Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meanwhile, Transgender Drama Grips The Cosmopolitan

UPDATE: Cosmo issues new statement. See bottom of post.

The folks at the Cosmopolitan better realize they need to snap into major damage control mode right now after Julia Buckley, the Vegas contributor to Conde Nast's HotelChatter.Com blog, wrote a detailed and quite disturbing account of a transgender friend being banned for LIFE from the new resort. (That's the notice, by the way, courtesy of VegasChatter.Com.)

This thing has already boomeranged all over the Web at warp speed, being picked up by The Atlantic, the gay travel mag Passport, the Las Vegas Weekly and several aggregator blogs.

The synposis of the claim is that a transgender woman drinks alone at the Vesper bar until 4 a.m., then goes to pee. Upon emerging from the ladies room, she is strong-armed by some security dudes who ask her for her ID and accuse her of "working." Eventually they drag her out, see her "legal" gender is actually male and tell her never, ever, EVER to return to the Cosmo.

I know that the question of what restroom to use vexes many who grapple with the transgender topic. But ladies' rooms don't have urinals, they have stalls. Everybody gets a private space to do their business, right? And this was in the dead of night anyway.

I'm told the Cosmo PR team is working on a statement. It ought to be better than this one they gave HotelChatter.Com:

We regret that any guest may have had an unfortunate experience at The Cosmopolitan. All guests are welcome to experience the city's newest luxury resort. Our guests' safety, comfort and enjoyment always remains our top priority. The resort contains numerous public restroom facilities that guests can use at their discretion as well as numerous private family restrooms throughout. Additionally, The Cosmopolitan is a TAG approved resort.

TAG is a group that certifies that a place is recommended to GLBT people.

There's good reason, by the way, to believe the transgender woman's account, even if odds are good there were some other circumstances that have yet to come to light. For one thing, a source of mine at Cosmo tells me that they've been told to redirect inquiries to PR. But the source also told me this:

They basically told us to tell people there are men and women's restrooms and that we also have private/family restrooms.

Huh. I've been in the Cosmo a gazillion times and I've got absolutely no idea where those private/family restrooms might be. They certainly aren't as obvious and and ubiquitous as the normal restrooms are. Also, that explains being BANNED FOR LIFE.

As I mentioned earlier pertaining to Trump, being tarred as intolerant is not a good way to encourage business in this hyper-competitive environment. So it'll be interesting to see how the Cosmo folks play this one. That said, there is unfortunately a lot less sympathy for transgender people -- even among gays -- than there is for gays and other minorities, so maybe it won't much matter. Time will tell.


Here's the statement from Amy Rossetti, Cosmo PR queen:

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is committed to maintaining a community that recognizes and values the inherent dignity of every person, by fostering sensitivity, understanding and mutual respect of our guests and employees. We sincerely regret any misunderstanding or inappropriate actions that any member of our staff may have taken. And to ensure increased sensitivity within this area, the organization will focus on continued training and on-going awareness initiatives. In addition, we apologize to the individual guest and welcome her back to the resort anytime. Again, we would like to apologize to the LGBT community and anyone concerned and hope to demonstrate our firm dedication to fair and unbiased treatment of all.

Okay, then. They're sorry. It's their fault. They want the transgender woman to come on back. Also, they're sorry. Now let's see what they actually do about it.


malya said...

I don't feel like the transgender issue has anything to do with being gay. I feel that you should go into the bathroom that matches your equipment regardless how you are dressed. At the same time yes the security over reacted with a ban for LIFE, but I'm ok with knowing that Cosmo isn't tranny friendly.

mike_ch said...

I'm impressed that the Cosmo's blackball notifications use marketing's trendy font and include their URL at the bottom. I can see a phone number (though it's their reservations line), but what the hell purpose could putting an advertisement for your sales web site possibly serve?

"Hey, you got a number for that place that banned you? I want to get a room."


Malya - I know plenty of gay people who believe that the trans issue is not the same fight. the trouble is, the source of discrimination and hatred for gays is exactly the same as it is for trans people, that they don't conform to "gender norms." It's the same thing. The only difference is that the gay community has done a better job of explaining ourselves, socializing, coming out, altering fundamental impressions of individual gay people even among those who may oppose some gay rights efforts. I think society is about to go through a similar learning curve with trans people.

Jeff in OKC said...

I don't think this is fair to the Cosmo. Here is what I read from the story so far, and I sincerely hope the details can tell me something more specific:
A person who was dressed as a woman, but somehow clearly appeared to be a man in woman's clothing (a transvite is most commonly associated with that activity) was obvoiusly intoxicated at a bar in the Cosmo at 4AM on a Monday morning (Sunday night, or is Monday/Tuesday?). This person somehow, through their appearance, actions, speaking voice or statements, made staff suspect that they were a male and they were entering and using the women's bathroom. Security intercepted that person after entering and using the women's bathroom and escorted them from the property and informed them that they were no longer welcome at the property.
The probability that the banned person is a transvestite seeking sex (or a transvestite prostitute), versus an innocent person who happens to be a transsexual seeking an innocent, alcohol fueled social experience, is probably better than 10,000 to 1. I don't think drunken, transvestite prostitutes are the type of people that are ever encouraged in bars at 5 billion dollar Las Vegas Strip Casinos and usually are told not to return.
Why is the banned person assumed to be completely innocent in this encounter and why is their version of the story accepted at face value? Because they know a writer who did not see the encounter and is relaying their version?
Please educate me. What is the common-sense version of how this person should have been treated? And should they have to provide documentation showing they are transgender versus transvestite on the Strip, given the prostitution issues that challenge Las Vegas law enforcement?
I am asking this without any agenda or snarky intent.

Jeff Simpson said...

I don't think this is enough of an apology to her: "In addition, we apologize to the individual guest and welcome her back to the resort anytime." Suppose she does return -- she's still subject to arrest.

She should be encouraged to return for a complimentary visit, with room, food and beverage all comped. Maybe spa and other stuff, too. The security officers who 86ed her, the top security executive and the property president should all greet her arrival and then personally apologize to her. They should give her a letter of apology that rescinds her trespass notice. I know security folks have a tough job but -- if her friend's retelling of the 86ing events are correct -- these bozos were at the very least morons on a power trip, and probably bigots.

Eric said...

Jeff in OKC nailed it. The security guards simply played the odds, and believed they were escorting a transvestite prostitute from the premises, something they are likely told to do by their higher-ups.

Were they too heavy-handed? Quite possibly. I wasn't there. But I do know that security guards often let the power go to their heads.

But prostitutes (or suspected prostitutes) are 86ed from every property on the Strip on a nightly basis, I would guess.

The difference here is of course the guest in question was not in fact a prostitute; and she is friends with the editor of a popular Vegas blog. Without both of those factors being true, this is a non-story.