ACLU gets involved after transgender concertgoers denied bathroom access at Coachella

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a statement: “California law is clear across various contexts that individuals have the right to access accordance with their gender identity.”

February 28, 2019

As the music festival becomes an increasingly-ingrained cultural institution, discussions of accountability have emerged, whether they be on the basis of sexual assault or inclusion. In response to these issues, this year the granddaddy of festival culture, Coachella, is introducing the “Every One” campaign, which seeks to “co-create a festival and culture that is safe, inclusive and fun for all” – though recently-surfaced allegations of transphobia (not to mention the anti-LGBTQ ties of Philip Anschutz and AEG, the organization that owns Coachella organizer GoldenVoice) from last year’s festival seem to suggest there’s more work to be done.

According to The Desert Sun, during last year’s festival, twins Donavion Navi Huskey and Taiyande Juice Huskey (who identify as a transgender woman and transmasculine, respectively), allege that they were barred by festival personnel from using their preferred washrooms and were instead directed toward the facilities’ gender neutral washrooms.

Juice claims that festival security “led me to the back of the restrooms and made it seem like he was going to show me where the gender-neutral bathrooms were but, as I got outside, he just shut the door behind me” after he asked personnel “‘I’m just like you. Why can’t I use the restroom?”

The incident sparked the siblings to file a complaint against the festival through the American Civil Liberties Union, who sent a letter to Coachella organizers Anschutz Entertainment Group and Goldenvoice, Inc. condemning the incident.

The letter, written by lawyers Amanda Goad and Stephen Hicklin on behalf of the twins, states “California law is clear across various contexts that individuals have the right to access restrooms (and other gender-segregated facilities) in accordance with their gender identity” and thus “Refusing people access to the restroom which corresponds to their gender identity constitutes a denial to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privilege or services of a business establishment.”

Goad hopes that her letter receives “a favourable response,” and is aiming for it to inspire a situation where “we can work with AEG, its subsidiaries and affiliates to reach a resolution that supports the LGBTQ community, trans and non-conforming folks.”

Representatives from Coachella responded with an official statement that “This is not reflective of the safe and inclusive festival culture that we strive for, and this behavior is intolerable. 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.”

At the time of release, the siblings and representatives from the ACLU have yet to comment on Coachella’s statement.

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