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Alberta bouncer decries ‘hateful bigot’ label in birth gender bathroom controversy

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WATCH ABOVE: One of the people at the centre of a controversy involving transgender rights has quit. The doorman at the Corona Tavern left his job so he could tell his version of what happened. As Jill Croteau explains, it involves a woman’s claim she was banned from using the women’s washroom.

A bouncer at an Alberta bar, under fire after River Rising’s account of her experience trying to use the bathroom went viral, is sharing his account of what happened.

Peter Smith claims Rising, a transgender female, identified herself as male when she entered the Corona Tavern in Medicine Hat. But Rising said that’s not the case.

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

Smith said he was working the door when Rising and her group of friends came in a few weeks ago. Smith said he asked for identification and saw that Rising—who identifies as female—had an ID that said her gender was male.

“I looked at the ID, I looked back at her, and I said, ‘your ID tells me you’re male.’ She said, ‘yes, I’m a male.’ ‘OK great, welcome. Have fun,’” Smith said in an interview Thursday.

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Watch below: Peter Smith said he was working at the door of the Corona Tavern in Medicine Hat when transgender female River Rising and her group of friends came in.  Watch his full interview above for his version of events.

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Alberta bathroom gender controversy: bouncer shares his perspective

Rising, 21, told Global News Friday she would “never” identify as male and that Smith is being dishonest.

“Where he has gone wrong is he has changed what happened that night to work in his favour,” she told Global News Friday. “If he was truly an ally, he wouldn’t have changed the story to make himself look like a victim in all of this.”

Watch below: Calgarian River Rising responds after a bouncer at Medicine Hat’s Corona Tavern offered a different account than she posted on Facebook. Watch an extended version of her interview with Global’s Jill Croteau, edited for brevity and clarity.

Click to play video 'Calgarian responds to ‘birth gender’ controversy in Alberta bar' Calgarian responds to ‘birth gender’ controversy in Alberta bar
Calgarian responds to ‘birth gender’ controversy in Alberta bar

Smith said later in the night, he was called over to the bar because “concerns were being raised” though he wasn’t given specifics.

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“So I pulled River aside and I said, ‘look, I need to know, are you pre-operative or post-operative?’” Smith said.

“She said she was pre-operative. I said, ‘OK. Some concerns have been raised. I need you to use the men’s room.’”

Smith said Rising told him she was terrified to use the men’s room despite his offer to escort her and make sure no one else went in. He said she then told him she’d just “go outside.” Smith said he thought the issue was over.

“A few minutes later, a few of her friends came up and started calling me names personally. Started calling me a homophobe, a transphobe…and the worst thing they called me was a hateful bigot. Anybody who knows me, knows I’m not any of those things.”

Rising said she was upset but didn’t yell at anybody.

“I feel sad. I don’t think he was acting out of transphobia or homophobia—he didn’t know what was right and wrong,” she said.

Smith quit his job at the Corona Tavern Thursday, because he was told by management to “shut up” and that the situation “doesn’t matter.” He said he wanted to share his side of the story because he doesn’t feel he did anything wrong.

Bathroom sign
Smith declined to comment on a sign posted in the Corona Tavern which read, “You must use the bathroom of your birth gender.”. Obtained by Global News

“I followed the protocol that I would follow with any safety situation or any concerns that were raised regarding any situation in the bar,” Smith said.

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“River was never removed from the bathroom, never removed from the bar. Even after the hatred attack, her and her friends did not get kicked out because I understood that the feelings and the emotions of the situation got the best of them.”

Smith declined to comment on a sign posted in the bar sometime after Rising’s visit, which read: “You must use the bathroom of your birth gender” and said the Corona Tavern is a huge supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

“In this day and age, it’s hard,” Smith said. “And it takes so much courage and so much bravery to say, ‘no I’m not this. I am this.’ But if you’re identifying yourself in a public establishment as the gender on your identification, I feel it’s your responsibility to use that bathroom.”

Rising said she didn’t realize the situation would escalate to such a “big thing” and said she’s learning from the experience.

“I know people can get really angry and I know there’s reason to feel rage, but I do think change can happen when you act on peace and education and try to show empathy,” she said. “And that’s what I want everyone to focus on.”

Rising’s account of the situation was shared on Facebook hundreds of times, including the sign about “birth gender” posted in the bar.

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The Corona Tavern issued a public statement in response to the online outrage over the sign. Numerous calls made by Global News to reach managers for comment were not returned.

Read the Corona Tavern’s online response below

Corona Tavern response

With files from Global’s Jill Croteau