Photo: Lexi Sanfino and Nina Arsenault.
Two transgender women, Lexi Sanfino and Nina Arsenault, were greeted by the RCMP after landing in Edmonton on a WestJet flight from Toronto on June 20. Sanfino was charged with indecent exhibition and causing a disturbance for walking through the plane topless. When Arsenault attempted to film the arrest, she too was detained for two and half hours.
The duo have now opened up to Vice about the alleged transphobia they faced from WestJet employees and the RCMP.
"I told [the flight attendants] I was going to walk down the aisle topless,” Lexi says. “They laughed and told me to go for it. They just said: ‘Don’t tell anyone we gave you permission.’”
"I can't control her — not now or on the plane — she does what she wants,” Nina adds. “If you tell her not to do something, she will want to do it even more. Also, she told the flight attendants what she was going to do before she did it. They were all having a good laugh about it there for a while."
“It started with [WestJet employees] asking us for makeup tips. Then they referred to us with male pronouns. ‘Cause you guys used to be guys, right?’ They kept asking us if we had sex changes or had the ‘original plumbing.’ I guess that was their idea of small talk," Lexi says. “I said, ‘Why do people ask us the same old shit everywhere we go? It’s totally inappropriate to ask anyone else about his or her genitals . Can you imagine if I asked them what their genitals looked like ?’ Then they were like ‘I'm just curious. I'm just trying to understand,’ but can you imagine if I asked a mother what her genitals looked like now after birth ? Or an old lady, ‘What does your old pussy look like now that you're a senior?’ and we get it everywhere. It’s like asking black guys if they are really hung , or Asian guys if they have small ones. It’s offensive ."
“[The RCMP officers] asked about my genitals too,” Lexi claims. “They asked if I was going to get a sex change; called me ‘male.’ One of the officers even apologized for the other’s behaviour. He said, ‘Sorry we don’t know about transgender people here. We’re not very educated.'"
Both Sanfino and Arsenault have been banned from flying with WestJet and Air Canada.