News - April 1996

The Red Lion roars: Bathroom busts for transpeople

DENVER, CO -- In a bizarre incident March 9 reminiscent of the bathroom busts historically used against gay men, more than half a dozen transpeople were cited by police for using the Women's room at the Red Lion Inn prior to a local drag event.

Claiming that a "hysterical woman" had complained there were "men in the Ladies room," Hotel Security Chief Robert Higdon posted his men outside bathroom doors. Reportedly watching event participants as they entered to use the facilities, and in one case even smiling at them as they opened the door, security guards then followed them in and apprehended the women. They were then escorted to the hotel's security offices, where an officer of the Denver police, previously summoned to the Red Lion by Higdon, issued them with citations and had them escorted from the premises.

At first unable to find a law the women had violated, the police elected to charge them with "disturbing the peace," a general sessions citation in Denver, requiring a public courtroom appearance and often taken with some seriousness by conservative judges.

Neither hotel security nor the police were able to identify the "hysterical woman" whose complaint allegedly launched the incident.

Questioned by local activists after the event, Mr. Higdon stated that the group holding the event, the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire, had been warned to make an announcement to participants not to use the women's room and to post notices on the bathroom door. Unfortunately, the women cited by the police were there in advance of the event, and neither saw any signs nor could have heard such announcements. It is not clear why hotel security watched them enter instead of simply informing them the bathroom was off limits.

At least five of the women cited were transexual-identified, on hormones and living as women full-time. Even though some carried doctors papers stating their status and that they were under treatment, neither the police nor security were willing to make any exceptions.

Said one of the women: "The Red Lion never offer me any explanation of how having men in evening dresses and minis wearing high heels and stockings were any better off standing at a urinal in the Men's room than in the Ladies Room."

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