Five days after Brianna Freeman had used the women's restroom at Denny's restaurant in Auburn, she was beckoned by the manager. He asked to speak to her privately.
He told her that a customer had complained that she, a male, had used the restroom. He had talked to his supervisor, who talked to the company's vice president.
Because Freeman hadn't had a transsexual operation and wasn't considered a biological female, she had to use the men's room, they told her.
Freeman told him the restaurant was breaking the law by not allowing her, a transgendered person, to use the restroom at the public place.
When she met with a Sun Journal reporter at a different local restaurant this week, Freeman, 45, was dressed in a black tank top with spaghetti straps. Her dyed auburn hair fell below her shoulders and was pulled back by sunglasses. She wore silver earrings and a thin blue necklace. Before exiting, she slung a denim pocketbook over her shoulder.
What baffles Freeman, she said, is the restaurant's apparent change in policy.
She had frequented the same Denny's for about a year, dressed as a woman, and used the women's restroom without objection. She had met with the restaurant manager to explain her situation. There was no problem.
Then the restaurant changed managers. That's when the problem started.
Freeman said she never saw the woman who used the bathroom at the same time she did the night of the complaint. That woman couldn't have seen Freeman's face. So how did she determine that Freeman wasn't female?
She offered to discuss the issue with the manager, to provide documentation of her transition and make her counselor available.
They declined, having already decided, she said.
Freeman is in what she calls phase two of a three-phase process. First, about a decade ago, she discovered her true gender identity. Next, she assumed the role and lifestyle of a woman. Phase three is the surgical procedure to complete the process. It costs about $100,000, prohibitive for her to pay privately. No health insurance covers such a procedure, she said, though legislators in California are considering it.
The 13-day hospital stay would be followed by surgical recuperation, rehabilitation and the physical adjustment, she said. The mental adjustment would be minor by comparison, she said.
Freeman hasn't had similar problems at any of the other eight restaurants she visits regularly, she said.
“I am accepted and acknowledged as a female. It's really all I'm asking people to try to do.” In a couple of cases, she has talked to management or wait staff to explain before using the restroom, she said. The rest of the time, she doesn't feel the need to.
She has been undergoing hormone therapy for two-and-a-half years, aimed at boosting her estrogen levels and blocking her testosterone.
“This is something that people are born with,” she said. It's in her genetic makeup, in her brain.
The discovery came in 2000 when she was in a relationship. She and a girlfriend were kidding around. She picked up a pair of women's underwear at a store. Her girlfriend dared her to try them on. When she did, “it really turned a big light on in me.” She didn't say anything, fearing she'd lose her girlfriend.
“I've always felt different,” she said. “I've always felt like I did not belong with what I was given biologically. I thought it was just growing pains.”
But she learned it was nothing of the kind.
“That's a lie … it's a fallacy.”
Now that she is living as a woman, she can't and won't revert back to her life as a man, she said.
“I do not regress, digress to anything that's male as I present myself.” That includes using the men's room.
“I know there are some people out there who can't get beyond themselves to see that this is my choice,” she said. “It has nothing to do with you. I just want to live my life as completely as I can.”