By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
Norma Ballhorn, a transgender Hazel Dell, Wa., resident and current Mizz Gay Pride Vancouver, has filed a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission alleging that the bar Legends Food & Fun kicked her out for using the women’s restroom.
“One of the bartenders said I can’t be in there because as long as I have a penis I am not allowed to use the [women’s] restroom,” Ballhorn says.
Legends bartender Cathy Botkin and owner James Van Geyten both confirmed that Ballhorn was told to leave because she used the women’s restroom. Neither seemed to believe Ballhorn was entitled to use the women’s restroom, despite the fact that she brought in paperwork confirming her gender identity. Both used male pronouns to refer to Ballhorn.
“I know in Oregon things are a little different, but in Washington… I talked with my attorney and the Human Rights Commission [and] he is not allowed in the females’ bathroom,” Van Geyten said in a voicemail to PQ. “A male who is visibly a male to my other customers cannot use the women’s restroom because it violates the other customers, the females’, rights.”
But according to Human Rights Commission policy analyst Laura Lindstrand, the non-discrimination law (HB 2661) signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2006 has been interpreted by the commission to cover restroom discrimination.
“The law doesn’t go into that much detail,” Lindstrand says. “However, we are interpreting the law in such a way that if it involves restrooms, that person is able to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity.”
Read more about this developing story in the September/October issue of PQ Monthly, out on Sept. 20. If you have recently experienced anti-LGBTQ discrimination in a place of public accommodation in Oregon or Washington, contact Erin Rook at firstname.lastname@example.org.