After being arrested for shoplifting at Sapell's in Lakewood, Robin Spitfire Adelmann found herself at the Lakewood Police Department on Dec. 21, 2014.
The booking process and the stint in jail were standard-issue police protocol. Robin, a transgender woman living at a women's shelter in Cleveland, says the officers were polite — issuing her a cell in the female block and acting respectfully overall. But when a detective got to her the next day for paperwork and questioning, Robin began hearing the all-too-familiar tones of Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" filtering through the police department building. Nearby at another desk, Det. Thomas McLaughlin had started "blasting" the song on a stereo or computer, Robin says.
"I look at the detective [questioning me] and I'm like, 'You know why he's doing that, right?' And the detective was like, 'Hey, what can ya do?'" Robin says. After the song ended, McLaughlin cued up "Lola" by the Kinks, known for its lyrics about a man meeting a transgender woman. The detective interviewing Robin got up and asked McLaughlin to knock it off ("Hey!" Robin says she heard McLaughlin say, "it's a good song!").
After reading our December feature story
on a 2011 assault on two transgender women in Cleveland, Robin reached out to Scene
in January to concur with that story's main subject that all manner of harassment takes place on a regular basis for transgender people. It's a constant, she says.
"This song is like the bane of our existence," Robin, a tall blonde, continues, referring to a number of incidents involving the Aerosmith tune
and the transgender population writ large. "I've been in bars when guys have seen me and gone up to the jukebox and played that fucking song." And she says that it's one thing to deal with 20-something morons out at the bars, but when an allegedly professional detective at, say, Lakewood Police Department pulled that move, the pain became too much.
Over coffee at a spot in Steelyard Commons on a cold January afternoon, Robin tells Scene
that she ended up in a nearby emergency room the night she left the police department on Dec. 22. She had washed down a handful of painkillers with liquor.
"I live in a homeless shelter, but things have been going well for me," she says. "I'm really loving the fact that I decided to transition and I wouldn't have had it any other way. But some of this is really difficult. I hear that kind of stuff on the street every single day, no matter what. So when I heard it from a professional police officer who is supposed to protect us, it was just too much."
She filed a complaint the following morning, on which she followed up today over the phone and learned that McLaughlin had been verbally warned and ordered to undergo some sort of sensitivity training. McLaughlin has worked with the Lakewood Police Department since 1992.
picked up the call logs for the Dec. 21 theft. The responding officer reported arresting a male shoplifter.