Skip To Content

    A Bar Told This Trans Woman She Could Only Use The Men's Bathroom

    "They don’t get to dictate which bathrooms trans people use."

    A night out quickly turned sour after a bar in Medicine Hat, Alberta, told River Rising she wasn't allowed to use the women's washroom.

    River Rising

    Rising, a Calgary trans woman, was in town for a wedding when she headed out to Corona Tavern with friends. She told BuzzFeed Canada it started with a "weird look" from the bouncer when she showed her ID.

    "A little while later the bouncer called me over and started asking me some really uncomfortable questions about my body," said the 21-year-old makeup artist.

    "He told me that while I was on the premises I couldn’t use the women’s washroom," said Rising. "I told him I hadn’t used a men’s washroom since I was at least 16 years old and I had no intention of starting and that I would rather pee myself then use a men’s washroom."

    River Rising

    The bouncer said he would escort her to the men's washroom if she felt unsafe, but continued to say the women's facilities were off limits.

    "There’s no way I would walk into a men’s washroom and someone would think that I belong there," said Rising.

    Soon after, Rising said a female bartender told her that she would make other women uncomfortable in the women's washroom.

    "She said if the owner had been there, he would have thrown me out for just being there."

    Not wanting to leave her friends — who were supportive and apologizing for the bar's behaviour — Rising stayed at the bar but avoided the washroom.

    A few days later, Rising found out the bar had put up a sign that read, "You must use the bathroom of your birth gender."

    River Rising

    "When I found out about the sign I was horrified," said Rising. But the issue wasn't simply about hurt feelings; she pointed out that the bar's washroom policy is actually illegal.

    Transgender folks are protected under Alberta's human rights legislation after the passing of Bill 7 last December.

    "They don’t get to dictate which bathrooms trans people use. Their bathrooms don’t work in a little corner of the country where these laws don’t apply."

    Then, on July 26, the bar posted an apology on their Facebook page and announced that a bathroom had been designated as gender-neutral. But even that, Rising said, contained very problematic language.

    Facebook: lorraine.schmaltz

    First, the bar began the statement by claiming they've had "numerous complaints about males going into the women's washroom" since the passing of Bill 7.

    "The clientele that we serve are often under the influence of alcohol and some young men who are not transgendered [sic] have been claiming to be, to enter the women's washroom," the statement said.

    The bar also said it has "no bias against those who are LGBTQ."

    Rising said that while gender-neutral washrooms are great, especially for nonbinary and genderqueer folks, everyone still has the right to use the men's or women's washrooms if they prefer.

    The bar's Facebook page has now been flooded with one-star ratings and reviews criticizing how they handled the situation.

    Although Rising has had a couple of other similar incidents in her life, she also wants people to know this treatment has not been the norm for her.

    River Rising

    "There is a really sad narrative that is usually out around trans people and their lives. I have a really great life with a lot of positive people in it," she said.

    As for the people who worry about trans folks in the bathroom, Rising has a message for them.

    "If they feel unsafe, maybe it should be them who are not going out, not trans men and women."

    Contact Lauren Strapagiel at

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here