Cecilia Melchor had a friend visiting from out of town last Wednesday. The 22-year-old UT-Austin student didn’t necessarily want to go out, but her friend insisted. They grabbed some dinner before heading to the Chuggin’ Monkey on East Sixth Street.
Melchor had to use the restroom. When she was finished, the bouncer approached her.
“He was like, ‘What sex are you?’” said Melchor. She told him she didn’t feel comfortable answering that question. Then, she says, the bouncer then asked her what gender was on her driver's license.
Melchor, who has been medically transitioning over the past two years, said her ID is dated and the photograph doesn’t necessarily reflect what she looks like now.
“He’s like, ‘You can’t use the women’s restroom.’”
The restroom Melchor had used is a one-person restroom, which the city requires to be gender-neutral. Now, Melchor is accusing the Sixth Street bar of violating that city law.
Melchor recorded part of the interaction on her phone. In it, Melchor and the bouncer yell at one another over loud music. The bouncer can be heard asking her, “Do you want to make it more difficult than it needs to be?”
Melchor responded, saying it was illegal for the bouncer to kick her out for using the restroom.
“No, actually it’s not,” says the bouncer before the video cuts off.
According to Austin’s nondiscrimination ordinance, a bar cannot deny services to someone based on that person’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age or disability.
"If they are not accommodated and it’s based on a discriminatory reason, [it violates the city's ordinance]," said Andrea Johnson, administrative specialist with the city's Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office.
Chuggin’ Monkey owner Josh Hazzard denies that the bouncer kicked Melchor out because she used the women’s restroom.
“I think he was telling her that she should go upstairs to use the gender-neutral bathrooms because we offer that,” said Hazzard, who said he spoke with the bouncer who approached Melchor.
He said she was asked to leave because she was causing a scene.
“I don’t think it was handled poorly,” Hazzard said. “He said once he brought it up to her she got upset…she got emotional, didn’t really want to listen to anything he was trying to say.”
Hazzard said he does not believe the bar violated the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and said the employee wasn't disciplined after the incident.
“We’re a bar. We have live music and we serve cold beer. I’m not trying to be the moral compass for everyone,” Hazzard said.
Melchor has filed a complaint with the city over the bar’s failure to make all its single-person restrooms gender neutral. She is waiting for legal advice before filing a separate complaint accusing the bar of violating the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.
Melchor said she’s trying to move on from an incident she said left her with feelings of “worthlessness.”
“I don’t think this was fair or right,” Melchor said. “I would not want anyone else to have to go through that moment of being blatantly rejected just because of who you are. I think that’s one of the hardest things to grasp with this…It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about these bathrooms and who can go in them.”