City Desk

Adams Morgan Restaurant Allegedly Leaves Insult on Transgender Customer’s Receipt

Lambda Legal_Haywood_Receipt_

Bistro 18 in Adams Morgan allegedly called a transgender customer and her friends "gay bitches" on a receipt, according to a public accommodations discrimination complaint that a LGBT advocacy organization said it filed with the D.C. Office Human rights yesterday.

Lambda Legal, a legal organization serving the LGBTQ community, submitted the complaint on behalf of Amira Gray, a transgender women who received the receipt while at the hookah bar with eight friends. The receipt had the words "GAY BITCHES" printed on it where the customer's name should have been.

"That this happened in Washington, D.C., where LGBT people have strong protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and personal appearance, points out the importance of ensuring existing laws are enforced," Dru Levasseur, Lambda Legal's transgender rights project director, said in a press release. "By standing up for herself and her friends, Amira is taking a stand for all LGBT people who are targeted by businesses for unequal treatment because of who they are."

The alleged incident occurred in August 2013. It's unclear what took so long for the complaint to be filed. Bistro 18 did not answer its phone yesterday afternoon or this morning. Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for OHR, says there is a one-year statute of limitation for filing these complaints (which this falls within), but says he cannot confirm whether the office even received the complaint until after an investigation.

According to the release, Gray and her group of friends seated themselves at a table and had to go to the bar to order while other tables were being served.  When the bartender dropped off the check with the words "GAY BITCHES," one of Gray's friends reportedly approached the manager about it and the manager grabbed the receipt away and printed out a new one. But the friend had kept the original receipt.

"When my friends and I saw the receipt, we were humiliated and embarrassed," Gray said in the release. "We went in planning to enjoy Bistro 18 just like everyone else in the hookah bar that evening, but it turned into a disturbing experience. I am standing up for my friends and me because I don't think anyone should have to go through that."

Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal

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  • Ryan

    Let me start by saying that what was printed on the receipt was wrong and unacceptable. I have some questions about this story and I don't want asking them to be interpreted as condoning what was written on the receipt, I'm just confused as to where this crossed from incredibly rude to discriminatory.
    Which of the words is an anti-gay slur? Its not like "gay" is a term that is acceptable when used by homosexuals to describe themselves but taboo for other people to use. Is using a person's sexuality as an identifier (even if it is incorrect in this case) the issue? Wouldn't calling a transgender person a "gay bitch" be an anti-transgender slur instead of an anti-gay slur?

  • Corky

    Ryan and your point would be....what? It was a discriminatory slur, period. It is no different than if a waiter wrote an anti Muslim epithet on the receipt of an Sikh wearing a turban because he hates Muslims and is too stupid to know that Sikhs are not Muslims. The intent was to discriminate, and that is illegal. And as for the use of the word gay, I think you are glossing over the part about "bitches". Referring to someone as White may not be improper, but calling him a White cracker would be. See the difference?

  • GoldCoastKid

    I think its funny.
    Gays and trans-genders are cool but they need to lighten up a bit.
    I would have written it as "gay ass bitches". The "ass" part really emphasizes it. It also conveys that they like to play with each others asses.

  • TakomaNick

    Calling a gay person gay isn't a problem. Calling someone a bitch isn't a human right violation. Calling someone a "gay bitch" is different. It implies that sexuality is being taken into account. It's like a white person calling a black person a "POS" versus calling them a "black POS". Obviously the race matters for some reason or else it wouldn't be mentioned. Investigate away!

  • Ryan

    Corky - In your "white cracker" example the word "cracker" is a racial slur. If you instead said "white bitches" I don't think anyone would consider it racist against white people. If the slur on the receipt is "bitches" than gay is just an identifier for the bitches. I don't think calling a gay person a bitch is anti-gay, its just rude.
    As for the intent of identifying the table as "gay bitches" I cannot speak to that, I am not the one who wrote it. If the description was used to easily differentiate this group's tab from the tab of other groups ordering from the bar and the service provided was in no way different from that the other customers received than I would said it was thoughtless and crass but not an act of discrimination.

  • Ryan

    TakomaNick - Your explanation makes sense. I was not properly thinking about why the identifier of "gay" would be chosen. I was looking at it in terms of distinguishing the different groups of bitches the bar was dealing with and not as a term selected to be applied specifically to this group of people.

  • Derek

    I am as politically incorrect as you can imagine, and even I can see this as offensive, especially since they dropped $150 on their tab. But I don't think they should get the gov't involved. Being an asshole and a homophobe isn't a crime in a free society, unless they were actively discriminated against. The far bigger punishment (in a very strong pro-gay town like DC) would be for this story to get out and many people boycott Bistro 18.

  • Typical DC BS

    Just another group of whiners with their panties in a bunch. I think Ryan's comment #5 hit the nail on the head - if they got the same treatment as everybody else, who cares.

    Weenies these days thinking they should collect money or be outraged because somebody called them a name. WAAAH, I'm offended. Please, stop being a pussy and don't patronize places that don't deserve your business then.

  • Andrew

    This was obviously a typo. It meant to say "Gray's Bitches", which would be much more endearing to Amira.

  • Michelle

    I really try to see things through loving eyes but I don't see the "gay slur" at all. If everyone at the table was perceived to be straight the receipt said "straight b's" there would be no problem here.

    Then in the article it says she was humiliated and ashamed....why? That's like me getting a receipt that said "black b's" (yes I'm Black) and being upset that they called me Black....I am Black! Now the b word part I can understand being upset about but nothing outside of that. I would speak to a manager and request my money back but hiring a lawyer (a whole year later) is going above and beyond. Some people just need to come to terms that nothing is ever going to be 100% equal or politically correct.

    Also no one knows the state of mind the server was in or how they had treated the server prior to this being written on their receipt (not an excuse) but we all know that sometimes customers are not always right and we all have witnessed someone treat a server rude in a restaurant then call the manager over then play the victim. Never take sides when you don't know the whole story.

  • here and there

    is this the same Amira Gray?

    "Lawsuits filed by transgender man and woman against Jersey City and North Bergen police"

    "Police face new issues in dealing with transgendered"

  • Corky

    You apologists for awful, bigoted restaurant behavior sound like the type of people who see nothing wrong with a restaurant treating one group of customers differently by giving them extremely slow service, rude service or sitting them in the back of the restaurant, but never actually denying them service--just making it clear that they are not welcome. This is exactly what restaurants like Cracker Barrel and Denny's used to do to Blacks and gays just a few years ago--until they were successfully sued for millions. Writing "gay bitches" on a receipt and handing it to the group is clearly intended to make the point that these people were not welcome in that establishment. It was the equivalent of a no gays allowed sign. I hope the DC Office of Human Rights reams Bistro 18 and the waiter involved.

  • Pachamama

    Ryan wrote, "I was not properly thinking about why the identifier of 'gay' would be chosen. I was looking at it in terms of distinguishing the different groups of bitches the bar.", Thereby identifying himself as a misogynistic ass.

  • Sean Mac

    The restaurant owner fired the server *that night* (this is over a year ago) and comped rounds of drinks for the table after being mortified by the action of his employee.

    Lambda Legal should be ashamed of themselves for attacking a business that *immediately* took decisive action correcting this situation. I'm gay as a giggle, and, after reading Bilerico's expanded investigation of the situation, would support the business owner suing Lambda Legal. How awkward is this?

  • John M

    Bil Browning from the Bilerico Project (a prominent LGBT blog of record) wrote a brilliant take-down of Lambda's actions:

    Basically, Lambda Legal is trying to defame a small business to raise money.

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  • Deacon Maccubbin

    Let me say, right up front...I've never been to Bistro 18 and am unlikely to every go. I don't smoke, hookahs or otherwise. So this isn't a review of their food, drinks or service. But it's clear that this business is getting a raw deal from Lambda Legal and THAT is what concerns me. I speak as one of those who helped put the District's Human Rights Law on the books originally so I know a little something about it and Lambda Legal (an organization that I have always supported) has simply perverted the appropriate use of that law in this case.

    Yes, it's clear, from both the complaint and the owner's/manager's statements, that a group of patrons were disrespected by a server at this establishment. That point is not in dispute. But when that was brought to management's attention, they acted immediately to address the situation appropriately. They fired the server responsible on the spot. They apologized to the group. They comped the group's drinks.

    The same group returned on a later date and, once again, the management comped their drinks to try to make up for the disrespect they had experienced before and to let them know that their patronage was welcome.

    Furthermore, the establishment has a history -- they have often hosted LGBT parties and events, welcomed LGBT groups, and hired LGBT employees. There is no history of discriminatory actions on the part of this business, its management or employees, other than this one incident by this one former employee.

    The business responded appropriately and should not be castigated, by Lambda Legal or anyone else. The complaint will wind its way through the DC Office of Human Rights which will consider the statements and actions by all parties and make a determination. I'd be amazed if that determination was anything other than "not guilty." It's fine for Lambda Legal to represent the complainant, but they should do so within the parameters of the complaint process, not by fomenting unjust and defamatory vigilantism in social media.

    I wish both the Blade and City Paper had done a better job of checking the facts before publishing their stories. And it's unconscionable that Lambda Legal went public with a campaign against this business before bothering to check the facts.

  • Deacon Maccubbin

    Here's a link to a news source that took the time to research the story before publishing it:

  • Ryan

    Pachamama - I consider bitch to be the female equivalent of "dick." Is it misandristic to call a man a dick? If "dick" is acceptable would you prefer that I replace all usage of "bitch" with "dick"? Calling a woman a dick just feels wrong to me.