Fox reporter Todd Starnes
Fox's 'Burly Man in Dress' Story Puts Transphobia on Display

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com June 05 2013 4:27 PM ET

A Fox News Radio reporter has relayed a story of what he calls “horror” that a Nashville restaurant allowed a transgender woman to use its ladies’ room.

Todd Starnes’s transphobic report, posted online Monday, narrates a straight couple’s recent experience at Amerigo, an Italian restaurant. David Staton and his wife (Starnes does not give the wife’s first name) notice “a group of cross-dressers,” in Starnes’s words, a few tables over. “These guys were well over six feet tall, big burly men in dresses,” Staton told Starnes.

Then Staton’s wife met up with one of them in the ladies’ room. She asked if she was in the men’s restroom, but she was not. “Staton said the man went over to the mirror to fix his lipstick and told his wife, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay,’” Starnes writes. But she responded, “No, it’s not okay. There are men in the women’s bathroom,’” and she and her husband complained to the restaurant manager, who offered to let Staton’s wife use the men’s room while he stood guard.

This suggestion did not satisfy the couple, and Staton told Starnes how he would address the situation: “There needs to be some sort of law that says if you are born a man with man-parts, you go to the men’s bathroom. In a family restaurant, men should go to the men’s room and women should go to the women’s.” Starnes has followed up his story by tweeting, “Imagine your 10-year-old daughter walking into the bathroom & coming face to face with a burly man wearing a dress.”

The watchdog group Media Matters points out, “Starnes’ coverage of the incident is problematic for obvious reasons: inappropriately referring to a transgender person by the wrong gender, using derogatory language, and peddling the baseless ‘bathroom panic’ myth, to name a few.”

Media Matters adds, “Someone being bothered by the presence of a transgender person isn’t a news story. Nor is it a story when a restaurant voluntarily allows a transgender woman to use a restroom that matches her gender identity. … Only in the mind of Todd Starnes — a man who’s made it his mission to gin up anti-LGBT sentiment with throwaway ‘culture war’ stories — does this kind of incident qualify as newsworthy.”