River Rising is a 21-year-old trans woman from Calgary who was visiting Medicine Hat, AB a couple of weeks ago. When River went out to a local bar, the Corona Tavern, she received transphobic backlash from the bouncers when trying to use the women’s washroom. A week later, someone noticed a sign in the washroom that said, “You must use the bathroom of your birth gender.” That’s when news spread and soon caught the attention of River. You can see her original Facebook post below in response to the sign.

“I was angry. I felt hurt.”

River Rising
Photo from CBC


River has been using women’s washrooms since she was 17-years-old and has identified as a female since the age of 16. However, a bouncer told River that she could not use the women’s washroom at the Corona Tavern, and directed that she could only use the men’s. The bouncers reportedly asked extremely personal questions about River’s transition as well as if she had undergone surgeries.

Corona Tavern
Photo from CBC

“I was angry. I felt hurt,” said River. “Nobody has the right to ask what I have between my legs. It’s messed up.”

River told the bouncer that “I would rather pee myself than use a men’s washroom. That’s not gonna happen tonight.”

Lorraine Schmaltz of the Corona Tavern defended the bar’s actions by saying, “We have to look after our female patrons in this way,” mentioning that many males have pretended to be trans women to go into the women’s washroom. “Guys wanna be sneaky, so they say they’re transgender, and they’re in the women’s washroom.”

Destiny Burkart, who initially noticed the original poster a week after the incident, said that this discrimination is not justified and that men pretending to be transgender to go into the women’s washroom is not a valid argument. “If a man’s gonna do that, he’s gonna do it anyways.”

Gender neutral washroom

Gender Neutral Washroom
Photo from Lorraine Schaltz

Since the outrage over social media, the Corona Tavern has since acknowledged their mistake, and has changed one of the men’s washrooms to a gender neutral washroom. Lorraine Schmaltz stated that she is “saddened” by what happened and that the bar “made a small mistake” but are rectifying the situation. “We welcome anybody to come here.”

“I didn’t mean it to go in the direction that it did. We’re living and learning.”

This incident is not the first and will likely not be the last, but at the very least, we are starting a conversation around transgender rights and freedoms.