A transgender woman in Charlottetown has filed a complaint with the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission alleging she was refused service at a local salon because of her transgender status.

Kristen McKay says she went into Carrie's Esthetic Salon in downtown Charlottetown on Tuesday afternoon to get her nails and makeup done and for makeup lessons.

'It is discrimination. I'm a human being. I have rights.' - Kristen McKay

McKay said a woman at the salon informed her that she didn't do services for men, and when McKay replied that she's not a man but a transgender woman, McKay was still refused service.

"I felt like I was a piece of garbage. I was worthless," said McKay.

In a written statement, salon owner Carrie MacFadyen said she would serve a transgender customer if she felt safe and secure in a room alone with them.

McKay said MacFadyen tried to give her an address for another salon to get her nails done, but McKay refused. She left, filed a complaint with P.E.I. Human Rights Commission and went to the media with her story.

'I'm a human being'

"It is discrimination. I'm a human being. I have rights and people should know what people's rights are and if you're going to run a business you should know what rights are," said McKay.

But MacFadyen said her issue was with safety.

"It is unfortunate that the situation is being referred to as a transgender issue when the only issue is about my safety. I have absolutely no issues with transgender people and support their cause," MacFadyen said in the statement.

It goes on to say that McKay is often standing or sitting on the street where MacFadyen parks her car and that — along with the fact that McKay then showed up at her work — made her uneasy.

"Carrie works in a small private business as the only employee. Knowing that Kristen is transgender does not change the fact she does not feel safe and secure in a room alone with her, without others around. After their interaction Kristen left the business yelling which confirmed Carrie's concern," said the email.

McKay said she's speaking out because she wants other transgender people to feel comfortable to live openly. She's asking for a public apology from the salon.

carrie's salon

Carrie's Esthetics Salon owner Carrie MacFadyen says she has 'absolutely no issues with transgender people and support their cause.' (CBC)

Gender identity, expression protected grounds

The P.E.I. Human Rights Commission doesn't comment on specific cases, but executive director Brenda Picard said sex, gender, gender identity and gender expression are protected grounds covered under the Human Rights Commission.

'It is unfortunate that the situation is being referred to as a transgender issue when the only issue is about my safety.' - Salon owner Carrie MacFadyen

If someone feels they've been discriminated against on those grounds or anything covered under the P.E.I. Human Rights Act, she said, they're encouraged to contact the Human Rights Commission.  

If a complaint is filed, a copy is sent to the accused and they're given an opportunity to file a response with an explanation and their version of events.

The commission does not represent the complainant, said Picard, and individuals, businesses, or organizations are encouraged to contact the commission for help and advice. 

The commission can help parties enter negotiation and mediation. If that doesn't work there may be an investigation by a Human Rights Commission lawyer to determine if there is basis for a hearing.