A South Carolina transgender woman says the manager of a restaurant called the police after she used the women’s restroom.
Drew Jarrell says the incident happened when she went to one of her favorite restaurants in Boiling Springs, S.C. last Thursday. Jarrell says she used the women’s restroom because she was advised to do so when she goes out in public by a local LGBTQ support group known as Gender Benders.
But Jarrell says on her way out of the restroom, she was stopped by a restaurant manager.
“He had told me that I was to use the bathroom in the way I was born,” she told Spartanburg-based CBS affiliate WSPA.
Right before leaving, Jarrell had to use the bathroom again. She used the women’s restroom, but this time, the manager called sheriff’s deputies.
In a video recorded by Jarrell, the manager argued that it is the law in South Carolina that people must use the bathroom that matches their biological sex at birth.
But there is no such law in South Carolina. In fact, attempts to pass a “bathroom bill” restricting transgender people’s ability to access restrooms failed in both 2016 and 2017. And the Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue.
“Right now, we don’t have any public accommodation laws for the state of South Carolina that deals with transgender individuals,” John Reckenbeil, an attorney from Greenville, told WSPA. “So realistically it’s up to the business owner at this point in time.”
A spokesperson for Gender Benders says Jarrell’s experience is a perfect example of why nondiscrimination protections in public accommodations are needed for transgender people.
The restaurant, whose name has not been revealed, has thus far declined to comment to requests from local news media.
Jarrell, who came out five years ago, says she hopes her experience can help educate people about the challenges transgender people can face when trying to use public accommodations.
“I’ve always known all my life, that I was a woman inside,” Jarrell told WSPA. “…I felt like I had to be myself. It was either suicide or be myself.”