ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
Jake Gardner, owner of The Hive Rock Club and Art Gallery, posted an article on his personal but public Facebook Tuesday via The Federalist, decrying allowing transgender women to use women’s restrooms because of the possibility that cisgender men will take advantage of women in the restroom.
In the post, which has since been deleted from Facebook, Gardner suggested that trans women will not be allowed to use the women’s restroom at his establishment until they’ve had their “appendage” removed and changed their state identification. He also said he was not willing to “coddle” the feelings of the minority.
“My business’s (sic) remain committed to and stand by our position to ensure safety to women and not care who’s (sic) feelings get hurt in the process of providing that safety,” Gardner wrote in his original post.
The status instantly garnered comments and post shares before Gardner took it down that evening, but not before many screenshot the post and subsequent comments. Many attacked Gardner for transphobic comments.
Facebook drew up a storm last week regarding Gardner’s comments and many took to reviewing the establishment. The bar was rated 4.4 out of 5 stars on Tuesday, and at press time, had already plummeted to 3 stars.
Admittedly, it is unfair that many who even admit to never stepping inside the bar have rated the establishment 1 star. At the same time, though, it is an opportunity for many in the community to warn others who, in the future, may not otherwise know they are not welcome or are not safe in that establishment.
The controversy grew so quickly that the Omaha World-Herald picked up the story and interviewed him. Within the interview, he admitted he had a lot to learn about the transgender community. But when The Hive’s Facebook page posted the article, Gardner made it clear the statement was not an apology, only that he regret using the word “appendage.”
Though a poor business decision, an apology is not necessary. But beyond that, there is proof via screen-shot of a Facebook user threatening violence against trans people and Gardner – using The Hive’s Facebook page, no less – liked the comment.
Through that action, Gardner basically let the community know that he would support a man assaulting a transgender person for using the “wrong” restroom. Even though it does not affect me, I do not feel comfortable being in an establishment where the owner might turn a blind eye to the assault of a person for their restroom preferences.
If we are more concerned about the possibility of cis men dominating cis women than of cis men threatening trans people, then we should focus more on the actions of cis men than the actions of trans people.
The Hive said they are opening with a third bathroom for unisex purposes. While this seems logical, having unisex restrooms separate from men’s and women’s restrooms comes with its own price, and I’m not talking about building and maintaining costs for the business.
Using the unisex restroom as a transgender person automatically outs them as such, which could be unsafe if a transphobe sees them exiting the bathroom. Beyond that, it segregates trans people and throws out the idea of inclusion completely.
Many commented on posts with pictures of transgender people who “pass” as an intended gender as an example – though we shouldn’t encourage the idea that one needs to “pass” as a certain gender in order to be accepted as such. We cannot perpetuate that non-“passing” cisgender women in restrooms deserve to be thrown out of the bathroom they feel most comfortable in.
Positive discourse has however resulted from this debate. On Saturday, The Tavern in downtown Omaha covered up their restroom doors with pictures depicting whether the restroom contains a urinal or just a toilet. Just two days before, they made a public statement on Facebook showing their support to marginalized people.
“If you find the urge to pee, feel free to use the bathroom you’re most comfortable with,” The Tavern said in a post on Thursday.
The positive dialogue that we’re seeing with The Tavern may or may not spill over to other Omaha businesses to support more active inclusion for marginalized people.
A rapist is going to find his way to his attack regardless, and no sign on a door is going to stop a rapist from abusing.
Allowing transgender women to use the women’s restroom is not opening the door to sexual abuse by cis men. Allowing transgender women to use the women’s restroom is allowing women to use the women’s restroom, period.
I’ve seen plenty of jokes about men who say they would love to be able to waltz in the same restroom as women. But that same man would also have to consider the possibility of being sexually abused themselves or even murdered at a heightened possibility just to abuse women.
These men should know that 72% of the victims of hate-violence homicides in 2013 were transgender women, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
Gardner is entitled to his opinion. As an Omaha business owner with a public Facebook profile, though, Gardner is expected to understand that his posts may enact consequences and will reflect on his business’s ethics.
Gardner personally made transphobic comments and continues to support that discourse. As a business owner, however, he is taking the steps to at least allocate for the results of the discussion.
Omahans are encouraged to support the business as they see fit. If it does not include supporting the personal transphobic views of the owner, there are many clubs and bars downtown to replace The Hive on your night out.