Over the weekend, Eric Ethington over at Pride in Utah posted the horrifying story of a transgender woman being mocked, laughed at, and forced to scrub off her makeup before she was allowed to get her photo taken to renew her drivers license. This incident received attention after Amber Anderton witnessed the whole ordeal and filed a complaint.
|Amber Anderton, witness.|
A local group that goes by the name Transgender Education Advocates of Utah (TEA of Utah) was invited to view the security footage. They reported to the Trib that no discrimination took place. Then in a Fox 13 article, Chris Scuderi of TEA additionally commented that he “… appreciates Anderton’s concern for transgender people, but he thinks she is misinterpreting the Drivers License Division office workers.”
TEA asserts that the employees “did follow procedure” and, “There was no ridicule… ” Interestingly, TEA has admitted that the security footage lacked audio.
According to Dwayne Baird (in the Trib), a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety, which oversees driver licenses:
“It was determined the [ID card] applicant was treated fairly and with respect and in accordance with our policy,… If you present documentation indicating who you are, we want to take a photograph that is consistent with your identity.”I am curious. Does the DMV treat everyone with such “respect” and force all individuals, across the board, to take a photograph “consistent with [their] identity”? Does the DMV force all women and men to remove their toupees, wash out any hair dye, scrub off their makeup, remove wigs, pop out contacts, spit out their false teeth, or shave their facial hair off? I realize there is an issue with people altering their appearance - yet entire classes of people are given a free pass to alter their appearances in extreme ways.
It seems as though it only becomes a critical matter of security when the person is transgender.
Additionally, what gives the DMV offices the right to decide how this person identifies based on if there’s an M or an F on her license? And what does her lack of being there to change that “M” to an “F” (which she shouldn’t be forced to do, and TEA and the DMV seem to believe she does) have to do with a policy that allows the employees at the DLD to subjectively determine if an individual appears “too male” or “too female”?
This is a blatantly discriminatory policy that is selectively enforced against transwomen.
TEA’s defense of the DLD has been used in both articles and community discussions as ammunition against Amber Anderton’s witness account, claiming that she has overreacted on behalf of the victim. From Chris Scuderi of TEA in the Fox 13 article:
… they followed policy and procedure as they should. Everything was above board and in accordance with the documentation they received at the time. We respect that individual and who they are, but we also have to take a photo for their identification that has to be consistent with who they are.Something tells me that Chris wouldn’t be singing the same tune if the DLD forced him or any other man who expresses his identity via pants and a tie to wear a dress or makeup to “be consistent with who [he] is” - subjectively determined by employees at the DLD based on cultural attitudes of what’s “male” or “female” aesthetically at the time.
Fortunately, while TEA and the DLD have been busy attempting to discredit Amber as having some misunderstood overreaction, the victim herself, Regina Audette, has stepped forward. Here’s what she said last night:
I was the transgender female who was asked to scrub my make up off so they could took my photo. Well it was Thursday afternoon and my brother and I went to get my ID at the DMV at the Fairgrounds and the assistant supervisor and the security officer was laughing at me and so it was my turn to get my picture taken and so I gave them the… proper paperwork and they looked at it told me they need to talk to the supervisor who pulled me in her office and told me to remove my make up because I was altering my identification and so I took the make up off and they took the picture and while I was waiting the assistant supervisor was yelling that wasnt a female that is a man and making the situation that much worse and then my brother and I went to talk to the supervisor and she said that they wernt making fun of us he had to itch his ass and didnt want to do it in front of me and that was their excuse on why they were laughing.I’m sorry, DLD and TEA, but I think Regina knows how she identifies better than either of you have the institutional right to dictate for her. And no, the discrimination she - and many others - have endured is not okay.
Due to a strong sense of community, it is difficult for me to say anything that might discredit TEA. However, their comments in this situation are doing a lot more harm than good. What happened to Regina has happened more than once, especially at this particular office due to a discriminatory policy which literally claims that trans people are intentionally altering their appearances to be deceptive.
A little TEA anatomy. This organization has seemingly become either hijacked by or essentially consists of two individuals: Christopher and his wife, Teinamarrie. While I commend them for being so passionate and working as hard as they have - they have taken the lead on working with the DMV and the DLD without actually asking the trans community for any input. They literally argue that this policy is okay, even though it has caused a great deal of transwomen to suffer.
Worse, Chris and Tinamarie have literally been told that this is unacceptable and has been happening to other trans women and have been sent stories of such occurrences - and, in response, they defend the DLD. While the couple say, “This is all okay”, the Utah Driver License Division is able to use them as a defense and to dismiss the brave individuals who do stand up like Amber and Regina. The DLD uses this to evade and say, Well look folks, the transgender community says this is okay and it’s just this one person being crazy!
Which is exactly how it is being reported - like when the Trib writes, “Although one bystander says a transgender woman was wrongly “humiliated” at the Utah Driver License Division last week…” (emphasis added)
This is, bottom line, painfully inaccurate.
To clarify, I have never had an issue with TEA. While I appreciate their intentions to make things better for trans people, acting as representatives of a community they do not ever solicit feedback from and using this facade to defend the DLD against a brave individual like Amber, sticking up for Regina, is very harmful.
A local radio station’s popular morning show called Radio From Hell hit this incident right snab on the head when putting it up for a community vote as a “Boner of the day” candidate. It won - and is now boner of the week. Way boner.
According to Eric Ethington, the Drivers License Division has received hundreds of complaints so far.
Utah Drivers License Division
1-800-222-0038 or 801-965-4437