Three bus riders in Spokane were recently ousted after one of them, sitting within earshot of the driver, came out as bisexual. What the what?! Here's the word from The Pacific Northwest Inlander:
[Passenger Kaitlyn] Bahn says, conversation was only loud enough to be clearly audible across the aisle. [During the conversation, Kaitlyn's friend Jessica] Jahn commented that she was bisexual.
The driver told them that their conversation was inappropriate in public.
They asked the bus driver if she was talking to them, and if they were breaking a rule. The bus driver said yes.
On the bus, Jahn looked up the Spokane municipal code on her iPhone to check the driver's claims. As soon as the bus emptied of everyone else, Jahn asked if the three could continue with their conversation -- noting there was nothing in the municipal code that said they couldn't.
The driver, according to Jahn, said it didn't matter: The driver was offended. The three riders asked the driver about her religion and accused her of being discriminatory.
A mile from their intended destination, the driver kicked the riders off the bus. The three repeatedly asked for the driver's name or identification, Kellogg says, but the driver would only give the bus number.
Now, I have no idea why these riders asked the driver about her religion, or what that has to do with being biphobic. I think someone can be religious (any religion) and be bi or a bi-ally. So, I think that was an unexpected place for these three youth to take the conversation. Be that as it may, though, I don't think this driver had any right to kick them off the bus. It is not inappropriate to come out as bisexual while riding public transit.
I contacted Carla Savalli, the Executive Director of Odyssey Youth Center, which is Spokane's LGBT youth organization. The riders, all trans youth, went to Odyssey after the incident, and wrote up complaints. Ms. Savalli filled me in on what's happened since then.
The update is that Spokane Transit Authority agreed that the incident was not handled properly and the youth should not have been put off the bus. The CEO of STA, Susan Meyer, apologized to the youth, and gave them, [one of the youth's] parent, and myself the chance to view the video [of the incident, filmed inside the bus]. As is customary personnel policy in business, STA will not say what - if any - discipline or training the bus driver will receive.
Odyssey Youth Center has made itself available to STA to conduct some cultural competency and sensitivity training, which the CEO indicated they will likely pursue. From my perspective as the director of a youth center that serves LGBTQ kids, I'm pleased at the responsiveness of STA. They took the complaint I filed seriously and launched an investigation fairly quickly. I appreciate that they allowed the youth and the parent to view the video for themselves, and that the CEO and another top administrator met with the youth and engaged in a thoughtful and respectful conversation.
I think both parties learned from the incident. I know Odyssey learned about STA's protocols and its process for following-up on customer service issues. I believe STA learned some cultural competency lessons around LGBTQ issues.
Way to go, STA, and thanks, Odyssey! I'm glad that the STA is taking positive steps. I'm only sorry to hear that it all happened in first place because bi youth were forced to take steps of their own - by stepping off a bus.