Odyssey Impact: A Mom's Post Leads To A Family-Friendly Change At A Local Mall

Odyssey Impact: A Mom's Post Leads To A Family-Friendly Change At A Local Mall

A Tennessee mall changed its policies after a local mom posted her story on Odyssey.
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When Tiffany Rawlin joined Odyssey, she set out to share her perspective—like everyone else on the platform. But when she wrote a post earlier this year about an unpleasant experience she had at the Stones River Mall in Murfreesboro, Tenn., she never expected she would be the one to prompt a serious change.

Tiffany, who is a part of the Murfeesboro, Tenn. Odyssey community, has been sharing her perspective as a young wife and mom since she joined in May. She’s covered every aspect of parenthood and family life from “11 Unexpected Parent Phrases” to “A Bad Mom’s Take On ‘Bad Moms,’” but when she and a group of mothers were disrespected at their local mall, she took to Odyssey to report on the wrongdoing.

She recounted the day she and a group of other moms took their children to the mall’s indoor playground area. When their kids started playing, security staff approached the group and asked them to leave the area.

Rawlin was baffled. Her plan of action was to leave a negative review on the mall’s Facebook page, and she would have stopped there had it not been for others who, over the course of several weeks, also spoke out against the mall security staff. They, too, had been asked to leave the playground after displaying completely normal and reasonable behavior.

Rawlin relayed one mother’s story in her post:

She had brought her oldest son, who has high functioning autism, prepared with books and school work to occupy him. While she was turned around trying to help her toddlers take their shoes off, a security guard asked her older son to leave the area immediately. Following orders, he did so. When the mom turned around, her son was nowhere to be found. Luckily he was not too far off, but things could have been much worse.

"I realized it wasn't a fluke lapse of judgment," said Rawlin. It was then that she decided something else needed to be done, and what better way to spread the word than on Odyssey? She wrote a post retelling her story and the other parents’ experiences. Soon, her network of parents and their networks began sharing the story on social media.

"I was seeing my article being shared over and over again by moms all around middle Tennessee, some I've never met," said Rawlin, who certainly wanted to invoke a change, but didn’t expect the story to gain as much traction as it did.

“When my article kind of took off, I remember wondering how big it could get... it was nice being able to see that we weren't the only ones having issues and that other people wanted change too.”

But it wasn’t just angry parents who took notice of her story. The post had circulated so quickly that within just a few days, the mall had also seen the post and issued this response on Facebook addressing the concerns of its frustrated customers.

Rawlin was ecstatic to find the mall had apologized, but it didn’t end there. The day after she posted on Odyssey, the Daily News Journal, a local affiliate of USA Today in Murfreesboro, picked up her story and even asked more parents for their perspective on the issue.

Despite her intention to spread word about the injustice she and her group experienced, "I never thought it would actually make change," Rawlin said.

After making a formal apology, the Stones River Mall has made changes in security staff and even started up special children’s events in August, adding a puppet show and a magic show to their calendar of events. And so far, no one’s been kicked off the premises since Rawlin’s post.

Rawlin realized after her post that one voice can be the beginning of an entire movement, and that perhaps if she hadn’t written about it, the mall wouldn’t have made the change. “While I know I'm not entirely to thank for that, knowing my words help make change means a lot.”

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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