Opinion: West Hollywood Lacks Safe Restrooms for Transgender People

This year, on my birthday, I got accosted while trying to use a public restroom in a West Hollywood bar. As a transgender man, this is not the first time this has happened to me.

I love living in a LGBTQ+ friendly community, but I often find myself wondering if WeHo is starting to forget about the “T” part of the acronym as I continue to face discrimination within our lovely city. I’ve been attacked and refused service by a bartender at one of West Hollywood’s most popular gay bars and given discriminatory health care, and this was not my first time being attacked or feeling unsafe using the restroom. After I started to “pass” as male a few years ago, I stopped being afraid when it came to using public restrooms, yet over the past several months I’ve noticed that fear growing inside me once again. These days it seems I can’t use a public restroom without my heart pounding and anxiety resurfacing.

Fiesta Cantina
Fiesta Cantina

This year my birthday fell on a Monday, and I was looking forward to being able to celebrate on a mellow weekday instead of fighting the crowds on the weekend. My friend and I decided to end our evening at Fiesta Cantina, which is where the bathroom attack took place. Fiesta Cantina only has gender neutral restrooms, with one door not being able to be closed (clearly meant for cisgender men who just need to pee) and one single stall restroom that locks; obviously, as a transgender man, the only bathroom I am comfortable using is the bathroom where the door closes and locks. After entering the bathroom, it was only seconds before a group of women began pounding on the door, demanding that I leave so that they can have access to the restroom. The door was locked, I was already using the toilet, and I didn’t think too much of it until their boyfriends also began pounding on the door. In a matter of minutes, I went from feeling mildly nervous to full-blown anxious. I knew that this group of people was going to be waiting for me on the other side of the locked door, and I couldn’t stay in the restroom forever. I texted my friend from the safety of the bathroom, letting them know what was going on because I knew as soon as I opened the door there was a chance that I would be in danger.

Chase Hall

When I opened the door, I was met with a barricade of women and men who began verbally attacking me, not willing to let me through until they were finished with their tirade, which included a slew of homophobic slurs and threatening me with violence. Several employees witnessed the attack but allowed it to continue and did nothing. On a busy weekend night, I could see them not having time to get security or do anything to help, however, on a slow Monday evening? Whether intentional or not, a message was sent to me loud and clear: Transgender people are neither safe nor welcome here.

West Hollywood needs to do better when it comes to the safety of transgender people using public restrooms. Fiesta Cantina isn’t the only place with an unsafe restroom situation; last time I was at Beaches I noticed that neither of the restroom doors locked, meaning that there was no way to safely and privately use the restroom. What would happen to me if someone walked in on me while I was using a restroom like this? How would things have gone if this was the restroom situation Monday night at Fiesta Cantina? Would I be attacked, or at the very least forced to explain my body to someone that I didn’t want to give that private information to? What about transgender people who live much less openly than I do? The lack of safe restrooms makes me feel like a second-class citizen on a good day, while feeling entirely unwelcome on a bad day. I’m beginning to wonder if I need to plan times to go home to use the restroom while out trying to enjoy time with friends, and the fact that this is something that I sincerely feel forced to consider makes me feel like I am less human and highlights the fact that I have fewer rights than cisgender people. When I tell people that I am from a farm town in North Carolina, they are often horrified and want to hear all of the tragic stories of hate and ask about the infamous bathroom bill, but I face just as much discrimination and have the same lack of public restroom safety in West Hollywood as I did in North Carolina.

As we continue to fight for the safety and protection of all transgender people, and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, I ask that the allies within the community step up. Transgender people risk outing themselves while asking if a space is safe for them to use, so will often suffer silently. You can help by accompanying your transgender friends to the restroom or scoping out the restroom situation for them so that you can let them know if they can safely and comfortably use the facilities.

  1. You do have my sympathy but I think it has more to do with others setting a bad bathroom precedent. Many times when people are desperate to get in there for nature’s call… they stand in line for what seems like forever to see a couple casually stroll out because they were in there doing drugs or having sex.

    When you need to get in there anybody not vacating fast enough causes a problem.
    Unfortunately others using the bathroom for other activities has made people restless.
    My guess is the doors that don’t lock are set up that way to discourage abusive behavior. Good luck!

  2. Welcome to life. You can’t isolate yourself from it, so make your boundaries clear and use your intuition and you’ll be fine. Most building owners don’t have the resources or space to build 10 bathrooms to appease every type of person who feels threatened.

    (Opinion) And I’m sorry but the transgender push is dangerous. It’s a fear of your own gender, or an unconscious need for attention, and changing sex is dangerous for it promotes the use of dangerous life-long cancerous pharmaceuticals and risky surgeries. I support people’s decision but I’m grateful they didn’t have this push when I was a teen or I wouldn’t have had my physical anatomy in tact which I’m very grateful for now. I was simply very confused and insecure about everything, not just gender and sexuality.

    I seriously think transgender surgeries should be banned until you’re at least 40 years old, if not 50. By that time most people learn to accept the wonderful sex they were born with. That said, I hate violence and the thought of anyone being attacked but it’s been this way for people of all gender forever. I was “feminine” when I was young and a target because my insecurity showed. I’m now probably a mix of energies but more on the very masculine side. I grew up and got great therapy but more importantly I became confident and made my boundaries more clear so I could walk out in heels if I wanted to as a “man” and the likelihood of me being attacked is very low because of the way I hold myself. Having multiple bathrooms isn’t going to solve threats. Fellow transgender people can be vicious to each other too so you’re never fully safe in a public restroom or any public setting.

    Again, welcome to the complexities of life. Own your space. Own your gender. Role play, have fun. But if you have constant fears about being attacked, it’s coming from some place in your history. We attract problems based on unresolved traumas from out past. Therapy helped me. Have strong boundaries, use your intuition, and you’ll know which bathroom to choose.

    1. While I applaud you for at least couching your remarks as opinion, in my own humble opinion they are filled with ignorance and devoid of empathy. From your remarks, it actually sounds like you engaged in some sort of gender “reparative” therapy due to your own personal needs. While that is your choice, it is no different or less dangerous than suggesting this as a remedy for someone conflicted about their sexuality.

      I didn’t pick up any self-loathing from the writer in his article. All he was asking for was a private restroom, a request ANYONE might make for their own personal reasons. For transgender people, the threat of attack is a constant, current issue – not just something from their past – so “resolving” it remains an ongoing, vigilant process. You made your choice on how to protect yourself, so allow others the same without blaming them if they are victims of transphobia.

      1. Is there any record of any attack on a transgender person in a West Hollywood bathroom, in recent history ?

    2. i am assuming this reply is in jest? 40 or 50 to be able to live your life. do some research. opinion or not, it’s dismissive and demeaning. just my opinion of course.

  3. The author of this woe-is-me article states: “These days it seems I can’t use a public restroom without my heart pounding and anxiety resurfacing.”
    The fact that you have anxiety when going to the bathroom is noboody’s fault, especially not the good people of this city. We live in the safest and most trans friendly neighborhood in the country.

    1. TRUE I would agree with you that the Great City of West Hollywood is by far the most LGBT friendly neighborhood in the country, but please do consider just how that is defined. YES the “people” of West Hollywood or even California for that matter are quite tolerant, accepting and progressive. This is completely independent of and has little influence on systemic problems and people in positions of power. If you bother to look at just who is in positions of power (including just about any management position) even in the most progressive parts of California, it’s no different from Texas!

      Mr. Chase Hall has very legitimatize reasons for concern. Working in West Hollywood I have witnessed numerous assaults committed by individuals who came to West Hollywood with the expressed intent to assault LGBT individuals, only to have the authorities to brush it off like nothing happened. If you think me asking that the authorities take the issue of “hate crimes” seriously is some type of “overreaction,” just imagine what would happen if I (or any other nonwhite) went to the wimpy city of beverly hills with the intent of assaulting wealthy white people?

  4. Transgender access to public restrooms in the bars has been a problem in West Hollywood for a long time. I know one trans woman who was kicked out of the women’s restroom at Mickey’s several years ago. Making single stall bathrooms gender neutral doesn’t solve the problem.

  5. This is so sad. And this behavior/situation is NOT acceptable. It doesn’t matter who you are, no one deserves being treated this way to use a restroom. Some heterosexual people need to be more respectful when they are in “gayborhood” and understand that this is our safe space and they are a guest. I wish the people working at some of these places would shut down that behavior the moment they witness it coming from patrons. Also as someone coming from the gay community we need to ensure that all of us under the LGBTQ community protect one another especially with the current political climate. We are all in this together and need to continue to show love and support.

  6. I am so sad this has happened. It sadly is not the first. And it won’t be the last time. Operators and employees of Weho establishments MUST be examplary examples of sensitivity, to a community as diverse as ours. I can’t imagine panicing everytime i needed to use a public bathroom. Surely we are better than this.

    1. This is not an issue just about discrimination of transgender people, it is about civility. First, all of our Weho businesses that are restaurant/bars should have employees that check on people’s safety. No person should be harrased when they are using the bathroom or just buying a water at a local store. Having been bullied a great deal growing-up, I sympathize with Chase and I can only say that you have to keep working on not letting others get to you. You are not me and I am not you, but I will tell you that as a gay adult man I recently used the ladies room in Palm Springs when there was a line of men for the men’s room at an Italian Restaurant. When I scooted out of the bathroom a middle-aged woman scolded me and said “your not allowed to use the ladies room.” I looked her straight in the eye and said, “you are not allowed to tell me what I can and can’t do; I don’t gender identify the same way you do.” She went to the manager who happened to be a gay man and he laughed at her. I also might suggest one helpful phrase that a wise woman gave to me years ago: “what you think of me is none of my business.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbSM02_1k34

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