It wasn’t enough for me to have the honor of calling Tomi Lahren out for her hateful politics toward Trans people and Black Lives Matter; but, I was going to get to do it in a women’s bathroom that she publicly stated trans women don’t belong in.

It was your typical women’s bathroom vibe–the rattling of toilet seat covers from several stalls down, rhythmic pit-patting of water from a few sinks, and the smell of Paris Hilton perfume wafting through the air as an attempt to cover up unpleasant deeds. As I washed my hands, I tried to shake an intense migraine from debating with tone deaf, former CNN commentator & conservative analyst Scottie Nell Hughes.

I was more than half way through my first day of  Politicon and was looking forward to the second half of the day’s festivities. From the corridor, I could hear the cackling of wild parrots and the sound of cheap party pumps aggressively beating the ground. The door opened swiftly and into the pee palace marched none other than problematic, princess to the patriarchy Tomi Lahren. She was accompanied by two overly blow dried women. Instead of pinching myself to see if it were real, I posted it on Facebook.

As her friends scrambled to find stalls, she continued searching for one that felt “patriotic” enough for her. Right before she made her selection she looked up and there I was, cloaked in the trans flag, wearing a “Transgender Defender” T-shirt and getting my entire life. It was like those old school westerns where two people stand off and there’s nothing but desert and tumbleweeds between them.

There were no tumbleweeds present but definitely a few sheets of toilet paper sprawled out, waiting to cling on to someone’s heel. She shot me a confused glance right before she slid into the stall. This was the moment I had been waiting for. It wasn’t enough for me to have the honor of calling Tomi Lahren out for her hateful politics toward Trans people and Black Lives Matter; but, I was going to get to do it in a women’s bathroom that she publicly stated trans women don’t belong in.

 

I took my time and slowly dried my hands, intentionally lingering so I could be there after they flushed. No one exited the stalls; Tomi nor her friends. I could hear the manic sound of acrylic nails tapping wildly against a cellphone screen in intervals, followed by loud notification vibrations from another stall. She was definitely texting her friends and giving them a heads up that I was there. I gave her the benefit of doubt however and thought maybe she had the runs for fear of getting handled by Handler (Chelsea Handler) within the hour.

I had VIP all-access and knew that I could always catch her in the green room. I was prepared to roll out receipts from the dangerous rhetoric she spewed when she was still working for The Blaze, (They kicked her like Trump tried to kick Obamacare, only they were successful). I exited the bathroom with one victory and the bonus round to come.

Related: Trans Liberation Didn’t Start With A Bathroom

In the green room, I gave my bestie a run down of what transpired in the bathroom and what was coming upon Tomi’s arrival into the green room. The bathroom stare down with Tomi Lahren was merely a sampler; I was after her head as the entree. I wanted her to tell me to my face that I was a “drag-queen”, that I shouldn’t serve in the military, and all of the heavily transphobic rant-based theories she serves up when she thinks no one can touch her.

As the cackling of wild parrots drew closer to the green room, the curtain was drawn and in came Tomi and team. The cameras rushed in from every direction and crewmen tripped over themselves to get to her first. She spent what must have seemed like an eternity talking about absolutely nothing.

The truth is that she’s just a gorgeous white woman who is hyped up by perverse men who want to jump her bones. She wasn’t adding anything to the conversation, and it became clear to me that she was nothing more than a puppet to the patriarchy. As true as all of that was, it didn’t stop me from reaching for her in all of her problematic glory.

As the camera guys went to cover new arrivals at the step and repeat, I walked through a maze of couches to have face time with Tomi. She saw me coming and immediately went the other direction for a swift exit. There was a camera man who arrived late. He walked up to her (blocking her in) and started asking her questions about her upcoming panel. I waited until he was done and reached out and tapped her. She looked down and tried to keep walking.

Two photographers came up and asked us to get in a photo together. I responded with, “Most certainly not.” She finally looked at me and I looked at her. She was so confused, I could tell. “How did this big black trans person get in here?” her eyes seemed to say as they danced around in study of me. “My name is Ashlee Marie Preston,” I said as I put my hand out to give a polite shake.

She placed her limp cold hand out to shake mine with a look of shock on her face like I’d just told her L’Oreal stopped making her hair color. “I know you don’t know me, but then again you don’t know any of the trans people you speak harm upon…” Her trembling hand let go of mine. And all she could say was, ” I don’t mean harm to anyone, I respect everyone.” Ok, wait a minute now. Scroll up to the video I posted or watch ANY video for that matter and observe the way she angrily talks out the side of her neck.

“Oh no, you have in fact said harmful and dangerous things that not only pose a threat to transgender people but your vitriol is an assault on trans children as well.” By this time the cameras began swooping back in as they could read something was going down, just through our body language alone.

“You don’t know any of us to have so many opinions about what we should and should not have a right to as citizens. Why do you keep talking reckless?”  Nothing from her end. She’s frozen at this point. The cameras are there, and she’s just staring. At this point, I’m a little upset. She wasn’t the fiery girl from the videos that appeared to be so bold, brazen, and unapologetic. I wanted my money back. I’d envisioned her telling me the deepest racist, transphobic, xenophobic sentiments of her heart.

Related: A Transwoman of Color’s Guide To Survival

I had fantasies of dismantling her from scalp to heel, leaving her to drown in a puddle of her own fragility. It was like going to meet the grand Wizard of Oz, only to pull the curtain back and find a cricket on a bar stool. The only thing Tomi Lahren had to offer me was, “I respect your opinion, I respect everyone.” It was as if she was a robot with three pre-recorded responses.

“Hopefully the next time I run into you we don’t have to have this discussion again. I hope you’re able to remember your trans friend you met at Politicon and you can come from a place of humanity when you’re playing “politics” and talking trash that carries dangerous consequences and negatively impacts our  lives.” To which she responds, “I never mean any harm, thank you for sharing your opinion. I respect all people.”

I responded with “Yah, okay, ” and walked away — leaving her standing there in a dumbfounded stupor.

Tomi Lahren knows right from wrong. For her to go so heavy in her videos, yet so low frequency in person meant that she’s selectively problematic and she only does it when it’s profitable. Honestly, she’s playing both sides of this media Ponzi scheme she’s perfected. On the one hand, we have the marginalized communities that Lahren consistently and eagerly throws under the bus. On the other, we have her core audience, the folks who are convinced that Lahren is their champion, the kind of politically incorrect, no-nonsense public commentator who tells it like it is, and whose passive response in the face of my questions would surely disappoint them.

She’s used to being surrounded by an adoring entourage who share the same ideology. She was not ready for Southern California and she was a fish out of water at Politicon. In fact, Tomi was so shook by our interaction that I don’t think she had enough strength left for Chelsea Handler. One of the guys from her team caught up to me in the corridor with my friends and thanked me for “courting” her. He told me that after I left she freaked out in route to the stage and said she was happy to get out of there because she felt bombarded.

I was delighted to hear that. Transgender people have felt “bombarded” since the Trump administration took office. If seeing transgender people receive the respect, dignity, and compassion they deserve bothers Tomi, she’s really going to be disturbed with the progress we continue to make. Tomi, if me asking you to watch your mouth when you’re speaking on us makes you feel bombarded, next time you come for us, you’d better wear a helmet sis.

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