When the Hull Daily Mail reported claims that Ny Richardson, a teenage girl, was asked to leave a McDonald’s restaurant because staff mistook her for a boy using the women’s toilets, I knew it would be a divisive issue.
Since publication, over 3,000 people have shared, reacted or commented on the story in one way or another.
In those comments, people voiced a wide range of opinions – some positive, many more negative – and I wanted to take the opportunity to address those points of view.
Some questioned why the Hull Daily Mail even reported the story in the first place. As journalists, I feel our job, in addition to providing people with the news, is to supply them with information that challenges their views and informs debate. We have certainly done that.
Others questioned whether Ny Richardson was asked to leave because of her claims or because of disruptive behaviour that her and her friends may or may not have been responsible for.
Short of being there ourselves or seeing a video of the incident, we will never really fully know. But we can paint an image by questioning multiple sources and confirming the facts of story to the best of our abilities. Having the police confirm that “altercation had ensued between the youths and staff after a customer complained a person they wrongly believed to be male was in the women’s toilets” made us feel confidently enough in our version of the events.
The most worrying opinion that was voiced, however, was that Ny should expect to be treated the way she was, because of the way she dresses. One reader said: “If you dress like and act like a bloke, expect to be treated like one. Don’t bloody cry about it when you’re questioned.”
After trawling through all the comments on the social media, that view was shared far too frequently and that is what inspired me to address these issues.
My view, which does not represent the views of the Hull Daily Mail as a whole, is that in today’s age, in what is supposedly a forward-thinking and accepting country: anyone, regardless of who they are, should be allowed to express themselves with their choice of clothing in any way they want without being subject to maltreatment or abuse.
Ny has undoubtedly already been brave enough in openly embracing her sexuality, in addition to all the struggles that any 16-year-old girl faces on a daily basis.
She should not be chastised because she is different – whether she chooses her image or not. The fact that some people have even gone as far as to hit her with handbags while in some toilets is beyond belief. She is a person, just like the rest of us, and she deserves the same level of respect we enjoy as we go about our daily lives. It really is as simple as that.