Democratic Party activist Janice Covington Allison says she was at first confused when a police officer approached her Monday night in a restroom at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center and told her she couldn’t be there.
“I was looking in the mirror primping my hair – cause I had just crossed the street in the wind – and the police woman said, ‘I’ve had complaints. You have to leave,’” said Allison, the chairwoman of diversity and outreach for the N.C. Democratic Party.
“I was in shock. I asked her, ‘Am I being arrested?’ When we walked out the door, there were 20 people standing there, eyeballing me and pointing at me, and it was clear they were talking about me.”
One called her a “pervert,” she recalled.
In that moment, 67-year-old Allison – a transgender woman – had become an unwitting illustration of the debate over a controversial nondiscrimination ordinance. She was among the more than 100 people to address the City Council.
The original ordinance, which was amended by the council Monday, would have made it acceptable for transgender people to use the restroom of the gender they identify with. The amended ordinance was later voted down.
Allison, who was a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, was one of two transgender women confronted for using restrooms during the debate Monday. The other was a teen, Allison said.
A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department spokesman said no one was arrested or charged in connection with any bathroom incident Monday. Allison added that the officer involved was “completely professional, if not kinder than professional.”
City spokeswoman Sandy D’Elosua said: “The city does not have a restroom policy in place and addresses any situation that may arise on a case by case basis.”
Later in the evening, as protesters lined up to address the council, one man said opponents’ worst fears had been realized that very night, when a transgender woman visited the women’s restroom in the Government Center “striking fear and terror” in two children.
“I was listening, thinking, ‘Damn, who did that?’ And then I realized he was talking about me!” Allison said. “Once I realized it, I was furious.”
After that, Allison said she was afraid to enter any restroom in the building. But when word spread, Allison says she was approached by a female attorney who escorted her to the same restroom later in the evening.
“I’m diabetic, and I had to go bad. If they had told me they were going to arrest me,” Allison said, “they would have had to drag me out of that restroom kicking and screaming.”
(Note: Story was updated at 10 a.m. March 4 to clarify council vote on amended ordinance.)