Manitoba

'Let the people pee': Winnipeg woman shares story of bathroom violation to protect others

A young Winnipeg woman is speaking out to protect others after she says her privacy and dignity were violated when she was confronted by a security guard while using a public washroom. 

Hayley Rogers says security guard confronted her while she was using restaurant washroom

Hayley Rogers is sharing her story of discrimination to bring awareness so others won't face what she did. (Warren Kay/CBC)

A young Winnipeg woman is speaking out to protect others after she says her privacy and dignity were violated when she was confronted by a security guard while using a public washroom. 

Hayley Rogers was out celebrating her cousin's bachelorette last Saturday at La Roca, a Mexican restaurant and lounge on Smith Street.

"Like any human, I had to pee," said the 25-year-old.  

Rogers has short hair and doesn't dress "super feminine,'" which she said has drawn looks in public washrooms before.

She brought her female cousin with her to the women's washroom as a sort of chaperone, which her cousin found odd at first. But then, she said, a male security guard charged in after them.

'Are you a dude or a chick?'

"I'd just closed the stall, taken my pants down halfway, and then I hear, 'Bang bang bang! And he's like, 'Hey! Are you a dude or a chick?'"

"I looked down and I saw his feet. And then I look up, and I see, he had to be over six feet, and then I see his eyes looking down on me as I'm about to use the bathroom. So he wanted to check stuff out to make sure that I was A-OK to be there," she said. 

She said she opened the door, said, "No, I'm fine," and he left.

Afterwards, Rogers and her cousin told a manager, who apologized and bought her and her group a round of tequila and told Rogers she could use the individual washroom instead.  

On their way out, she saw the same security guard standing at the door, who she said tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Sorry, didn't know what you were."

Rogers went inside and talked to a manager again. She said the manager, flanked by the head of security, told her they had talked to him, but they "had to keep the best interest of our customers in mind. We were only doing this for their safety."

"I didn't feel too good. It was embarrassment, I felt ... violated ... that shouldn't have happened," she said.

Rogers was at a bachelorette party at La Roca when a security guard confronted her in the bathroom. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Restaurant responds

While no one from La Roca agreed to speak to CBC about what happened, the owner provided a statement.

"La Roca is a locally owned and operated business that strives to create a safe and accepting environment for everyone and every community," wrote Darci Everett.
 
A spokesperson for the restaurant told other concerned members of the public that the security officer was let go and there would be a staff meeting to discuss what happened. 

"We are truly sorry this happened and will be taking all the steps to ensure it's not something that occurs at La Roca," read one of the statements shared with the CBC.

Everett also reached out to Rogers, but she didn't respond. 

"Acknowledge the incident publicly. Don't just tell me sorry. Because you pissed off more people than me."

Businesses need training

According to a gender expert whose company trains businesses on inclusion and equity, the incident is not uncommon.

"This is a cruel world for people who don't fit the status quo. Even in this day in our world of inclusion and human rights and Charter rights federally … there are people who are experiencing this disproportionately just for simply being who they are," said Reece Malone, of Diversity Essentials.

Reece Malone advocates for equality and runs a company that trains businesses on inclusion. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

"If anyone doesn't follow this essentialist notions of masculine and feminine, you're literally at risk."

He said it's important that businesses train their staff to avoid discrimination based on gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, race and its intersections, when it's appropriate for anyone to go into a washroom to intervene, and protocols and follow-up for remedy. 

Rogers, who is a gay woman and black, says she believes the guard wouldn't have been as aggressive if it weren't for her skin colour.

"Those who experience multiple marginalizations are even more at risk for it to impact negatively their mental health and well-being," said Malone, adding he hopes Rogers finds remedy and support as she speaks about her experience.

"I hope that we can move toward a much more compassionate and empathetic place in our culture and society."

'His eyes were in my head'

The impact didn't fully hit Rogers until a few days later, when she had time to process the incident, and when she used the public washroom at work.

"I started to get more anxious," she said. "And it just kind of, his eyes were in my head and it just kept going over and over. I've been having difficulty. I'm not going to lie. I'll probably need therapy. I'm having a hard time."

Toronto privacy lawyer Molly Reynolds said bars and restaurants are subject to federal privacy laws because they're engaged in commercial activity, and a person's gender identity or presentation, or even the act of viewing a person's body, are forms of personal information breaches.

"There's still a broader obligation for companies like this restaurant to train their employees on good privacy practices," she said.

Watch Hayley Rogers share story about washroom confrontation:

Hayley Rogers was taking a washroom break while out celebrating her cousin's bachelorette at a Winnipeg establishment last Saturday when a male security guard charged in. 2:25

Rogers said she's regained dignity by sharing her story to bring awareness and safety to others.  

"This happens to people. And people lose their lives over this stuff. Just the judgment and then the harassment. I don't want someone else to go through that. That's my main goal," she said. 

"Let the people pee. If they go into a stall or into a restroom, don't question their knowledge. If they go into the restroom, they're in the right restroom. So you don't need to follow them. Don't question it."