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N.Y. Gay Bar Accused of Discriminating Against Trans Woman Over Bathroom Use

N.Y. Gay Bar Accused of Discriminating Against Trans Woman Over Bathroom Use

A gay bar in the Buffalo, N.Y. "gayborhood" of Allentown, saw protesters marching outside Monday night in response to allegations that staff kicked out a trans woman for using the women's bathroom Thursday evening, reports Buffalo's Time Warner Cable News.

Billie Matthews said she went to Cathode Ray for a typical night out with a friend. But when she "went to the ladies' room per usual to put lipstick on and just fix my eyeliner," Matthews says a member of the bar's security staff entered and told her that men weren't allowed in that space.

"I said, 'Well, I don't see any men, and I think you're confused," she recalled to the local TV station. "And he said, 'You're a man and you need to get out of the bathroom.'" Matthews left the restroom as the guard demanded, feeling especially upset that she had seemed to be targeted for being trans within an LGBT space.

"You have the heterosexuals and the majority against you, and then you have your own sort of queer people against you too and that's really disheartening," she explained to the news station. She added that she was surprised, as she considers Buffalo to be "generally open-minded" about trans people, and has never been ejected from a women's bathroom before.

Matthews told Buffalo LGBT rights blog Pinkbflo that she immediately informed Cathode Ray owner John Little of the incident and that he responded by saying she was "not a woman," and could leave the bar if she didn't like the policy. When Matthews insisted that Cathode Ray was misrepresenting itself as an inclusive bar by hanging a rainbow flag, she alleges, Little asked a security guard to escort her out. 

At least one witness corroborated her story publicly, taking Cathode Ray to task on their Facebook on Monday in a post that tagged Cathode Ray's personal account (one separate from the bar's official business page). "After a night of merriment I was disappointed and outraged when I saw a transgendered woman thrown out of Cathode Ray Buffalo — a gay bar — for using the women's restroom. I couldn't believe what I was seeing," wrote the commenter, according to an op-ed in Pinkbflo.

In the screenshotted Facebook exchange, Cathode Ray's personal account replies to the complainant, saying, "you should probably find another place to patronize !!!."

Matthews's story and the bar's response began circulating on social media Monday, as local activists prepared for that night's protest.

More than 25 people ended up rallying outside Cathode Ray for the protest, carrying signs reading "We Demand Respect For Trans Women, Apologize," "End Trans Discrimination, Boycott Cathode," and "Cathode Ray: Trans Women Are Women." The protest's Facebook page celebrates the action's "great turn out" and alleges that the response from Cathode Ray patrons got hostile at one point, with one man reportedly yelling, "You're not a woman!" to Matthews while a group laughed.

Cathode Ray owner John Little has denied all claims that Matthews was discriminated against at his bar. He first took to the establishment's Facebook page Monday afternoon, saying that Matthews was asked to leave the women's restroom because she was in a stall with a man, and the bar has a policy against multiple people in one stall — an allegation that Matthews refutes.

"I would like to stress that this individual was not asked to leave Cathode Ray because she was using the Ladies restroom," Little stated, later adding, "Cathode Ray is proud to be known as a place where every member of our community is welcome and celebrated. We support the rights of transgender individuals to frequent our bar and to freely use the facilities as they personally identify."

However, Time Warner Cable News reports that Little has since revised his claim through his lawyer Neil Pawlowski, taking blame off Matthews and saying that the sole "issue" was that there was an unidentified man in the restroom. 

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