A popular Buffalo gay bar accused of discriminating against a transgender woman says it's making changes. The owner of Cathode Ray says with the help of local advocates, the bar is clarifying its stance on transgender bathroom use. Ryan Whalen has the story.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The yellow door under the recognizable neon light is supposed to be open to everybody in the LGBTQ community.
"Whether you be transgender, gay, bisexual, lesbian and straight or straight allies," Cathode Ray's attorney Neil Pawlowski said.
Cathode Ray's reputation took a hit about two weeks ago, amid a protest that the bar discriminates against transgender individuals.
"All patrons are able to have access to the restroom facility that corresponds to their gender identity," Pawlowski said.
Billie Matthews became a civil rights symbol almost overnight after complaining that she was kicked out of the bar for using the women's bathroom.
"I'm happy that there has been some change made," Matthews said. "I'll take any sort of progression out of this as a win for sure, because hopefully this won't have to happen for another trans woman in the future or another trans man in the future."
In response to the incident, the owners of Cathode Ray and Funky Monkey, the bar next door, reached out to the Pride Center of Western New York and Spectrum Transgender Group to discuss what they could do differently. The bars now post a policy clearly stating all individuals have access to the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
"When something like this happens, the best that we can hope for is that people take it as an opportunity to clarify their stances and do better in the future," Pride Center of WNY Senior Director Matthew Crehan Higgins said.
The policy also states that only one person may occupy a stall at a time, which is the real reason Cathode Ray said Matthews was removed. Matthews not only denied the accusation but says the claim illustrates a bigger problem.
"They still tried to portray me as someone who was in the bathroom with an unknown man doing behaviors or activities that I wasn't doing and still at this point they haven't said that that wasn't true or they didn't know the facts," Matthews said.
Both bars will also mandate their employees to take cultural awareness training through the Pride Center and Cathode said it plans to re-establish its reputation as an inclusive place.
"We looked at the OSHA rules which govern employment and while they don't necessarily apply to patrons in a bar, we really did cater our policy based on those rules that are in place for employees," Pawlowski said.
Matthews said she won't be walking through that yellow door again until she gets an apology.