Trans siblings claim they were denied restroom access at Coachella

Sofia Lotto Persio February 27, 2019
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Art installation seen during the 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 22, 2018 in Indio, California.

The trans siblings attended Coachella in April 2018. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty for Coachella)

Two trans siblings who said they were denied access to the restrooms matching their gender identity at Coachella have approached the ACLU of Southern California to make sure no other festivalgoer has to endure the same experience.

Siblings Donavion “Navi” Huskey and Taiyande “Juice” Huskey attended the Coachella music festival in April 2018.

Their experiences were described in a letter the ACLU addressed to the companies responsible for organising the annual event, Goldenvoice and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), dated February 26.

Navi, a trans woman, said she was stopped from using the women’s toilets on the second evening of the festival.

Navi recalled that, despite no one complaining about her presence there, a security guard approached her while she was waiting in line and told her she couldn’t use those facilities.

“I felt like I was stripped of all my dignity and embarrassed in a way that really made me feel like less of a person.”

— Juice Huskey

Navi said the guard did not answer when she asked why she was barred from using the restrooms, nor was she pointed in the direction of the gender-neutral facilities, which she ended up using for the remainder of the festival.

“The treatment I experienced when trying to access the bathroom at Coachella was so far beyond embarrassing, it left me speechless. It was especially abhorrent at an event purported to promote inclusion, diversity, and authentic expression, especially as it welcomed its first Black woman headliner,” Navi said, quoted in an ACLU statement, referring to Beyoncé’s performance.

Her sibling Juice, who identifies as transmasculine and uses “they/them” pronouns, had a remarkably similar experience the following day. Juice said a security guard prevented them from accessing the male restrooms, even though no one complained.

The security guard reportedly said he would show Juice a gender-neutral restroom anyone could use and escorted them out of the restroom through a back exit before turning around and leaving without saying a word.

“In that moment I felt like I was stripped of all my dignity and embarrassed in a way that really made me feel like less of a person. No one should have to feel that way,” Juice said, quoted in the ACLU statement.

ACLU accuses Coachella organisers of failing to respect festivalgoers’ gender identities

The ACLU, who cited the blog post of another trans woman complaining about restroom access at Coachella as evidence the issue was widespread, believe the treatment the trans siblings endured is unlawful under California’s Civil Rights Act and Civil Code.

“It appears that AEG’s and Goldenvoice’s failures to respect the gender identities of their patrons are widespread, and that security personnel are either receiving no guidance on this issue or perhaps even being trained to ‘gender police’ patrons in violation of California law.

“We are concerned about the high likelihood that, if these practices are allowed to continue, other patrons will be misled by Coachella’s marketing as a safe place for the LGBTQ community only to find that, in fact, these representations are untrue, and to endure hurtful confrontation and exclusion like our clients and others have.”

Festivalgoers with the art installation Spectra by NEWSUBSTANCE during the 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.
The trans siblings are working with ACLU so that no one else has to endure their experience at Coachella. (Frazer Harrison/Getty for Coachella)

As part of its “every one” policy, Coachella offers “male, female and all-gender restrooms”—the latter are described as being “for anyone regardless of gender identity or expression.”

Speaking to The LA Times, Navi described the provision of gender-inclusive toilets is only a “partial solution” as it creates a “separate-but-equal” situation.

“There are definitely nonbinary people that don’t want to use a male or female bathroom. But me? I’m trying to embrace my new gender identity by doing those things that are a little bit scary,” she said.

LGBT+ champion Cara Delevingne last year said she would boycott Coachella for being “anti-LGBT” as AEG owner Philip Anschutz was accused of donating to multiple anti-LGBT hate groups in a Washington Post investigation. Anschutz denied the claims and eventually donated $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

“This is not reflective of the safe and inclusive festival culture that we strive for.”

— Coachella organisers

The ACLU letter to AEG and Goldenvoice demanded Coachella festival organisers shared three documents by March 6 to avoid further legal consequences. These included: “[a] written policy guaranteeing all patrons access to restrooms and other facilities based on gender identity; [a] plan for training all Coachella 2019 on-site staff and contractors regarding the policy; [and a] plan for training personnel at other venues regarding the policy.”

In a statement quoted in the local Coachella Valley newspaper Desert Sun, the festival organisers called the trans sibling’s experience “intolerable” and pledged to work together with them to improve their policy for 2019.

“This is not reflective of the safe and inclusive festival culture that we strive for, and this behavior is intolerable,” the statement said. “We are reaching out to invite both Navi and Juice to our offices to help us perfect this program for 2019 for all patrons of any gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, age or ability.”



More: ACLU, AEG, Coachella, US

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