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Coachella Fest, Owned by GOP Donor, Accused of Anti-Trans Bias

Coachella Fest, Owned by GOP Donor, Accused of Anti-Trans Bias

Organizers of the  Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., are being accused of anti-trans bias after two siblings allege they were denied the use of their preferred restrooms there. 

Donavian "Navi" Huskey, a trans woman, and her trans-masculine sibling, Taiyande "Juice" Huskey, say they both were refused acess to restroom facilities at last year's festival, headlined by Beyoncé. Navi and Juice were waiting in separate lines for the bathrooms (Husky for the women's room, Juice for the men's) and claim no one around them voiced opposition. But when they reached the front of the line, security guards would not let them in. In Juice's case, the guard initially offered to direct Juice to a gender-neutral restroom but then escorted them out the door with no information.

Both siblings expressed feelings of humiliation that tainted the expensive experience.

“Coachella is part of the pop culture zeitgeist,” Navi told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s all colorful and inclusive. There are tons of [lesbian, gay, and bisexual] people typically there. I felt like it would be a good space. … I just didn’t know the festival itself didn’t have policies that were inclusive. That was jarring.”

Navi and Juice discovered they had similar experiences. Navi emailed Coachella staff but never received a response, prompting her to reach out to attorneys.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union and the siblings' attorney have sent a letter to AEG, the owner of Coachella, demanding an inclusive restroom policy that allows people to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity; they also want training for Coachella staff.

Coachella's producers responded to the Times by calling the siblings' experience "unacceptable" and saying their treatment is not reflective of the "inclusive festival culture that we strive for, and this behavior is intolerable."

The stance of Coachella is complicated by its parent company and its owner, Philip Anschutz. The billionaire developer is not only a massive Republican donor but has given numerous contributions to anti-LGBTQ organizations, including at least two labeled hate groups. 

Anschutz donated $190,000 to groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, National Christian Foundation, and Family Research Council. The Family Research Council has been designated an extremist hate group by the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center. The Alliance Defending Freedom, also designated a hate group, has been involved in promoting "religious freedom" to justify anti-LGBT discrimination, reports the SPLC. It represented an antigay baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which went to the Supreme Court. The National Christian Foundation funds groups that are "aggressively working to chip away at the equal rights of LGBT Americans," according to The Washington Post. During the 2016 election campaign, Anschutz and his wife gave a combined $1,012,000 to Republican candidates and political action committees, reports The Fader. The AEG owner also gave $500,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC that spent $83 million to fund campaigns against Democrats in the 2016 election. Anschutz also gave $2,000 to Mike Pence, a rabid homophobe and now the vice president, in his campaign for reelection to Congress in 2006. 

After the donations came to light in 2017, Anschutz called the reports "fake news" and said he wouldn't have given to the groups if he knew they were anti-LGBTQ. Anschutz donated $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation last year.

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