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TransLink attendant should have intervened, says trans man

‘He was offered the use of the phone to call Transit police’: spokesperson

Erich Eide, who also goes by his drag name, Leada Stray, says a group of five men accosted him at the Commercial Drive SkyTrain station June 6 while a transit attendant watched. Credit: Shauna Lewis

A trans man says a SkyTrain attendant failed to protect him after a group of five men surrounded and taunted him outside the entrance to the Commercial Drive SkyTrain station June 6.

Erich Eide, who also goes by his drag name, Leada Stray, says the group accosted him at approximately 6pm. “They started screaming at me, and the main guy stepped up to me, two inches from my face, and started telling me that I was going to hell and that I was a ‘faggot’ and an ‘ass bandit’ and a ‘rump ranger’ and a ‘shit sheriff.’ He used those words. I’ll never forget it; the one guy called me a ‘pestilence-ridden, scum-sucking, spawn of the devil.”

Eide assumes he was targeted because of the rainbow tattoos on his arms and the fact that he was carrying a large rhinestone crown.

“I was definitely worried that someone was going to take a swing at me,” he says. “It was getting scary very quickly.”

Eide says he managed to break free from the group without physical injury and approach a transit attendant, who he believes saw the incident but did little to help. “He said, ‘You should just deal with that. It seems like you have an issue with them. I don’t.’”

Eide says the attendant then told him there was nothing he could do as the incident happened outside the SkyTrain gates. The attendant suggested Eide call Transit Police for help and offered the use of his phone. Eide declined.

Instead, he called transit customer relations to ask why the on-site attendant did nothing to intervene. He says he was again referred to Transit Police.

Customer relations also invited him to file a formal complaint, he adds, but five days later had not yet followed up with him. That’s when Eide decided to comment about the incident on Twitter: “@TransLink your staff refused to help the victim of a gaybashing and now your office refuses to follow up with that victim. FOR SHAME,” he wrote June 12.

Eide says TransLink contacted him immediately after his post but still failed to address his concerns adequately — and addressed him by his legal name, rather than his chosen name as a trans man. For those reasons, Eide says, he refused to file an incident report with Transit Police.

A spokesperson for Metro Vancouver Transit Police says that without Eide’s cooperation, their hands are tied. “We would be happy to investigate if the victim would provide a statement, but because we don’t have a statement, we are not in the position to proceed,” Carolyn Baldridge says.

Asked if transit has documentation on the incident, Baldridge says the information she received is that “there were some sort of gay slurs that were exchanged.”

Eide says the June 6 incident was not the first time he’s encountered harassment on or near city transit hubs. He believes transit attendants have a duty to step in. “When you have an attendant that says that your issue is ‘not my problem’ — well they should have a problem with it; they’re in uniform,” he says.

But attendants are not covered by WorkSafeBC, the province’s workers’ compensation board, for incidents occurring outside the designated transit areas, TransLink spokesperson Jiana Ling says.

Ling also points out that the attendant offered Eide the use of his phone to call Transit Police. “Help was offered. He was offered the use of the phone to call Transit Police, and that help was denied.”

Asked what sensitivity training TransLink attendants receive, Ling doesn’t have an answer readily available. “I’m unsure of sensitivity training specifics,” she says. “Our attendants are trained for customer service and station operations. They are not trained for security matters. That’s the role of the Transit Police and transit security.”

Some attendants are also trained in first aid, she adds, and most are expected to “observe and report” when a person’s safety is at risk. In TransLink’s view, Eide was not in physical danger, Ling notes.

“From what the station attendant said, the person’s safety was not at risk. It was a verbal altercation, and the incident happened outside the SkyTrain station, and we did offer help,” she explains. “There’s only so much you can do. We offered help twice and it was rejected.” 

Eide thinks more must be done to ensure the safety of queer transit users. “The [TransLink] policy needs to be reviewed, sensitivity training needs to be reviewed, and they need to start putting clear boundaries in place,” he says.

Eide says he won’t be cooperating with Transit Police but says he plans to contact TransLink customer relations again about his complaint regarding the attendant. He also plans to contact the Vancouver police about the group who allegedly attacked him.

“I’m not letting it go. I’ve let it go too many times,” he says.