June 25, 2018 at 12:50 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Trans woman kicked out of D.C. restaurant for using women’s restroom
The apology, posted on Twitter, came one day after activist Charlotte Clymer, who works for the national LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, posted a detailed account on Facebook and Twitter of her ouster on Friday night, June 22, at the Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar in Downtown D.C.
Her social media postings about the incident created an uproar among LGBT activists and others who read her account of what happened that included messages of support from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton.
“Last night, I was told by the manager of Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar — Washington, D.C. — that I couldn’t use the women’s restroom,” Clymer said in a Facebook posting. “[A]nd after challenging his discrimination with D.C. law and responding to his threat of calling police with ‘please do so,’ I was forcibly removed from the restaurant,” she stated in her posting.
“I’m so sorry this happened to you,” Bowser said in a Twitter posting the following day. “While I’m glad to hear that D.C. Police Dept. were there to represent our true D.C. values, we won’t accept this type of discrimination in Washington, D.C.,” the mayor said. “It’s not just illegal; it’s against all we stand for.”
Clymer states in her postings on Facebook and Twitter that the restaurant’s manager disputed her assertion that under D.C. law customers of places of public accommodation such as a restaurant must be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
According to Clymer, the incident took place after she and a large group of her female friends came to the restaurant for a bachelorette party for one of those friends. All had a “great time that included dancing,” she said, until she attempted to enter the restroom.
The ultimate dispute that led to her being ejected from Cuba Libre began when “an attendant stuck out his arm and said he needed to see my ID” as she tried to open the restroom door, she wrote in one of her postings.
Clymer added, “When I asked why, he said that ‘female’ must be on an ID to use the women’s restroom.” Clymer continued, “I told him that’s nonsense, turned on my heel, and continued into the restroom” as one of her female friends tried to tell the attendant he was making a mistake. She said the attendant didn’t ask any of the other women entering the restroom to show ID.
“I go into a stall to do my business and I hear him walk in and search for me in this busy restroom full of women,” Clymer says in her Facebook posting. “He is doing everything but opening the stall doors. I ignore him, and after a few minutes, he leaves. I do my business, wash my hands, and walk out,” she wrote.
“On the other side of the door are the attendant and the manager, who says it’s D.C. law that you must have ‘female’ on your ID to use the women’s restroom,” Clymer wrote. “I tell him he’s wrong and there’s no chance I’m showing him my ID.”
She then left the restaurant on her own and used her cell phone to look up D.C. law and regulations pertaining to bathroom use by trans people, she explains in one of her postings. With the law and regulation in hand, she returned to the restaurant and approached the manger with the hope that he would realize the restaurant’s restroom policy and ID requirement were illegal.
“He treated me like I was irrational, glanced over the text and said, ‘that’s incorrect,’” Clymer continues in her account of what happened. She said the manager refused to show her the “law” he claimed required people to show identification to use the restroom and asked her to leave.
After being forced out by a bouncer she reluctantly called D.C. police for assistance, she wrote.
“I stood there on the curb with a friend feeling shattered,” Clymer continued in one of her postings. “I wanted to cry, but my adrenaline was so high at that point that I felt blocked up. Our other friends came out along with several people who had witnessed what happened,” Clymer states on her postings.
“I could not have asked for a more professional and affirming experience from the Washington Metropolitan Police Department,” she wrote. “The responding officers — all cisgender men — were patient and kind in their communication, assured me I was right on the law, and radioed for their LGBTQ Liaison Unit to respond.”
Lt. Brett Parson, one of the D.C. police officials that oversee the department’s liaison units, said the LGBT unit was out on another call and that two officers from the Asian Liaison Unit responded. Parson said each of the liaison units — LGBT, Latino, Asian, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing — are “cross trained” on issues pertaining to all of them.
Clymer said the liaison officers put her at ease when they asked her which pronoun she wished to be addressed by. “They took statements, gave my friends and I space to process this (mostly my friends trying to offer humor and hugs), and fully debriefed me on my rights,” she said in a posting.
Among other things, Clymer told the Washington Blade she planned to file a complaint on Monday against the restaurant with the D.C. Office of Human Rights, which is in charge of enforcing the city’s Human Rights Act. The act, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
“We are extremely sorry for the incident that occurred at our restaurant last night, Cuba Libre said on Saturday in a Twitter message. “As a rule, we support safe bathrooms and welcome guests of all gender identifications. Clearly our staff did not do so last night and treated you in an unacceptable manner,” said the message. “We are immediately retraining our entire staff to ensure this does not happen again.”
The apology message adds, “It is particularly disappointing that this has occurred during Pride month when we’re undertaking efforts and events to support the LGBTQ community.”
Clymer said she received an email on Sunday morning from Barry Goodman, the CEO of the company that owns Cuba Libre, saying he would like to speak with her about what happened. She said she planned to respond to the email after speaking with someone from the Office of Human Rights to find out about the process for filing a complaint.
A longstanding D.C. police policy calls for police to contact the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which is charged with issuing and when necessary suspending or revoking liquor licenses for restaurants and bars, when it is called to respond to problems at bars and restaurants. Investigators at the agency, known as ABRA, sometime are assigned to look into a situation that results in police being called to an establishment licensed to serve liquor.
“I would really hate for the other employees of this restaurant to suffer because of this manager’s actions,” Clymer told the Blade. “So, I’m hoping there is some kind of resolution that ensures that this never happens again,” she said. “But the manager should face consequences for what he did.”
She said that prior to the restroom incident bartenders and other staff treated her and her friends with respect and courtesy.
The incident involving Cuba Libre took place just over two years after D.C. police arrested a female security guard in May 2016 at the Giant Food store at 3rd and H Streets, N.E., for allegedly forcibly ejecting a trans woman from the store because she used the women’s restroom.
A police report said the guard allegedly called trans woman Ebony Belcher, 32, a “he/she faggot” and demanded she leave the women’s restroom located near the store’s main entrance. Court records show prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged the guard, Francine Bernice Jones, with one count of simple assault and one count of simple assault-biased related (hate) crime.
Court records show that on Dec. 15, 2016, a D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed the case for “want of prosecution,” a legal term used for a lack of sufficient prosecution.