Bad Dog (Iguana, Kangaroo, Parakeet ...)
No sit, no stay, no service: What the article ["Service with a Snarl," Joe Eskenazi, Feature, 6/17] fails to mention is that under the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], a service animal that is not behaving or poses a danger to others can be legally ejected from any place of public accommodation. Any menacing, growling, excessive barking, peeing on the floor, defecating in the aisle, or any other aberrantly behaved "service dog" can be kicked out — as long as you allow the "handler" to return without the dog. Read the ADA as it pertains to service animals and know your rights.
The types of "service animal" users described in the article do a great disservice to all legitimate service teams who depend on their highly trained and immaculately behaved animals to lead a more independent life. These folks in the article are nothing but scammers and frauds who denigrate the true title of "service animal." They should be ashamed.
Joe Eskenazi responds: I should have more directly stated that misbehaving service animals can be asked to leave public accommodations. I alluded to this by noting that bus drivers, business owners, and even the police told us they willfully turn a blind eye to all but the most disruptive service animals due to fears of ending up on the wrong end of a federal disability lawsuit.
Tough love in the Tenderloin: Thanks very much for bringing to light the very serious abuses that occur when people are allowed to have "psychiatric service animals." I am a psychotherapist in a free medical clinic in the Tenderloin and have been asked several times to sign letters that would allow people to have service animals in their city, state, or federally subsidized housing. I make it a policy never to sign these letters. I encourage my colleagues to not sign them either.
Personally and professionally, I feel the whole idea of "psychiatric service animals," with very few legitimate exceptions, is a load of bullpucky. Our society is creating, with the ADA as a tool, a class of people for whom the rules of our society and our implied social contracts do not apply. It does not help people to exempt them from the rules and laws that apply to everyone else in our society. In fact, it causes them harm.
Frequently, I am asked by people perfectly capable of fulfilling their civic obligations to write letters exempting them from jury duty, workfare expectations for their General Assistance checks, and standing in lines for services due to alleged disorders such as "social anxiety disorder." One patient frankly admitted that he couldn't perform his General Assistance workfare because he uses speed all day.
By exempting people from reasonable societal expectations and fostering an over-identification with "disability," we professionals involved in this do more harm than good. I would go so far as to say it oppresses people even more than they already may be.
K. Marcus Hartsfield, MFT
Risky business: As someone quite familiar with this world, I have some concerns with this story ["A Beautiful Risk," Ashley Harrell, Feature, 6/10]. While I appreciate the journalist's attempt to protect the privacy of "Gray" — an educated, white FTM [female to male transgender] raised in Orange County — this piece contrasts sharply with last year's sensationalist story that did not respect the privacy of undocumented Latina transgender women ["Border Crossers," Lauren Smiley, Feature, 11/25/08].
Given that his identity has been shielded, I will not hold back on my own reflections: The characterization of Gray's transaction with the poz [HIV-positive] guy as "rape" does a huge disservice to so many of us — sex workers, poz guys, transmen, nontrans gay men, women, and definitely Gray himself. While newly transitioned FTMs often lack the socialization to safely navigate sex work, anonymous sexual encounters, as well as the gay sex scene, we need to focus on skills-building and education of trans- and nontransmen as well as public health providers, rather than crying rape when an apparently consensual encounter goes awry in hindsight.
The prolific exhibitionism and self-exploration through sex work is not unique to transition among FTMs, but I'm not sure glorifying it as "a beautiful risk" is going to make the ride better for Gray or anyone else who follows.