Back in August, the owner of the Texas-based restaurant Dodie's Place Cajun Bar & Grill placed large scale transition photos of Caitlyn Jenner on the doors to the men's and women's bathrooms. While the photos have been up for months, it wasn't until a few days ago when the Dallas Morning News reporter Dom DiFurio disapprovingly shared a photo of the bathrooms on Twitter, that the Texas restaurant started facing backlash for transphobia.
As if to dispel any possible doubt about the intentions of this decision, an August Facebook post from Dodie's Place Cajun Bar & Grill encouraged customers to "come meet our newest members of the Dodie's crew" in reference to the pre and post-transition photos. The women's bathroom features the Vanity Fair cover of Jenner, while the men's bathroom shows the former athlete at the 1976 Summer Olympics - years before coming out.
https://twitter.com/DomDiFurio/status/92514283Sadly, a lot of people on the restaurant's Facebook rushed to defend the decision with claims that "it was just a joke." Still, many people on Facebook and Twitter expressed their disgust at the transphobia, with some pledging to boycott the restaurant. As one Twitter user wrote, "it's only a joke if you consider 'transgender people exist' as a punchline."
In response to the backlash, the owner posted a full statement on the restaurant's Facebook page, it's less of an apology and more of a justification:
"First and foremost, our intention was not to make fun of or offend anyone when we installed the pictures of Bruce and Caitlyn on our bathroom doors. It was merely a lighthearted gesture to push back against the political correctness that seems to have a stranglehold on this country right now. We believe that political correctness has done more to silence rather than encourage important discussions that our society probably needs to have. Based on the mind-boggling feedback, both positive and negative, people are having that discussion. However, name calling and words like transphobic, deviant, racist, homophobic, bigot, etc. serve nothing but to continue to divide us instead of uniting us. After all, we are all part of the same race - the human race. Surely, we can discuss this topic and many others without slapping hurtful labels on each other. Please know that we are here to discuss this and move forward as a community. Everyone is welcome here."
While it may have been intended as a joke, making a trans person's transition a punchline is a deeply hack and unfunny move at best. At worst, it's another way cis people assert how comfortable they are mocking and questioning the life experiences of trans people. It's also notable that the restaurant is using Jenner's photos to designate bathrooms while politicians are actively trying to strip trans people of their rights to use the bathroom. This feels like yet another way to poke fun of the very real and often painful process of coming out. What do you think?