Amy Andre

Bisexual Youth Kicked Off Spokane Bus

Filed By Amy Andre | November 15, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: biphobia, bisexual, Jessica Jahn, Kaitlyn Bahn, lgbt center, LGBT youth, Oddysey Youth Center, public transit, Spokane, transgender

sta-logo-w-tag-preview.jpgThree bus riders in Spokane were recently ousted after one of them, sitting within earshot of the driver, came out as bisexual. What the what?! Here's the word from The Pacific Northwest Inlander:

[Passenger Kaitlyn] Bahn says, conversation was only loud enough to be clearly audible across the aisle. [During the conversation, Kaitlyn's friend Jessica] Jahn commented that she was bisexual.

The driver told them that their conversation was inappropriate in public.

They asked the bus driver if she was talking to them, and if they were breaking a rule. The bus driver said yes.

On the bus, Jahn looked up the Spokane municipal code on her iPhone to check the driver's claims. As soon as the bus emptied of everyone else, Jahn asked if the three could continue with their conversation -- noting there was nothing in the municipal code that said they couldn't.

The driver, according to Jahn, said it didn't matter: The driver was offended. The three riders asked the driver about her religion and accused her of being discriminatory.

A mile from their intended destination, the driver kicked the riders off the bus. The three repeatedly asked for the driver's name or identification, Kellogg says, but the driver would only give the bus number.

Now, I have no idea why these riders asked the driver about her religion, or what that has to do with being biphobic. I think someone can be religious (any religion) and be bi or a bi-ally. So, I think that was an unexpected place for these three youth to take the conversation. Be that as it may, though, I don't think this driver had any right to kick them off the bus. It is not inappropriate to come out as bisexual while riding public transit.

I contacted Carla Savalli, the Executive Director of Odyssey Youth Center, which is Spokane's LGBT youth organization. The riders, all trans youth, went to Odyssey after the incident, and wrote up complaints. Ms. Savalli filled me in on what's happened since then.

The update is that Spokane Transit Authority agreed that the incident was not handled properly and the youth should not have been put off the bus. The CEO of STA, Susan Meyer, apologized to the youth, and gave them, [one of the youth's] parent, and myself the chance to view the video [of the incident, filmed inside the bus]. As is customary personnel policy in business, STA will not say what - if any - discipline or training the bus driver will receive.

Odyssey Youth Center has made itself available to STA to conduct some cultural competency and sensitivity training, which the CEO indicated they will likely pursue. From my perspective as the director of a youth center that serves LGBTQ kids, I'm pleased at the responsiveness of STA. They took the complaint I filed seriously and launched an investigation fairly quickly. I appreciate that they allowed the youth and the parent to view the video for themselves, and that the CEO and another top administrator met with the youth and engaged in a thoughtful and respectful conversation.

I think both parties learned from the incident. I know Odyssey learned about STA's protocols and its process for following-up on customer service issues. I believe STA learned some cultural competency lessons around LGBTQ issues.

Way to go, STA, and thanks, Odyssey! I'm glad that the STA is taking positive steps. I'm only sorry to hear that it all happened in first place because bi youth were forced to take steps of their own - by stepping off a bus.

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Wow, way to ignore the core element of this story, that the three youth were all trans. It's kind of amazing how stories involving trans people (and transphobia) get swallowed up by non-trans queer people for usage in their own battles when it's conventient.

Really? I haven't seen that reported anywhere else, Gina. Thanks for the info.

Then you didn't read the post. It's right after the fold. :)

Thanks for your comment, ginasf. I don't know if I agree that their trans status is the core element of the situation, because what I read in the article was that one person came out as bi, and then the driver kicked all three off the bus. No where does it say that trans identity played an explicit factor in the phobic action on the part of the driver. If someone says, "I'm bi" (to friends), within earshot of a bus driver, and then gets booted off the bus, to me the issue is about biphobia. I'm sure that intersectionality of identities may have been at play, but if "bi" equals "no bus for you," then the core issue is bi.

First of all, their discussion about bisexuality was subdued in terms of volume so it's unlikely the driver could even hear it. What the driver did hear was the 'queer corner of the bus' comment and, especially, she saw three trans people getting on her bus. This is Spokane, not Seattle so don't tell me that didn't stand out.

To write a piece which (by glaring omission) suggests that being trans was somehow okay but talking about being bisexual is verboten is kind of absurd. Do you know of any instances where cissexual bi people have been kept out of bathrooms, booted from buses or randomly attacked because they're bi? (all situations which have happened many times over with trans women) That's like suggesting Rosa Parks was singled out by a bus driver because Ms. Parks said something offensive.

Paige Listerud | November 17, 2011 7:57 PM

Gina, I personally know of no incidents where bisexuals were denied bathroom access because of their bisexuality. Until this news story, I knew of no incidents where bisexuals were kicked off of a bus. I, myself, have only been harassed by a passenger on a bus for speaking openly about bisexuality to a friend--my harasser was a youth, black, (presumably) cisgendered male. I have known of plenty of incidents where bisexuals were attacked for being presumed gay/lesbian and 5 specific attack incidents where bisexuals were attacked for being identified as bisexual.

The story in the Pacific Inlander states in its subheading "Three passengers say they were kicked off a Spokane bus for discussing bisexuality." Further down in the text reads: "They are all transexuals--born one gender but taking hormones to become the other. And they all say they were kicked off the bus in the middle of a South Hill neighborhood, a mile from their bus stop, for discussing bisexuality . . .

"They say the driver overhead Jahn talking about how her landlord felt about her house filling with gay people--right as the bus grew quiet. Sensing the awkward moment, Jahn says she turned to the rest of the people on the bus and said loudly, 'In case you haven't noticed, this is the queer corner of the bus.' . . .

"The rest of the ride, Bahn says, conversation was only loud enough to be clearly audible across the aisle. A few minutes later, Jahn commented that she was bisexual. The driver told them that their conversation was inappropriate in public . . . " That's the comment that you say the bus driver couldn't have possibly heard.

Read the story from the one news source Amy sited. Nowhere mentioned in the body of the text do the discriminated against passengers say that their trans identities sparked the bus driver throwing them off the bus. Did they say something about it to the reporter and the reporter failed to include it in the text. As for the appearances of two of them, there's a picture at the top of the story. I have to say that I see kids like them every day on public transportation, In other words (admittedly not having seen the third trans hero of the tale) I'm saying that they pass well enough to not have their gender identity be the primary part of the discrimination against them. Your opinion?

There are lots of stories written about trans people (including by many non-trans GLB peeps) which so totally misrepresent who we are and what we go through so as to be confusing, discombobulating the facts and useless. This is one story written by... a free publication from the Spokane area— not exactly a bastion of trans acceptance (but I know nothing about the author). To take one article written about a situation like this at face value is poor reporting on Amy's part and I'm not really clear whether she checked this coverage, at the very least, against the account from the Odyssey Youth Center. Needless to say, being seen as visibly gender variant is way more transgressive and dangerous in this society than being viewed as bisexual. Out of curiosity, is there a Bisexual Day of Remembrance? I'm not saying there isn't discrimination against bi people or biphobia (especially by others in the LGBTQ coalition) but that to allot an incident of discrimination a three word mention of "they were trans" is kind of b*sht crazy.

As to their passibility (or not) that can't been solely seen from a photo. If they were sitting near the driver and one of them had an "incongruous voice" with their appearance, then they are outed as trans. Especially in the case of trans women who look female but are perceived as sounding male. This is a scenario where some of the most egregious transphobic actions have occurred. Again, from Amy and the paper's account, what we basically take away from it is... in Spokane: trans-> no big deal; bi -> get off the bus. To me, from what I've seen of this world, there's something hugely unbelievable about that equation and yes, it does make me seriously question the assumptions of this post.

As to

Paige Listerud | November 18, 2011 12:06 AM

I suppose nothing less than rigorous professional journalism in a blog space will satisfy you--not that that's a requirement of Bilerico. Perhaps it should be.

Nevertheless, the Advocate's reposting of this story brought about interesting comments from two of the passengers thrown off the bus. One from Katemonster, who writes in:
"And yet another news outlet gets it wrong. Check the PNW Inlander if you want a more accurate news story than the one above. I joked to Jess asking her how her landlord felt about filling the house with queer people every afternoon, but it was bad luck and bad timing; everyone/everything went silent at that moment so everyone heard me say it. Jess' announcement about it being 'the queer corner' was an ice-breaker to make me feel less embarrased [sic] and none of the other 6-or-so passengers seemed offended. Other than that, we were NOT being loud/obnoxious/vulgar. The driver told us to cease our conversation when the word 'bisexual' came up thrice as it was 'inappropriate' in a public place. We stopped talking completely and didn't challenger [sic] her about it until we were the only passengers left onboard. The STA insists that the driver was more offended by us challenging her authority than by anything gay-related . . . "

From the horse's mouth. And since all the young passengers are trans, if they had even suspected that their gender presentation was instrumental to their getting thrown off the bus in this incident, I think they would have said something about it--to the reporter or in response to other news-y outlets picking up the story. Instead, again and again in their account, it's their language that pushes the bus driver's buttons--that, and the insult to her authori-TAY.

But what are we arguing for? Do any of us (including Amy Andre) really imagine that if a discussion of sex reassignment had come up, or some other issue pertaining to transitioning, that the bus driver would have acted less extremely? Do you presume that Amy thinks the bus driver would have given that kind of open discussion a pass?

And why the extreme ire on your part that makes you lash out at bisexuals in general? "Is there a Bisexual Day of Remembrance?" Really, Gina? Well, I think that Amy is better qualified than I am to discuss the kinds of violence that bisexuals suffer and are targeted for--she helped to put together the 2009 Bisexual Health Report. As for me, I think that violence against bisexuals goes under reported but I remember Jamie Rodemeyer, Bill Clayton, Cole Peterson and a bisexual youth beaten up by a gang in Memphis this summer.

How dare you attempt to make a mockery of bisexuality by provoking readers with a comment like "Is there a Bisexual Day of Remembrance?" You appear to be more intolerant of bisexuality than the bus driver. I am glad that these young people don't happen upon this page, because I personally would be quite outraged by your insensitivity. Are you trying to undermine and oppose everything that the LGBT movement should be about?

If you want to vent over the absence of trans issues in the media, please go right ahead. But do not even question for a single moment the laudability of transgenderism over bisexuality.

~Randy

Yeah, Gina! Don't be usurping the bi (or gay, or lesbian, or whatever non-trans-related) issue! We trans women just gotta know our place. Havent you learned that yet? Perhaps you should read some of the Dan Savage threads.

And how is being transgender a core element of the story when their removal was supposedly prompted by their "obscene" language, not their appearance? To suggest that you somehow know the ulterior motives of the bus driver, is completely presumptuous at best.

I am transgender and bisexual, and it is clear to me that you're overreacting. This is a SINGLE story about bisexual people, whose issues rarely ever receive mainstream attention and are only just beginning in 2011 mind you to actually gain some traction in the media. Why not give them the credit they deserve instead of throwing them under the bus (no pun intended) by turning the entire article into a ten-page long soapbox about transgender issues? Not every story can appease every person.

Like I said, I am bisexual and transgender, and even I am appalled reading these comments none of which are even addressing the true core element of this story, which is that a young person came out of the closet as bisexual in public. Why is bisexuality never good enough?

~Randy

Aww Gina now you've gone and done it. You spoke the mystic word that will bring forth 70 or more responses.

And yes, most awesome outcome! YAYS! :)

The article Amy linked to contains a few additional interesting facts. Be sure to read the comments too. Priceless.

They say the driver overheard Jahn talking about how her landlord felt about her house filling with gay people — right as the bus grew quiet. Sensing the awkward moment, Jahn says she turned to the rest of the people on the bus and said loudly, “In case you haven’t noticed, this is the queer corner of the bus.”

Entitled brats. I use public transportation daily, and consequently have a story to tell on a daily basis about my fellow riders who feel they are all special. I mean, surely they must feel that way or else why wouldn't they show a little consideration for their fellow passengers? Take their shout-out and multiply it by a bus load, and there you have the cacophony of daily life, where people think what you ate for breakfast, or what you think of your boss, or what your sexual orientation is, is something that every other soul trapped nearby wants to have impinge on their consciousness.

Anyway, that isn't why I wanted to comment. Get off the bus??? Get out of town! There is no way on gawd's green earth that I would just get up and hit the bricks a mile short of my destination because some yahoo made up a rule on the fly that I knew to be wrong. What is the matter with these young adults? I guarandamntee you I'd refuse to comply and suggest that the police be called to sort it out.

Oh, by the way, from their description of where they sat, they all chose to occupy the handicapped seating. Way to go, kids. Power to the people, right on!

"Queer section," indeed.

Trans as a handicap? Or maybe they were labeling queer section=handicap?

Paige Listerud | November 15, 2011 11:10 PM

Never, never yield your seat--even if you hafta Rosa Parks it! I'm cisgendered bi and I ride the bus with a pansexual genderqueer co-worker everyday. And we talk loudly about BQTLG subjects all the time. No fuss from the passengers whatsoever.

Paige, I wish you could understand the irony of your statement. Of course you're not kicked off the bus for talking about being bi. People don't get kicked off of buses for talking about being bi. They do get kicked off for being visibly gender variant or trans. When trans people don't get hired for jobs or fired or told not to stand on a street corner, or not permitted entrance to a bar/club or even told they can't attend a sex party for bi women, there are ALWAYS other reasons given.

Paige Listerud | November 20, 2011 5:03 PM

ginasf--you really have it in for bisexuals and I think that's something you should really look at. Straight people never discriminate against bisexuals? Do you really believe that? I and a couple of bi friends of mine say differently. We were all fired from our respective jobs for coming out as bisexual. And do you really think it's impossible that a bisexual person would ever be thrown off a bus for discussing bisexuality openly? How can you say that?
We need a Bisexual Day of Remembrance for people like you.

No, you're wrong. I have great respect for bisexuals and the issues of erasure and larger community denial they're dealing with (as well as attempts by certain academics to refute the very existence of being bi).

But I have huge skepticism about the supposed violence, claimed job discrimination and usurpation of other groups oppression that you're trying to promote. How about giving me some verifiable real world examples of this from the last couple of years. You're the one who said you and another person were sitting on a bus chatting away about being bi and related queer issues and no one gave a damn. Believe me, you're not just able to do that because you're supposedly gutsier or braver than these three trans youth... it's because you're cissexual. (there's that term again) And your denial thst being bi might have had nothing to do with this situation is a refutation of what trans people go through every day.

I can pretty much guarantee that if you did have a "Bi Day of Remembrance" you would have zero names to say on the day. There are 221 trans women (and women presenting gender variant people) on this years list from a community that is likely way, way smaller than the bi community. Wanna refute that? (I'm waiting for the canned 'oppression Olympics' remark)

correction:
And your denial thst being bi might have had nothing to do with this situation is a refutation of what trans people go through every day.

should be:
And your denial that being trans have had something to do with this situation is a refutation of what trans people go through every day.

Paige Listerud | November 20, 2011 10:03 PM

1) Just because I and my bi genderqueer friend don't get thrown off our particular bus does not mean these three trans youth did not get thrown off the bus for their bi/queer talk. They say so themselves! Won't you listen to your fellow trans?

2) You are so out of line to charge me with usurpation of others' oppression. If you followed what happens to bisexuals, you would know how full of hatred your statements are.

3) I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for Amy to say something about the violence that bisexuals are targeted for. Besides being targeted when perceived as gay/lesbian or identified as bi, bisexuals suffer higher rates of domestic violence that straights, gays or lesbians. That's from the 2009 Bisexual Health Report:
http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/bi_health_5_07_b.pdf

The Bisexual Resource Center has begun trying to address the problem with these resources, but much more needs to be done:
http://biresource.net/bi_partner_abuse_handout.pdf

But that doesn't mean violence and the threat of violence from strangers doesn't happen in bisexual lives.
http://www.examiner.com/bisexuality-in-national/bisexual-british-diplomat-murdered-jamaica-widespread-homophobia-is-blamed

http://www.examiner.com/bisexuality-in-national/suspect-murder-of-bisexual-is-sailor-found-dead-his-cell

"On April 2004, NLR [Nazi Low Riders] members kidnapped and murdered a bisexual man in Salinas, CA.
http://prisonoffenders.com/nazi_lowriders.html

It's an older story, but one of the saddest is Bill Clayton's attempt to survive two assaults, one sexual and one where a gang of kids beat him and his friends up because he was bisexual.
http://www.youth-guard.org/gabi/

Part of the excellence of this article on incarcerated queer youth in the Nation is that the story covers all LGBTQ youth. I only quote those parts pertaining to bisexuals because you seem so intent on denying that bisexuals ever suffer abuse from the mainstream:
"In 2006, a bisexual youth in California petitioned the court to be removed from his facility because the staff members had kept him in isolation for twenty-three hours a day. At 20 years old, he had missed so much schooling that he was only halfway to his high school diploma . . . a female staff member set up a bisexual youth and let straight guys into his room to beat him up. I woke up and saw the blood on the walls." But, really, the whole thing should be read to get a real picture that we are all under attack.
http://www.thenation.com/article/36488/i-was-scared-sleep-lgbt-youth-face-violence-behind-bars

Corrective rapes don't just happen to lesbians and transmen and -women, they happen to bisexual women as well:
http://suburbanbi.blogspot.com/2011/01/fixed-lesbians-bisexual-women-and-rape.html

Iran doesn't just execute gay men and lesbians, bisexuals are also summarily executed:
"A 23 year old bisexual man named Amir Hossein was arrested by the Basij . . . was beaten to death while in custody of the Iranian security forces."

I sometimes feel I can find news more easily about violence against bisexuals in other countries than I can find similar stories here in the US. But I hardly think that's because nothing happens to bis here in the US. I think it has everything to do with an underdeveloped, underfunded, so-invisible-it's practically-nothing bisexual community. I know of no organization devoted to specifically recording and analyzing violence as it happens to bi/pansexual/fluid/ queer people. There should be. Nor does an organization exist to specifically record other forms of discrimination against bi/pansexual/fluid people either--and there needs to be.

What the Bisexual Health Report reveals is violence in the form of self-harm is up for bisexuals, who suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicidality than gay, lesbian or straight counterparts, so they are at greater risk for self-harm, like self-cutting and, of course, suicide. But, hey, bisexuals couldn't be offing themselves because they face hatred and stigma. We must just love pain, right.

Amy and her fellow researchers culled this information from studies by the NIH, which at that time did not measure for transgender health risks. But last year the National Center for Transgender Equality completed and released its National Transgender Discrimination Survey--which indicates that violence and discrimination against transpeople is outrageously and incomparably higher than it is for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and straight cisgendered people. There's no dispute about this. Hands down, transgender people are at greater risk than any in the LGBT. Furthermore, an international anti-trans violence group has estimated that every three days a transgender person gets murdered somewhere in the world.

So, there you go ginasf. If there's an "Oppression Olympics," you've won it. You won it over all the bisexuals with their crappy little community that can barely support them. You won it before you set eyes on this post. You walked in here wearing the crown. Nobody disputes that--least of all this puny little bisexual, who is now exhausted, depressed and demoralized by this whole conversation.

"You won it over all the bisexuals with their crappy little community"

There are way more bisexuals than trans people. Sorry you feel your community is "crappy"... there are also many trans persons who identify as bi. I doubt any of them would claim their bi sexual orientation causes them anywhere near the problems their trans history/identity does. But, seeing that you're a drama critic, it's not too surprising you're being sooo dramatic about your oppression by my pointing out how trans issues have been mostly erased from this story... something that's happened far too often when such stories are covered by cis people or the non-trans LGB community.

Paige Listerud | November 21, 2011 2:21 PM

Keep wearing that crown, ginasf.

By the way, don't forget to tell Cole Peterson that there's no way that he was attacked for being bisexual. Because even though he is openly bisexual at his high school, his attackers yelled anti-gay slurs at him while they were beating him up.

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20111104/NEWS02/111104002/300-students-support-Essex-student-who-bullied

Yep, bisexuals never get attacked for being bisexual. Bisexuals only experience erasure and biphobia from the LGBT and never any discrimination from straights. Keep living in that la-la land. And bisexual transpeople are more often oppressed for being trans than bi, so therefore it's ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE that bisexuality had a key part to play, whatsoever, in this specific incident in Spokane. Even if the trans youth who were attacked bring up bisexuality as a key factor, don't believe them. They aren't to be believed--why? Because some of them are bisexual trans youth and don't know any better?

I think the burden of proof is on you to cite the facts because the article is about bisexual discrimination. Your perception that bisexual abuse and discrimination is virtually nil is not evidence that bisexual people do not face battery, assault, rape, or denial of employment, housing, public services, etc. The statistics are under-reported because we have no clear census data on the prevalence of bisexuality. Many bisexual people like myself are afraid to come out of the closet because we don't want to have to deal with prejudiced people like who who dismiss us as being the least important part of the LGBT community.

Seriously, I am ashamed to even be associated with the transgender community with their oft holier-than-thou attitude. Sometimes I almost wonder whether it is better to just be gender conforming >_

~Randy

It is certainly possible that these three people were kicked off the bus solely for talking about bisexuality and that it had nothing to do with them being trans. However, it is extraordinarily unlikely -- the more realistic scenario is that the bus driver decided that they were perverts because of their trans status and then used the discussion as an excuse to kick them off.

Thus, it is possible that this was a case of anti-bisexual bigotry, but it is far more likely that this was a case of anti-trans bigotry being misreported by the media out of ignorance.

Or maybe it's just a case of bisexual people facing discrimination, and transgender people can't take that at face value and like so many others in the "queer space", they feel the need to dismiss bisexuality at every opportunity because we somehow all lack the capacity to co-exist.

Indeed, that's what this look like to me. An article about bisexual people is transformed into a TEN PAGE long debate about transgender people. Bisexuality is not even an important enough issue on its own to be reported in the media without having some forced connection with gay, lesbian, and now apparently even trans people jumping onboard for the attention.

~Randy

Considering that the people kicked off the bus were trans, I fail to see how you can possibly come to the conclusion that a "forced connection" is being made here. The victims in this case were both bisexual and trans, and given the social attitudes at play here, it is very unlikely that transphobia was uninvolved. At the very minimum, it is damn likely that the driver was paying attention to them in the first place because he'd already typecast them as "troublemaking freaks" based on their appearance.

It's a complex intersectionality of oppressions, and simply dismissing the trans aspect as "irrelevant" is not helpful.

Check your assumptions. Starting with the bus driver's sex. Or better yet, read the sole news article about the event that the OP provided a link to.

What I meant was a "forced connection" as in the forced inference that their gender expression played a critical role in the discrimination. I am transgender and bisexual as well, but when I was battered in the public park two years ago I didn't mention in the police report that I was attacked for my gender expression or gender identity because it wasn't relavent. He attacked me because I was bisexual. He was charged for committing a hate crime on the basis of my sexual orientation.

To transform an issue into something else than what is reported is indeed a "forced connection". Perhaps the third youth was hispanic as well and maybe even had a speech impediment, and the bus driver didn't like those attributes and that was the underlying cause. Who is anyone besides the victims to rightfully infer the bus-driver's motives with the limited information provided?

~Randy

Pardon me? Many bisexual people are not blatantly discriminated against because they don't publicize their sexual identity. However, being transgender is for many people, an inescapable and inexplicable truth.

I have SO MANY stories of discrimination and alienization because of my bisexuality, even moreso than my blatant gender nonconformity. It has gotten to the point, that I refuse to even come out as bisexual any more because of the ire (like YOURS) and persecution that it stirs up. But I still dress genderqueer, and remarkably it rarely ever results in provocation of any kind regardless of where in public I am. In fact, more often than not I receive compliments. I've been to high class "straight" nightclubs, dressed in skirt and blouse, and the bartenders and bouncers actually treat me BETTER than their normal clientele.

~Randy

The only article I read about this incident was the Pacific Northwest Inlander article quoted on this page. I don't see anything in that article about the driver knowing that these three were trans. Also, that article does say that the driver overheard one of the three saying she is "bi". In fact, that was the beginning of my first quote at the top of this page. They were sitting at the front of the bus and could be heard across the aisle.
Did you read an article that says the driver knew the youth were trans? If so, can you send a link? I can also follow up with Carla Savalli and see if she has further info.