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Know Your Rights
Source: AM New York
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

MTA cops accused of bias

A 70-year-old transgender woman who said she was arrested three times for using the women’s restroom at Grand Central Terminal is filing a complaint against MTA police with the city.

"The men’s room is not safe for me," Helena Stone said yesterday. "People yell at me to get out of there. I never had an issue in the women’s room before the police started harassing me."

She said MTA police berated her on numerous occasions, calling her "a freak, a weirdo and the ugliest woman in the world." She was arrested in September on disorderly conduct charges stemming from using the women’s restroom. The same officer reportedly arrested her again in December. The following month, three MTA police officers entered the women’s room, searched Stone, told her she didn’t belong there and arrested her again.

The MTA responded to Stone’s allegations yesterday by saying that all charges against her had been dropped, and that the circumstances surrounding her arrest are being investigated.

"The situation has been resolved," said MTA spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla.

Stone’s attorney, Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said he has yet to hear any response from the MTA since he filed a complaint on Stone’s behalf a month ago. He added that "all options remain on the table," including a lawsuit, and suggested that any settlement must include mandatory sensitivity training for MTA police officers.

Stone, a pay-telephone repair technician who works in Grand Central, was named Henry McGuinness at birth. She has been transitioning to a woman over the past decade, and appears outwardly female, wearing women’s clothing and makeup.

"Using the bathroom is one of the most intimate and personal experiences someone has in the course of their day," Silverman said. "We stand with Helena against bigotry and will fight for her right to use a restroom consistent with her gender identity and persona."

Silverman said the New York City Human Rights law safeguards the right of transgender people to use the rest- room that most closely matches their gender identity.

(Advocacy by Make the Road by Walking’s GLOBE (Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered) brought Ms. Stone’s complaints into public view.)