LS and Kris at Kia’s Birthday Party


Me, Kris, and disembodied hand at Kia’s birthday party at Hakata Tonton in the West Village (right next to the infamous Marie’s Crisis). Hakata Tonton is a Japanese restaurant that specializes in pigs feet (or “pied de cochon” as they say on their website), which is high in collagen and supposedly good for your skin. In any case, I don’t need that as an excuse to eat delicious pork fat. The 40 dollar (including drinks, tax and tip) party package can’t be beat either.

Yogyakarta Principles and rude, racist guard at the UN

LS outside the UN with Human Rights Watch colleagues

I went to the New York launch of the Yogyakarta Principles on LGBT rights in the international human rights context on Wednesday. It was my first time inside the UN, so it was very exciting. I was very upset by a very rude and racist security guard working at the security entrance, but it did not damper my spirits at this historic event in the struggle for international human rights for ALL people.

From the Yogyakarta Principles website:

In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of abuse, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles: a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. They promise a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfill that precious birthright.

So here is the story of the security guard: He was a white man and most likely an Eastern European immigrant based on his heavy accent. There was a woman ahead of me in line wearing metal bracelets. He told her to lift her hands up while going through the metal detector, because the machine indicates where the metal objects are. If she beeps only because of her bracelets, then he would let her through. But he did not convey this in a clear manner, or the woman did not understand him well. So the security guard cracks a not-so-funny comment: “You know, I’m not speaking Japanese here you know!” I cringe.

Then it is my turn to go through the metal detector. I take off my coat and empty my pockets and place my belongings on the conveyor belt x-ray. Then I walk through the metal detector. My belt buckle sets off the metal detector. He tells me to take off my belt. “What!?” I retort. I have been in airports countless times, and NEVER have I had to take off my belt or seen anybody take off their belts. That is why they have wands. Taking off one’s belt in public is 1 step too close to a strip search. Ok, maybe that is overexagerating, but it is undignified in any case. “Don’t you have a wand?” I ask. “No, I’m kidding when I tell you to take off your belt!” he snaps back. I would have gladly taken off my belt the first time if he had asked nicely, without sarcasm and spite in his voice. I say, “well, you could at least ask nicely…”

“Please, thank you” was his curt reply.

If I were to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, perhaps his English abilities were not good enough to convey instructions in a polite way. Or maybe he is just rude. Either way this is still unacceptable, especially at an institution such as the UN. In addition, we were not tourists; we were invited guests to a special event. Not that we should get preferential treatment in any way, but the UN does belong to the people of the world after all. Racist comments and unnecessary rudeness have no place. Also, if you are going to work in a customer service position that deals with the public, it should be expected that you can communicate politely.

Sorry for the rant. In any case you can read more about the Yogyakarta Principles New York launch on the Human Rights Watch website and visit the official Yogyakarta Principles homepage.