A transgender woman who was ticketed for using the women’s restroom at a Dallas hospital says her status as a convicted sex offender should not play a role in the citation.
Paula Witherspoon told NBC 5's Ellen Goldberg on Tuesday that Parkland Hospital police cited her last week.
On Wednesday, Parkland Hospital released the police report, which states that Paul Witherspoon, 56, is a sex offender.
Witherspoon said on Wednesday that her criminal past is no secret.
"It happened over 22 years ago, and I'm human," she said. "I made a mistake."
According to the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry, Witherspoon was convicted in 1990 for sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child involving sexual contact. Both victims were teenage girls.
“It’s a tragic mistake, I admit, but I’m getting therapy for it and trying to go on with my life,” Witherspoon said.
"I have to register as a sex offender the rest of my life, and I have to live with that," she said.
Witherspoon said she openly showed her sex offender card to police at Parkland Hospital.
"People who hide something have something to hide. I don't," she said.
Witherspoon said her convictions should not play a role in her citation while using the bathroom.
Ken Upton, a legal expert with Lambda Legal dealing with civil rights, agreed.
“If all the person is doing is using the bathroom in a way that is consistent with the gender that they live in day in and day out, that is not a crime,” he said.
Upton said it is not unusual or even inappropriate for someone living as woman to use the women's bathroom.
"If you want to talk about disorderly conduct, you have to wonder which would cause more of a disruption -- her going into the women's restroom and using it with other women or going into the men's restroom dressed the way she was, whether that would have been any better," he said.
Upton called into question the training Parkland police receive.
“A facility like Parkland, which probably has doctors who treat transgender people, should know it’s not unusual for someone living as a woman to use a woman’s restroom,” he said.
Witherspoon told NBC 5 on Tuesday that she has been transitioning since 2006. She said she offered to show the officer a letter from her counselor that states she is expected to use facilities for women.
"It explains everything. I'm a woman," she said.
But Parkland police told her they had to go by what was on her driver license, she said.
Witherspoon had not received a court date as of Wednesday.
Upton said she would most likely face a fine at most.
An openly gay Parkland board member called Witherspoon and apologized for the citation. He said he was speaking for himself and not the hospital.
NBC 5's Scott Gordon contributed to this report.
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