“What were you doing in there?”
It’s a question nobody wants to hear when they exit a public bathroom. Would you want that question shouted at you with a finger pointed in your face?
It’s the question Drewsilla Diãne Clute Tomasi was confronted with as she exited the women’s restroom at a bar in Durango last week, an encounter corroborated by multiple witnesses.
Drew, a trans woman and a Colorado native, was visiting Fort Lewis College to facilitate a self-care workshop and to host a drag show on Valentine’s Day. Drew’s girlfriend was in town with her, and they decided to go barhopping with friends. (Note: The owners of the bar discussed here profusely apologized to Drew through an intermediary when confronted with their manager’s behavior. The manager/owners of the bar have not responded to repeated requests to comment about this incident.)
Can you tell us about your experience in downtown Durango? My girlfriend was able to come to Durango with me. She is also a trans woman. She’s been to Durango, actually went to the Fort for a hot second, but never really got to do the downtown thing. I wanted to take her barhopping, as one does. We went to a couple of places that I always used to hang out at.
We walked into [the bar], got shots, everything was fine … There were no problems with the bouncer or anyone. Everyone was super cool … Right before we left, I had to pee. I went into the lady’s room. I don’t think twice about that at this point in my life. There was another woman in there on her phone. I don’t know if she ever really saw me. But me being who I am, I was like, “Oh, hey girl,” and she goes “What?” I say, “Hello.” I went into a stall and she left. When I came out of the restroom, there was the manager … As soon as I walked out, he puffed up and started wagging his finger in my face saying, “What were you doing in there?” And I was like, “I was going to the bathroom.” He said, “Well, you are making my customers uncomfortable.” At that point, I used a small amount of profanity but was really just saying, “Are you kidding me? Are you serious?” And he started spouting off. I was like, “We are leaving anyway, leave me alone.” He said, “You’re not going to talk to me like that, get the hell out of my bar.” I repeated, “We are leaving anyway. Leave me alone.” I went to my group of friends and I quickly said to Claire, my girlfriend, “We’re not welcome here.” I grabbed her and we walked out.
What happened next? The thing that was most jarring, I think, was that this man felt the need to continue to follow us all the way out of the bar, onto the street. At which point he was screaming, “You’re a dude. Good luck with yourself.” He grabbed himself and started flipping us off. So vile. So unnecessary. We were on our way out. We weren’t causing any problems.
We had all had a really nice night and were having a lot of fun. It was cute catching up with old friends and making new ones. The four of us were shocked more than anything. A block down the road on the way to my friend’s car, who was playing designated driver that night, I stopped and said, “Did that just happen? That was real?”
If you could sit down with the bar manager, what would you say to him – if you knew he would listen? I think I would implore him to really take a look at himself, take a look at me, take a look at us. I would implore him to develop more compassion. We are all people, at the end of the day. We are all just people trying to make it in this crazy world. We don’t need to make it any more difficult for one another.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.
[This story has been changed to clarify the response from the bar owners.]Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer