Cuba Libre Transphobia
Cuba Libre Transphobia

A Trans Woman Was Thrown Out of a D.C. Restaurant For Not Presenting ID to Use the Restroom

With Pride month nearing its end, and cities around the world celebrating the LGBT community, one restaurant seems to have missed the memo on LGBT-inclusivity.

Charlotte Clymer recently took to social media to describe an incident of blatant transphobia she faced at Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar in Washington D.C. this past weekend. While Clymer was out for her friend’s bachelorette party, she attempted to use the women’s restroom, when she was stopped by a staff member and asked to present her identification, claiming that the ID needed to read female for her to enter the bathroom. (It doesn’t).

Clymer, who works for the HRC, told the staff member that wasn’t true and proceded to use the restroom, only to be followed by the male staff worker. When Clymer left the restroom she was met by the attendant and a manager who told her that “D.C. law requires that you must have ‘female’ on your ID to use the women’s restroom.” (Once again, it doesn’t).

The manager refused to listen to Clymer and demanded that she leave the establishment. Clymer then pulled up actual proof of the D.C. law stating that individuals may enter the bathroom of their gender identity. The manager responded by threating to call the cops on Clymer, which she encouraged since she did nothing wrong. The manager never called the police but continued to demand Clymer leave.

Knowing full-well she did not break any law, Clymer stepped outside to call the police herself, which is where the story takes a turn for the better. Many patrons of the establishment who saw what happened left the restaurant to voice their support for Clymer while also trying their best to cheer her up.

The police officers, who arrived shortly after, were also incredibly supportive, asking for Clymer’s pronouns and letting her know the restaurant was completely at fault. Clymer was told that Cuba Libre will face investigations by the city’s licensing authority and the D.C. Office of Human Rights.

Sice the incident, Cuba Libre has reached out to Clymer via Twitter and apologized, although many people, including Clymer find the apology lacks authenticity.

Clymer has since responded to Cuba Libre’s tweets.

Read Charlotte Clymer’s entire account of the transphobic treatment she received from the staff of Cuba Libre in Washington D.C.:

Last night, I was told by the manager of Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar – Washington D.C. that I couldn’t use the women’s restroom, and after challenging his discrimination with D.C. law and responding to his threat of calling the police with “please do so”, I was forcibly removed from the restaurant.

I was there with a large group of girlfriends. We’re having a bachelorette weekend for my good friend Emily Crockett, and first on our list was a dance party being held there. Everyone had a great time. Lots of dancing and drinking and hanging out with great people.

Near the end our time there, I went to use the restroom with Bethany Quinn and before I reached the door, an attendant stuck out his arm and said he needed to see my ID. When I asked why, he said that “female” must be on an ID to use the women’s restroom. No one else was asked.

This is a packed hallway in a packed club/restaurant, and this random staff person specifically picks me out to ask for ID. I told him that’s nonsense, turned on my heel, and continued into the restroom. Bethany is telling him that he’s making a mistake.

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. He is doing everything but opening the stall doors. I ignore him, and after a few moments, he leaves. I do my business, wash my hands, and walk out.

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. I tell him he’s wrong and there’s no chance I’m showing him my ID. There are people crammed into this hallway. It’s busy.

He insists I need to show my ID, I tell him that’s not happening, and demand to see what law he’s citing. He refuses to show me the law and instead says, “You being in there will make women uncomfortable.” We’re in the way of everyone, and a lot of people are watching this.

I was angry and needed to cool off, so I again refuse to show him my ID and walked out of the restaurant to get my bearings. I brought up D.C.’s law regarding restrooms on my phone (https://bit.ly/2MP7lQx) and walked in, straight to him, to show him how this is illegal.

He treated me like I was being irrational, glanced over the text and said “that’s incorrect”. He continued to refuse to show this imaginary law he was citing and threatened to call the cops. I told him he should absolutely call the cops. Please do. He then said I need to leave.

I told him I work for the Human Rights Campaign, he’s making a mistake here, and he needs to adjust his course of action. I told him this is discrimination and said he’s being a bigot. He laughed and mocked my workplace. “Oh, I know you folks at [address].”

He continued to ask me to leave. I told him I’m not going anywhere until the cops are called. For several minutes near the front door, this manager continued to refuse to call the cops, his original threat, and said I need to leave.

I stood there at the curb with a friend, feeling shattered. 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.

A wonderful person named Nicole had seen the whole thing happen and attempted to talk to the manager after I was kicked out. She was brushed off. Her boyfriend, Edgar, came up and consoled me. He gave me his contact information to help.

Edgar is a staffer for Congresswoman Norma J. Torres and had helped organize “Latinx Noche de Baile” at the restaurant that evening. He and Nicole were wonderful. They had begun telling members of their group what happened and people were leaving.

By now, all my friends were outside, and one mentioned that she had seen a non-binary person get asked for their ID almost immediately following what happened to me. And at that point, I went to a place of anger that I do not visit often. Something had to be done.

I’m not the kind of person who calls cops, but at that point, I didn’t know what else to do. In D.C., a city celebrated for its LGBTQ culture, inclusivity, and protections, it stunned me that a business could so openly discriminate against transgender people.

I was nervous placing the call, somewhat afraid they would tell me to get lost, but everything got easier after that. The operator was kind, they immediately connected me to someone, and within minutes, two patrol cars showed up to begin taking statements.

I could not have asked for a more professional and affirming experience from the Washington Metropolitan Police Dept. 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.

The LGBTQ liaison’s first question after introducing themselves was: “Hi Charlotte, may I ask for your pronouns?” 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.

I’m told Cuba Libre will face investigations by the city’s licensing authority and the D.C. Office of Human Rights, the latter which I have to initiate using the police report that will on file. The officers told me I had a very strong case.

On Monday, I will begin pursuing all available legal options against Cuba Libre. If the manager had apologized when I showed him the law and committed to doing better, I’d still be angry, but we wouldn’t be here. He didn’t do that. He did the exact opposite.

A lot of people–complete strangers–walked out of @CubaLibreDC when they saw what happened. Some wanted to respect my space, and others wanted to offer verbal support. I am incredibly grateful for the allyship I witnessed last night. I needed it badly, and folks stepped up.

One woman named Mystic, a Cirque du Soleil dancer from Russia, came up to me, took my face in her hands and said: “The is the kind of bullshit Putin does. You are so beautiful. You are gorgeous.” She gave me a hug and then did a standing split to make me laugh.

I am quite grateful for my friends, the officers who responded with professionalism and compassion, and strangers who made their views well-known to Cuba Libre on this blatant discrimination.

I think it’s also worth noting that things might have gone very differently if I were not white, aware of the law, and connected to people who can help. My privilege helped me in this situation. Transgender people, esp. people of color, without my privilege are not so fortunate.

And now, I have a bachelorette weekend to get back to and celebrate with my friends. This is my first bachelorette shindig, and I’m not going to let the transphobic staff of Cuba Libre ruin my weekend.

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