Denied access to restroom, transgender man files complaint against library

A transgender man filed a complaint with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights against the Seattle Public Library after employees denied him access to the downtown library's only private restroom. 

Ryan "Comet" Alley was visiting the Central Library on June 5 when he asked to use the family restroom, located in the children's section. A library employee said he could not, as he did not have a child with him and the restroom was only available to those with children. 

In a Facebook post detailing the incident, Alley said he visits the library frequently and often uses the family restroom, as he cannot use single-gender facilities and there are no gender-neutral bathrooms in the building. 

A supervisor soon became involved and told Alley that despite Alley's previous use of the family bathroom, it was not available for transgender patrons. The supervisor directed Alley to a different facility "a significant distance from the library," but Alley explained his disability would make it difficult for him to get there. 

Security was called as a result, which prompted Alley to start filming the encounter. In the video, which Alley published to Facebook and now has over 30,000 views, the security guard repeatedly asks Alley to stop filming. 

"I don't feel safe enough to stop recording," Alley said in the video.

"Then you're not safe enough to use the restroom," the officer responded. 

The security officer goes on to say it is "not reasonable" for Alley to want to film because he felt unsafe in a public place.  

The video concludes with Alley leaving the library. As he leaves, the security officer informs him that he will not be allowed back in the library for three days. 

Alley called the event "disturbing" and the treatment he received from library employees "horrifying." 

Following the incident, the Seattle Public Library issued a statement, saying the patron was not excluded from the library for requesting access to the family restroom, but instead for failing to comply with an employee request. The library also said it offered him private use of another public restroom on the same floor, but he declined. 

Additionally, the statement said that in March 2017 the library approved plans to begin the design and installation of its first gender-neutral restroom. Construction of the restroom is expected to be completed by the end of the year. 

The Library followed up with an apology from city librarian Marcellus Turner, who apologized to the transgender community for being "less than supportive in your most personal expression."

Turner also said the library has "immediately" instituted measures to provide single-use restrooms to those who need them. In addition, the library plans to better engage with the transgender community by updating practices and training staff. 

In the apology, Turner addresses Alley, though not by name, and said he is "very sorry" for the way Alley was treated. Alley, in turn, expressed frustration on Facebook that the apology was not even directly sent to him.  

The City of Seattle's all-gender restroom ordinance states all single-stall restrooms in public places must to be open to any and all individuals, regardless of gender identity. Library spokeswoman Andra Addison told the Associated Press that the library will open staff restrooms for people until a new option for transgender patrons opens next year. 

© 2017 KING-TV


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