“Lighthearted” is almost always used to describe incredibly tasteless and offensive attempts at humor (attempt being the operative word here.) Such is the case in Allen, TX, where a restaurant decided demarcating its bathrooms with blown up photos of Caitlyn Jenner, pre and post her transition, was a completely inoffensive thing to do.
In a photo shared to Twitter by a Dallas Morning News editor, Dom DiFurio, the restaurant’s appalling transphobia was put on display for all the world to see. Jenner’s intrepid Vanity Fair cover appears on the women’s bathroom door, while a shot of Jenner’s historic Olympic decathlon win appears on the men’s. According to its Facebook, Dodie’s Place Cajun Bar & Grill put Jenner’s photos up since August.
Speaking to the Daily Dot, DiFurio said Dodie’s Place isn’t exactly located in a progressive area. “Collin County, where Allen, Texas is, as a whole is considered a conservative bastion in North Texas. I wouldn’t consider it a particularly great place to be LGBTQ,” DiFurio said.
Gender, the stunt seems to imply, is a choice that’s as easy as going to the bathroom. But scientific research demonstrates how trans people often struggle with gender dysmorphia, which is compounded by society’s prescription of how men and women should look. Using Jenner’s photos to identify bathrooms minimizes their pain. People who are trans do not simply choose their gender identity on a whim.
In a Facebook post, Dodie’s restaurant responded to criticism. Noticeably, however, the restaurant failed to apologize for using Jenner’s image in the first place. Furthermore, the post’s language demonstrates the restaurant’s profound insensitivity to trans people and trans rights. Texas, lest we forget, has repeatedly tried to pass a bathroom bill forcing trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their birth certificate.
“Our intention was not to make fun of or offend anyone when we installed the pictures of Bruce and Caitlyn on our bathroom doors,” the restaurant said. “It was merely a lighthearted gesture to push back against the political correctness that seems to have a stranglehold on this country.”
Similar to the implications of a “lighthearted” joke, we can deduce an aversion to “political correctness” as code for “license to offend.” And despite Dodie’s Restaurant’s claim that “everyone is welcome,” it’s difficult to imagine a trans person who was confronted with Jenner’s images on their way to the bathroom would feel safe—let alone welcome.