A Virginia theme park is coming under fire after denying a transgender woman access to the park after a security guard accused her of wearing a “costume” when she was, in fact, wearing clothes consistent with her gender identity.
The woman, who has asked that her name not be made public, was headed to Busch Gardens Williamsburg with her girlfriend, Bria Gibson, to celebrate the park’s Howl-o-Scream event. Security guards halted the couple at the entrance, objecting to Gibson’s girlfriend wearing an ankle-length skirt.
“He very slowly looked her up and down, shook his head, and was like, ‘You can’t come in here because you are wearing a costume,” Gibson told Richmond CBS affiliate WTVR. “After saying, ‘What costume do you think she’s wearing?’ he completely ignored us and shooed us away and [had] nothing more to say on the subject, and there was nothing more we could do about it.”
The park’s security officers were enforcing a dress code rule that prohibits patrons from wearing costumes inside the park, especially during Halloween and Christmas. The park management says the policy is intended to “protect” performers who wear their costumes in the park.
Gibson and her girlfriend went to guest relations to complain, but were told they could not enter the park unless her girlfriend changed. So Gibson, who is cisgender, put on the skirt and her girlfriend put on Gibson’s shorts. Then, the couple was allowed to go inside.
Gibson says there was “no reason” for park security to stop them from entering, regardless of the park’s dress code.
Busch Gardens issued a statement in response to the incident.
“We are committed to providing an enjoyable experience for all guests,” the statement reads. “We respect the rights of people to dress as the gender with which they identify and in a way that enables them and others to safely experience our parks.
“We welcome transgender guests in our parks. On this particular occasion, our security professionals interpreted the attire to be a costume, especially given the time of year when our Howl-O-Scream event is occurring,” the statement continues. “Unfortunately, we misapplied the park’s policy of not allowing costumes in the park. We will take steps to evaluate future application of this policy. We have been in contact with the guests and have invited them to visit again soon.”
Gibson confirmed that the park has since contacted her and her girlfriend about the incident. She said that since her mother is a Busch Gardens platinum pass member, she may return to the park, but it won’t be in the immediate future. She said her girlfriend was traumatized by the incident.
“I had to comfort her,” Gibson said. “She was going to cry over this. It’s basically saying your identity isn’t real.”