When a trans woman went to meet two of her friends at one of her local pubs, the Foresters Arms in Ramsgate, Kent, she expected to receive hospitality and good customer service but was instead met with transphobia and hate.
Joanna Louise, 30, was in the Foresters Arms meeting two of her friends, including another trans woman, when she was told by bar staff that she was unable to use women’s restrooms by order of the owner.
When I spoke to Joanna she told me that at the time she and her friends were the only customers on the premises, but were still repeatedly told that they could not use the women’s toilets because the bar owner is worried that they would lose business if a transgender woman was seen using them.
Joanna was warned to avoid trying to ‘sneak’ into the toilets and said that she was closely followed by a member of staff when she went to use the outdoor facilities so that they could keep an eye on her.
Much of the confrontation was filmed by Joanna, and can be viewed below. The barmaid in the video is clearly seen telling Joanna that despite being the only people in the pub she would be unable to use the toilets. At one point the barmaid tells Joanna ‘I’m not discriminating you, I’m not discriminating…I don’t give a flying fuck, but it’s not my rule’.
Even when presenting the bar staff with her drivers license and credit card, both of which clearly state that Joanna is legally female, she was still denied access to the bathroom.
Shortly after making the video of the confrontation Joanna left the pub. She uploaded the video to her social media asking for help from her friends as to what she should do. Since then the video has spread across Facebook and Twitter.
Joanna has said that she has received an outpouring of support from within the transgender community, with members of the trans community not only standing in support of Joanna and her right to use the correct bathroom.
Many trans people have taken to Facebook to complain about the actions taken against Joanna on their profile page. Since then, however, the owners of the Foresters Arms have taken down their page to prevent further negative reviews and comments.
Gay Star News have reported on the incident, and have claimed to have spoken to the pubs landlady. They say that when they asked if she had instructed staff to block trans people access to the bathroom’s. The landlady reportedly claimed that the video posted on social media was ‘illegal’ and that they had been instructed not to answer the press before hanging up.
Speaking to Joanna on the subject she has told me that the event has left her feeling shocked and distressed.
‘I was shocked, I was so taken back when it happened. I didn’t ever believe that it would ever happen to me.’ She said about the incident. ‘The next day I was full of anxiety, I couldn’t eat, I just felt completely drained.’
Joanna has described the incident as leaving her feeling ‘terrified’ and that she is afraid to leave her home due to negative backlash she may face for highlighting the incident.
On the advice of friends Joanna has closed many of her social media outlets and to changing her identity on the ones she has kept open in order to avoid messages of hate and harassment. She has also been staying with friends and family as she does not feel safe staying home on her own.
Despite the incident proving to be deeply traumatic for her, Joanna has said that the outpouring of support she has received has proven to be very positive and that she hopes her incident can raise awareness of the issue.
It is important to remember that under UK law a transgender person cannot be denied access to the bathroom that matches their gender identity. According to the Equality Act 2010, even someone who has simply stated their desire to transition is protected under these laws.
Joanna is transitioning, and has legal ID’s to confirm that she is female, the Foresters Arms had no legal standing to deny her access to the women’s toilets as she is legally female, and protected under the Equality Act law.
It is important for trans men and women in the UK to know that under the law you are entitled to use the bathroom that corresponds to your gender identity, this does not require a legal change of gender, this does not require genital surgery. If you are denied service as Joanna has been it is against the law, and I urge you to help raise awareness just as Joanna has done.
At the time of this article going to print Joanna is still considering whether to take legal action against the Foresters Arms.