that i do) around passing and related subjects.

A lot of trans women have good legs because... they're building on a muscle structure that works very well, even when feminised.

A lot of trans women get a bit obsessive about boobs...and the question of whether hormones will do the job, or whether they are going to need some sort of augmentation.

I really don't see Stephanie's blog comment here as evidence of anything much, one way or another.

She's body conscious, knows what some of her better features are, and is not afraid to mention them occasionally in what she regards as a semi-personal space.

jane
xx

Om Kalthoum | May 4, 2011 11:02 PM

@Jane Fae
Please read the article. Stephanie is not the blogger; she's the person who claims to be having repeated wee hours of the morning run ins with security officers in Las Vegas.

I first read the quote by Stephanie as being "I’ve got better legs than most WOMEN do," and was responding to that emphasis. But perhaps she was saying, "I’ve got better legs than MOST women do," On still further reflection, I'm not sure which interpretation is more of a turn-off.

Thanks for the education about "boobs."

There are a lot of hoaxs within the trans community. There are a lot of false images of the TS/TG communities sold to the media and the public. Whats one more hoax to add to the growing list?

SoCalTrans | May 3, 2011 2:21 AM

Here in LA there was a story last year that was pretty horrific- a transguy in Long Beach was attacked and had "tranny" carved into his chest. I remember it being a really big deal, with the usual outrage and hand-wringing... Then no one could produce the actual person, a police report, details of assailants, etc. It was always "I know someone who knows him..."
No one ever wants to be seen as the person who didn't believe a claim of violence against a transperson, so I shut up it.
Does anyone know if that incident was ever verified? It seems like we have enough legitimate cases of abuse that making something up or embellishing an incident does, in fact, hurt us over the long term.
More opportunities for anti's to not believe us next time, when shit really does go down...

That was, in fact, a very real incident and the victim appeared at a rally at Long Beach State which protested the incident. So please don't try to include that in a list of hoaxes.

Going to put on my security officer's hat here.

In the event of any incident, however minor, involving a guest of a facility, the security guards must file the matter in their reports. This goes especially true if there are any charges alleged or pressed (such as trespassing.) If any such incident did occur there WILL be an "Incident Report (IR)." No security company worth its salt would overlook such a report; it is for the protection of the officers, their company, and their client.

An IR is admissible in court, and guards are often trained to write them as such in the event of a criminal or civil case requiring them. If there is no report, which would be HIGHLY suspicious, then at the very least there should be a mention of it within their Daily Activity Report (DAR). I am very interested in seeing that IR to see what occurred in the officers' point of view.

Obviously there is such a thing as corruption among security officers, and that is a possibility. That could also possibly be gleaned if the report reflects the officers' personal bias in the matter; officers are trained to write as objectively as possible, and if that's not the case, it would lend some credence to the claim.

I am not taking any other position on the matter. I was heartbroken to hear the story when it first broke, but now I'm not so sure what to think beyond that, as both a transgender woman and a professional security officer with a high profile international company.

The similarities between the three different time "Stephanie" has claimed she was ejected from a casino bathroom are striking - a little too similar for my tastes. I'd agree with Freiss that it seems like a hoax.

I live here in Vegas, and know the last thing the Cosmo wants is negative publicity.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/cosmopolitan-of-las-vegas-apologizes-for-banning-transgender-guest-120873939.html

At the least, there was event that, and events occurring in legislative session that feasibly could have kept it in the Cosmopolitan's interest first to keep the affair quiet, and also to apologize.

For those of you who don't live in Vegas, I can tell you that the police and security are quite volatile. A few weeks ago I was hit from behind and was screamed at by a female trooper when I didn't answer her questions quickly enough--and I was the one who was hit! Police brutality isn't unusual either.

As for the victim's veracity, I agree with Dr. Weiss that we all wish to be believed, and have a natural tendency to shade the truth so we are portrayed in a favorable light.

I forgot to add what is probably obvious, an apology could have been press control, despite what might be an innocent party's first response--a denial.

The lack of detail and investigative journalism on the subject is in and of itself disturbing.

Jay Kallio | May 3, 2011 10:35 AM

I just want to point out that victimization hoaxes are not in the least bit confined to people of transgender experience. All types of people do this.

I've always thought this type of issue bears some resemblance to Munchausen's Syndrome, where the person confabulates elaborate symptoms, and may even inflict bodily harm on themselves or a child (Munchausen's by proxy) in order to gain attention, almost as a metaphor for expressing inner pain. I regard it all as a cry for help, gone awry.

It can feel annoying because it seems manipulative, and detracts from the real cases of victimization that require action and attention, but it may well be an accurate, if not honest, expression of inner wounds and painful unmet needs.

I believe our society breeds alienation and disconnection between people, so many end up with dysfunctional methods to gain the attention and emotional succor they need, in lieu of honest and direct ways to ask for help.

>I regard it all as a cry for help, gone awry.

Yes indeed, wise insight from Mr. Kallio.
This woman needs a friend, not a representative from GLAAD asking if she would like to make a television appearance.

I think it's only fair to also print Julia Bently's response (she's the woman who wrote the blog about the incident) she posted yesterday:

"Why didn't I mention the Hard Rock incident in this story? Because, rightly or wrongly, that wasn't the story as I saw it. As I wrote on my own blog on Thursday, I know Stephanie gets "special treatment" all the time - I witness it every time she comes out with me and my friends in Vegas. It can be a sideways look, it can be a bartender ignoring her as he asks every single other drinker whether they want another round, it can be a box office person saying a show is sold out until one of her other friends buys the tickets, it can be a singer cutting short a meet and greet when she gets in line - and that's just from the experience of me and my friends.
Yes, she's had incidents over bathroom use before, but this experience went so far beyond any previous encounter that - not to belittle what has happened to her before - it catapulted into a different league of discrimination. Being told politely at Wynn that she shouldn't use the women's restrooms is one thing; being harassed at Hard Rock is another. But being banned for life? It's on a different scale. And when the hotel reacted as it did - repeatedly failing to state whether it had a policy on trans bathroom use or LGBT issues (I'm still waiting for an answer, incidentally - surely they should be able to say whether they have one or not by now?), and taking a week to say that it "regretted" the incident, the story took on another dimension.

For those reasons - because the security guards' actions were so draconian, and because the hotel failed to give an adequate response - I decided, that on this occasion, the story was about the Cosmopolitan. And in an attempt to explain as fully (yet concisely) as possible the story of this incident, I decided not to reference the other occasions she's been confronted with prejudice. Also, I felt it would have been unfair to write about events at the Hard Rock that had taken place such a long time ago - one in January this year, but the more serious occasion in April 2010. It would have been difficult for the hotel to investigate events that had taken place that long ago.

Incidentally, I wasn't alone in this belief - another publication that reported on the story early on also discussed the Hard Rock incident in an interview with Stephanie, and also left it out of their final story."

OK I'm confused which is not unusual. Some are attesting that it is real and others still say hoax. Has anybody got a way to definitively determine whether this actually happened?

I so sympathise with this article.

As a journalist, i am taught always to check facts: always to get as close to the original story as i can. Sometimes that loses me "friends": trans folk who can't/won't understand why i won't just take their word as gospel and go with it.

On the other hand, as activist, i believe stories often need to be "out there" quickly. Because the approach of waiting until all facts are checked and in is a fast route to stuff never being written about.

Difficult call: wait and try to be 100% accurate, and stuff that needs to be reported will go unreported. Go on the allegation - and sometimes you will get it very wrong.

Drat!

jane
xx

jane heenan | May 4, 2011 11:41 AM

"Can you imagine a SWAT team actually responding to a bathroom 'violation'?" Well, yes, I can. This same sort of thing happened to me at a local Las Vegas casino some years ago (read an extended version of my experience: http://www.aclunv.org/blog/jane_bathroom). I was escorted by several security officers to a back office, told to surrender my license, held for over 20 minutes against my will (I guess I went back with them, and I would say I went unwillingly), was told that I was never to return and would be arrested if I did, and was escorted by security officers to my car and watched as a drove away.

I have worked for almost 13 years with trans persons in Southern Nevada as a licensed therapist and community organizer. While I cannot confirm or deny this person's experience described at the Cosmo last week, I can tell you that I have heard similar stories over and over through the years. I don't want these things to be true; I have worked for years to keep such things from happening; and Las Vegas casinos are not the friendliest of places for many trans persons.

Finally -- and not to paint with too broad a brush because I have never had the pleasure of talking at any length with Mr. Friess -- Mr. Friess does not enjoy the best reputation for fairness here among our Southern Nevada trans communities. In all my years of advocacy, he has never contacted me once even though my participation is most directly responsible for the emergence of the first trans-inclusive legislation in our state (AB184 in 2009) and I have been a central figure in pushing for the passage of the several bills now working their way through the state legislature (see http://www.lvrj.com/news/bills-under-consideration-target-transgender-bias-120563274.html -- among other available articles), including a bill providing protections in public accommodations (SB331). In addition, when I have seen Mr. Friess and read his words in various media, I have not ever heard him discuss transgender persons (recently in an interview in the Las Vegas Weekly: http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/news/2011/apr/14/life-continues-getting-better-valleys-gay-communit/).

In the end, for those of you who do not live in Southern Nevada or who are not part of the local queer communities on a regular basis, you must know that in our part of the world, straight-acting white gay men have the greatest influence and occupy almost all of the positions of authority in our queer communities. Transgender and gender non-conforming persons have almost always been fundamentally excluded from participation, and have never, in my opinion, been fully and fairly included in our Southern Nevada queer communities.