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US Airways cross-dresser says he does it for fun


Justin Berton

June 23, 2011

A photo provided by airline passenger Jill Tarlow shows an unnamed passenger scantily dressed and taken at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
PHOENIX -- A man who flies US Airways in women's skimpy clothing, including little more than undergarments at times, said Wednesday that he does so to make business travel more fun, and complies with employees' requests to cover up - though they rarely ask.

The 65-year-old Phoenix man, who spoke to The Chronicle on the condition that his name not be published, said he was unaware that a photo taken of him wearing ladies' blue underwear and black stockings at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 9 had thrust him into a debate about racial profiling, travelers' security and appropriate airline attire.

The man said he works as a business consultant and flies several times a month as a preferred customer on US Airways. He's flown in scanty female clothing for several years and has put on a sweater or pants the few times an employee has asked, he said.

'I have the right'

"It has never been my intent to put people in a situation where they feel uncomfortable," the man said during a phone interview. "I try to respect other people's opinions. As long as my dress is not indecent from a legal perspective, and so long as the airline does not object, I have the right to wear what I wear. And others have the right to wear what they want to wear."

The photograph of the white-haired traveler at the Fort Lauderdale airport showed his exposed midsection and thighs, and was taken by a passenger who said US Airways employees had ignored other passengers' complaints about his apparel.

Six days later, a college football player at San Francisco International Airport allegedly refused a US Airways employee's request to pull up his sagging pants, sparking an argument that led to his arrest.

That man, 20-year-old Dashon Marman of San Francisco, was booked on suspicion of trespassing, battery and resisting arrest, but prosecutors have not decided whether to charge him.

Racism charge

Marman's attorney, Joe O'Sullivan, accused US Airways of racial discrimination for requiring his client - who is African American - to pull up his pants, while allowing a white passenger to fly "in his underwear."

On Wednesday, the cross-dressing man said Marman had probably brought his problems on himself by initially refusing an airline employee's request to hitch up his pants. He said that what happened to Marman did not amount to racial profiling.

"His issue was that he refused to listen to an employee and became belligerent," the man said. "I have a feeling youth played a role in his response. I've learned over the years, the best response to a confrontation is a soft response. Becoming angry is never a good practice. You cloud your own ability to think properly, and you reduce your chances of persuading the other person."

Still, he said, he probably wouldn't have asked Marman to pull up his pants.

"These kids probably look at me and don't like what I'm wearing," he said. "I'm not really one to put myself out there and pass judgment on what someone else is wearing."

Seen all over

Photographs of the man traveling through airports around the country in women's underwear appear on several websites. The man said he often agrees to pose for travelers' snapshots, but thought the pictures were for personal use instead of public display.

"I have a lot at stake here," he said, when explaining why he did not want his name published. "I'm a business consultant and would be extremely vulnerable to being discredited. ... This is just something I do for fun. I don't mean any harm."

US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder declined to comment about the airline's regular customer, citing privacy laws. She said the passenger who wore blue lingerie before boarding a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix did not violate the airline's dress code, which prohibits exposure of private parts.

"These are two different stories," Wunder said of Marman and the cross-dresser. "The crew is authorized to exercise discretion when it comes to ensuring safety and comfort of all passengers on the plane. ... One of these men refused to comply with the pilot's request."

Crew has latitude

Al Anolik, a Bay Area attorney who champions air travelers' rights, said that when it comes to dress codes, the airline industry requires that passengers not be "inappropriately clothed."

The phrase is purposely vague, Anolik said, to give crew members maximum latitude in a post-9/11 world.

"The bottom line is, it's not about the dress code," Anolik said. "It's about the crew, which has omnipotent power. If a crew member says something to you, and deems your response 'unsafe' - and that it could lead to a safety concern - that's it. That's the law. You're out."