Alberta bar’s ‘you must use bathroom of your birth gender’ sign spurs outrage

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WATCH ABOVE: A transgender Calgary woman is speaking out, accusing a bar in Medicine Hat of discrimination. Global’s Quinn Campbell reports – Jul 27, 2016

Calgarian River Rising was visiting Medicine Hat, Alta. for a friend’s wedding two weeks ago and said she was asked several inappropriate questions about her gender transition by the bar staff before she was banned from using the women’s washroom.

“I was spoken to by the bouncers, who were asking some really inappropriate questions about my transition—how long I’d been going through my transition, if I’d had surgery yet…they continued to go on, and then told me I couldn’t use the women’s bathroom,” Rising told Global News after visiting Corona Tavern.

“I told them I hadn’t used the men’s bathrooms since I was 17; I have breasts…they said they’d be happy to escort me in the men’s bathroom.”

Rising said a bar manager then told her it would make people uncomfortable were she to use the women’s bathroom, and suggested she could’ve been thrown out of the bar “just for being in there” if the owner had been in. She described her experience in a Facebook post that’s been shared hundreds of times:

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Sometime after the encounter, a photo of a sign posted in the bar was circulated on social media and brought to Rising’s attention. It reads: “You must use the bathroom of your birth gender.”

Rising said the sign wasn’t there when she was at the Corona Tavern.

“I don’t know how long the sign was up but I can’t see how it wasn’t in response to my event that happened there,” she said.

The Corona Tavern issued a public statement in response to the online outrage over the sign.

“Since the passing of Bill 7, we have had numerous complaints about males going into the women’s washroom. The clientele that we serve are often under the influence of alcohol and some young men, who are not transgendered (sic) have been claiming to be, to enter the women’s washroom,” it reads. “This has caused some young female patrons to feel unsafe and threatened.

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“We have no bias against those who are LGBTQ…we are saddened by this situation…Today we are changing one bathroom into a gender neutral bathroom in order to immediately address the problem.”

Read the bar’s full response below

Rising feels the response brushes over the way she was treated by bar staff, and is hoping for a public apology. She said she feels badly for the LGBTQ community in Medicine Hat should they be spoken to with the same transphobic language she said she experienced.

LGBTQ advocate Marni Panas is a friend of Rising’s, and said the tavern’s response isn’t an appropriate answer.

“Creating a gender neutral washroom and forcing people who they feel don’t fit what society says a girl should look like is very discriminatory,” Panas told Global News. “Our laws … both explicit in Alberta’s Human Rights Act and through case law protects our right to use facilities that correspond with our gender identity.

“Forcing someone to use a gender neutral sign is not compliant and is further discriminatory. And how are they going to check?”

Global News reached a Corona Tavern employee by phone Tuesday night, who said managers were not available to comment on the situation. Additional requests for comment on Wednesday were not returned.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley issued a statement in response to the incident, saying the government believes “no Albertan should be discriminated against based on their gender identity or gender expression.”

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“Bill 7, which protects Albertans from this kind of discrimination passed unanimously by all political parties last fall. This is now law in Alberta, and we expect it to be followed,” Ganley said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “I encourage anybody who feels their rights have been violated to contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission to file a complaint.”

For information on the Human Rights Commission complaint process, click here
For information on remedies (financial and non-financial) under the Human Rights Act, click here

The Corona Tavern issued the below release Tuesday:

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