Valentine Steaphon, who was at Boots and Saddle to support a friend who was performing, says a security guard told her that the cisgender woman’s comfort was more important than her right to use the bathroom.
“We cater to straight women here,” Steaphon recalls the guard saying, in an interview with Mic, “and if you’re in the women’s restroom and she’s uncomfortable, you’re the problem, you can’t be in there.”
New York protects the right of transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender. (Steaphon identifies as trans-genderqueer and uses she and he pronouns.) And gay bars have long had the unspoken rule that all of the restrooms are for everyone. Boots and Saddle, in a response posted to Facebook, say they’re restrooms have always been effectively gender neutral — a fact they’ll make more clear going forward.
“We are saddened that a member of our LGBTQ community felt marginalized for using the restroom at our bar,” the bar wrote. “We expect that every person who walks into our establishment feels safe and respected. To that end, we are taking measures to ensure that such an incident never happens again. Our signage is being updated to reflect what we have always believed — that our restrooms are gender neutral.”
“The girl and her gay friend are yelling at me, saying ‘You shouldn’t be in there,’ and ‘Unless you have titties and a vagina, you should not be in there, you’re not trans,'” Steaphon told Mic. “I feel like a lot of gay guys don’t want to hear it. They don’t know what makes someone trans.”
But one bar manager said he doesn’t believe the incident was about gender, and that all parties involved were asked to leave.
“Our statement was just to reiterate that our policy has always been that anyone can use any of our bathrooms,” Azam Siciliano, a manager at Boots and Saddle told Out. “From what we understand, this is not an incident regarding whether or not a certain gender could use the restroom, this was about patrons disrupting the bar.”
Sicialiano added that while there were no managers working at the time, the bar was going over security footage to determine what happened and plans to reach out to Steaphon after the investigation is complete.
This morning the bar released a new statement, following that investigation, which read in part:
Now that we have finished conferring with eye witnesses and reviewed security footage we can say without any holds this was NOT an issue of any gender using a restroom.
This was simply a matter of two customers fighting in the middle of the Establishment and disturbing the peace. Both of which were removed.
Unfortunately one of the parties involved decided to post an inaccurate account of what happened on Facebook and the rest is Internet history.
Steaphon, in response to the statement, criticized bar staff for characterizing what she called efforts to assert her basic rights as a “disruption” and said she won’t be returning to the bar.
If this wasn’t an issue on bathrooms, why did a lady verbally attack me in the bathroom? Also why did part of your security scold me and tell me I shouldn’t be in there? Also why was she and her friend screaming transphobic things in my face while your security watched? Expecting me to calmly educate these people while they were yelling in my face is privilege. This wasn’t some random argument. I was stalked in the bathroom by a woman and then berated by security because she felt uncomfortable. It’s very sad that you couldn’t just simply apologize to me and we could have moved on from this, educated your staff and changed the gender markers in the bathrooms. Instead you’re painting me out to seem like some belligerent liar. After this and hearing how you run your shady business, my friends and myself will DEFINITELY never go back.
Other Facebook commenters noted that because there aren’t cameras in the restroom, there’s no way for the bar to know whether or not the argument was about Steaphon’s presence in the women’s restroom.