Alejandro Moreno hadn't planned to do much on Sunday afternoon but enjoy the city's springtime weather with his friend and roommate, Elva Lovoz. That led them to the U Street Corridor, and eventually to boarding the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrobus No. 90 at the intersection of Florida and Rhode Island Avenues NW.
That's when the pleasant afternoon took a turn for the worse.
''The bus driver said, 'What are you supposed to be?,''' says the 23-year-old Moreno, a lifelong D.C. resident who identifies as gay and for whom taunts are nothing new, owing to a non-conforming sense of style that had him wearing wedge heels that Sunday, April 3.
''I just paid my fare and kept walking. 'Halloween was in October,' he said, laughing, bluntly making fun of me in public, embarrassing me. … I do wear heels, wedges. But I don't dress inappropriately. The driver just saw me as a target. He was very offensive.''
Moreno and Lovoz continued to seats on the bus, where Lovoz urged Moreno to inquire about filing a complaint.
''I feel strongly about it because he's my best friend,'' Lovoz, 29, says of the driver's alleged behavior toward Moreno. ''I always see people abusing him. I feel more strongly about it now because this is a public service. He shouldn't have to be afraid to get on a bus.''
With encouragement from Lovoz, Moreno did approach the driver.
''I asked him what I needed to do to file a harassment complaint,'' says Moreno. ''He said, 'Fuck you. Get off my bus.' A few passengers told me to take the bus ID number.''
And that's what Moreno did. Steven Taubenkibel, WMATA public information officer, says that with that four-digit bus ID number, along with the date and time of the alleged incident, WMATA will be able to identify the driver and begin an inquiry. Moreno says he and Lovoz are drafting a complaint letter to send to WMATA, though it was not available by Metro Weekly deadline.
Once submitted, however, Moreno emphasizes that he wants to see strong measures taken against the bus driver.
''This is the first time I've ever stood up for myself,'' he says. ''I was shaking the whole time. I'm putting myself outside of my comfort zone, because I want something to be done.
''And he wasn't just some random stranger. An apology is not enough. I want him to lose his job. I want an example to be made. I want to push this as far as I can.
''When you're a child, it's bullying. As an adult, it's harassment. It kills you inside. It traps you. You feel like you shouldn't go outside. I shouldn't be afraid boarding a bus.''