Denny's reverses restroom policy on transgender use

LEWISTON — The corporate owner of Denny’s restaurants in Maine has reversed its restroom policy in an agreement with a transgender customer, and now permits all customers to use restrooms consistent with their gender identities.

The change, according to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders attorney Janson Wu, “is common sense.”

The agreement, reached in March and announced on Monday, is the result of a lawsuit brought by Brianna Freeman against the chain’s Auburn restaurant after Freeman was denied access to the women’s restroom there.

The agreement was announced jointly by Realty Resources Hospitality, which owns six Denny’s restaurants in Maine, and the Boston-based GLAD Transgender Rights Project, which represented Freeman in her civil action.

The new restroom policy applies to all Denny’s restaurants in Maine.

In the joint release, Wu said he and others in his organization are “happy to have had the opportunity to work with business leaders to make Maine’s business establishments open and welcoming to all potential customers.”

For Freeman, the bottom line is, “for me and other transgender patrons is that Denny’s has welcomed us to use the restroom that is consistent with how we live our lives.”

“That makes good sense,” she said. “Any other rule is just not workable for anyone.”

Wu declined to talk Monday about other provisions in the settlement agreement, including compensation the restaurant chain may have paid to Freeman, saying “what was most important for Brianna was to use the most appropriate restroom. Not just for herself, but for all transgender individuals.”

Freeman has been using the women’s restroom at the Auburn restaurant since reaching agreement with Denny's in March, Wu said, and “we haven’t heard of any problems, so we’re very happy with that.”

In 2007, Brianna Freeman — previously Bruce — of Lewiston, was a regular customer of Denny’s restaurant. During visits there, she had regularly used the women’s bathroom without objection and had even met with the restaurant manager to explain her situation. But, that October, the manager told her that he’d gotten a complaint that she, a male, had used the women's restroom.

The manager told Freeman that, since she had not yet undergone a transsexual operation and wasn’t considered a biological female, she would have to use the men’s room in the future.

Freeman, who wears women’s clothing, makeup, jewelry and perfume, has said that using the women’s bathroom was part of her medically recommended gender transition process.

The first phase of that process is hormone therapy to boost estrogen and block testosterone. The second phase, where she was in her transition when denied access to the bathroom, is assuming the role and lifestyle of a woman. The third phase of her treatment will be a surgical procedure to complete the transgender process.

Freeman filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in 2009, claiming the restaurant had discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation. The agency’s investigator found reasonable grounds for the basis of the complaint and, when the two sides couldn’t reach agreement later that year, Freeman filed suit in Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Last year, Denny’s sought to dismiss the case but, in ruling against the restaurant chain, Justice William Brodrick wrote that the Maine Human Rights Act is aimed at preventing discrimination in public accommodation on account of sexual orientation, finding that Freeman had “adequately plead a claim that Denny’s prohibited her from using the women’s restroom because of her sexual orientation.”

Brodrick’s ruling cleared the way for the case to proceed to trial, and during the past year attorneys for Denny’s and Freeman, including Freeman’s local attorney Jeffrey Neil Young of McTeague Higbee in Topsham, worked to negotiate a settlement.

According to Brian Mesley, a spokesman for Rockport-based Realty Resources Hospitality, “we recognize and support Ms. Freeman’s gender transition over the past three and a half years.”

“Her transition and this lawsuit presented a new issue for us," he said, and “we believe the resolution in this case will work well for all of our customers and preserved the dignity and safety of all.”

In addition to the ongoing civil action, during the last legislative session Freeman’s case was the subject of testimony against a bill proposed by Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, that would have given schools and businesses authority to make decisions about who should use their restrooms, including denying transgender people from using restrooms based on gender identity.

Last month, members of the House and Senate defeated the measure by an overwhelming margin, as majorities said they believed the bill was discriminatory and might overwhelm businesses with lawsuits.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

RONALD RIML's picture

Peeing & Pooping

For some Folks it's more than just Waste Management....

Fred Stone's picture

Flush Denny's

Wow I just heard a big flush after people read this, there goes there business down the toilet. They wont have to worry about there future.

Rowan White's picture

Epic! It stinks that Brianna

Epic! It stinks that Brianna had to endure that in the first place. Transitioning is difficult enough.

Sit Down!!

As long as he/she dits down to pee, I have no problem..I would if they stood up and pissed all over the seat..that is why I will not use co-ed bathrooms, or visit places that cannot provide separate bathroom facilities..

Licia Kuenning's picture

I stated a simple fact

I made a simple scientific statement that I would not expect to be controversial: that there is no way to change a biologically male person to a biologically female person. I condemned nobody and made no judgments about anyone, despite Susan's remarks. I only thought the comment was needed because some of the wording in the reporter's article suggests that she is unclear on the point.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

What???

"You should want to stay with your kind." I haven't heard that since neighborhood segregation was ended (to a degree) in Philadelphia back in the 60's.
Great for Denny's great, for the Maine legislature and apparently hooray for Key West.
If you are so socially incompetent that you can't handle a little diversity without being shocked, please get appropriate care.

Melissa  Dunn's picture

its about time denny's and

its about time denny's and long overdue.

its no one's biz who and where someone does their 'duty' quite frankly. kudos to brianna for sticking up for something she believed in to be wrong and standing up for others who are discriminated against. its quite admirable.

Linda Poulin's picture

Another right taken away from us!

Well I've heard everything...I never thought I'd see the day that men would be in the Ladies Restroom sharing at that! Denny's has just lost my business and a whole lot of other people. Just another reason for the sickoo's to gain access to the Ladies Restrooms. Once a man always a man KEEP THEM OUT! And who knows what else they may be carrying into the bathroom with them! Ever see a man's restroom? Not very clean with the seat up all the time, urine on the floor on the seat. Keep them in their place PLEASE!

Susan Luhrs's picture

I guess you've never met transgender people, Linda

You are obviously classifying transgender people as sickos without any personal knowledge. A little boy would be more apt to encounter harassment from a man in a Men's room than any you or anyone else would encounter from a transwoman in the Ladies' room. The transwoman is more likely to try to be quiet and NOT attract attention rather than harass or harm anyone. They have much probably of being harassed or harmed because they are different by people such as you than the converse.

You sound just like the old french lady who told me that I wasn't allowed in the ladies' room in Shaws just because I had short hair at the time, and I am tall, even though I was born Female and remain that gender.

Barry King's picture

Their Place???

"Their" place, Linda, at least in the Good Ole USA, is wherever "they" want to be. A US citizen, ANY US citizen has (or should have...and WILL someday have) the same rights as ANY OTHER US Citizen. Period!
The restroom conditions that you describe fit alot of the bars of Lower Lisbon Street, not restaurants. By the way, Hon, how do YOU know what a MEN'S RESTROOM looks like???

Linda Poulin's picture

I regret you're reply

I regret you're reply insinuated that I entered the men's restroom. Did you ever give thought that a male friend clued me into the condition of mens restrooms? An apology is accepted nothing less. Women wouldn't want to share Mens Restrooms. You should want to stay with your kind. Of course if your interested in Women then all the more reason for separation of restrooms. STAY OUT your not welcome!

RONALD RIML's picture

Choice 'A' or choice 'B'

Linda...

A: Are you Batsh*t Crazy??

B: Or just Obnoxious????

Linda Poulin's picture

Imposter

It's only when a male straight pedophile acts like an imposter transsexual using a women's restroom only to see a female child there and takes advantage of the moment. THINK about that for awhile! Look outside the box PLEASE!

RONALD RIML's picture

Look outside the box???

You mean you didn't wake up from an alcoholic stupor in a Mens' Loo to discover what they looked like??

And let me know when you want to compare 'Pervert Stories' - I don't need to THINK about them; after twenty years wearing a badge I've run into about every foible and folly imaginable. And the kicker is that most of them are the straightest folks you wouldn't even think twice about.....

Barry King's picture

Huh???

You will NEVER receive an apology from me for not agreeing with your narrow-minded, socially ignorant, prejudiced opinion!
You presume to speak for ALL women when you say "Women wouldn't want to share Mens Restrooms." You are incorrect in that assumption, and I assure you that you do NOT speak for all women. I know many women...straight...bi-sexual...transgendered and "otherwise" oriented who have no concern about the person behind a closed, locked stall door. As another poster mentioned, the only time you should see ANYONE in a restroom is while you are washing your hands.

Susan Luhrs's picture

Transgenders are not the threat you think they are

Michael, do you know any people who are transgender? I do, as I have several family and friends who are transgender and have successfully transitioned both from Male to Female, and Female to Male. Do you know anything about someone who is transitioning from male to female? If you read the article more closely, you would have noted that Brianna had been on hormones to suppress her testosterone and increase her estrogen, and, then a period of time later, assumed her female identity in public. Anyone who is serious about transitioning follows a similar process. The testosterone suppressors basically suppress their sex drive and, even if they had the inclination to do something, they couldn't as the apparatus would no longer function properly. In fact, one of the drugs commonly used is used to suppress the sex drive of sex offenders.

I agree that there are some who transition who don't do it well, but they are not the threat that you think they are. Sure, there might be a bad apple in the bunch, but they are not doing this to prey on women or for nefarious reasons. Your daughter probably wouldn't even know that person's gender wasn't congruent with their apparatus if she saw them on the street and probably wouldn't care.

Licia Kuenning's picture

Surgery won't do it

Neither surgery nor hormones will make a male biologically female. There is no way to make a make biologically female, or vice versa.

Barry King's picture

There is no difference...

...between a male who has completed Gender Reassignment Surgery and a female who has had a hysterectomy and a boob job.

Susan Luhrs's picture

Reply to Licia

Well, Licia, if someone's BRAIN is wired female, but the apparatus is the wrong type, I guess you would condemn the person to a living hell for the rest of their life, eh? All these people want is a body that is congruent with their mind. If you met some of the people who I know who have transitioned, you wouldn't even guess they were different. Yes, some don't do it well, but don't condemn the others who just quietly live their lives. Hey, if you pass them in Shaws, Walmart, etc., you wouldn't even have a clue.

Barry King's picture

Another Analogy Could Be...

If bought a Ford motor vehicle, but later found out that it had a Chevy computer chip and it didn't work properly, would you just keep it and deal with the "living hell" that it created or would you have the the "chip" changed to make your vehicle?

Barry King's picture

Kudos to you, Susan!

My (legal, here in CT) husband of 33 years and I lived in Key West for 17 years and we know MANY Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered and Transvestite people. The only thing that anyone we know wants is simply to be allowed to live their lives without persecution.
The miracle of Key West has nothing to do with it being a Tropical Paradise, it is the fact that everyone there is treated as an individual. If you're an ASSH*LE, you're treated as such and if you're a good person you are treated as such. Nothing else matters.
Peace,
Barry

Terry Donald's picture

Good move!

Good for Denny's! Really now, what is people obsession with bathroom habits? Everyone goes to the bathroom, and the facilities are generally shielded in such a way as to assure the privacy of people using the bathroom. In most cases if you go to the bathroom you'll be watching someone washing their hands. Why are we so pre occupied with hiding what is a purely natural function? Especially in Maine, this is the state where at any given moment, an open car door along the roadside serves as a bathroom stall for most residents.

???

I think you may want to reword that open car door statement..unless a female is going to puke, I think the male of the species uses the roadside as a bathroom..but the only problem I have with a transgender using the bathroom would be them not putting the seat down to go..I work in a place where the woman are outnumbered 80-1, but we still have our own bathrooms..I have heard the men at work complain of the condition of the bathrooms, and I for one would not use a restroom that is co-ed..really gross to the majority of females..as far as a he/she going in our bathroom, I can understand the process, and as long as they follow our femalw rules, knock yourselves out..

RONALD RIML's picture

Hate to break your bubble Linda.....

But as a retired cop I can tell you that the female of the species has also been known to also use the roadside.....

Terry Donald's picture

Good move!

Good for Denny's! Really now, what is people obsession with bathroom habits? Everyone goes to the bathroom, and the facilities are generally shielded in such a way as to assure the privacy of people using the bathroom. In most cases if you go to the bathroom you'll be watching someone washing their hands. Why are we so pre occupied with hiding what is a purely natural function? Especially in Maine, this is the state where at any given moment, an open car door along the roadside serves as a bathroom stall for most residents.

AL PELLETIER's picture

just a matter of time

One day, and not in the distant future, some sicko (straight male) is going to see a great looking chick entering the lady's room and seize the opportunity to follow her in to get a closer look or even more. I wonder how that law suit will read.

Rowan White's picture

That's a bit of a slippery

That's a bit of a slippery slope argument. Furthermore, there are enough potential perpetrators out there who do that anyway, regardless of legislation regarding gender identity and restrooms.

Follow the wrong one in there

Follow the wrong one in there and you may be surprised by a stun gun..what would make you think you would have the right to follow or peek at anyone in a restroom???..did someone appoint the male species king and every female is theirs for the taking??? That is some scary and backwoods thinking there, bubba..

AL PELLETIER's picture

ask

Linda,
Ask J.C.Dugart about sicko straight males. I have three grown daughters and 5 grand daughters. Opening the out house door to all comers, when my kids don't have a stun gun, is unrealistic. We may share the same last name but were not on the same planet. If you'll check any penal system records, many of those sicko's like to entrap
and posses their female victims. I'm no Bubba, baby--I'm a down to earth Mainer who's been around for 64 years and nothing surprises me. I can kid about this issue but this is serious sh-t about anything that goes on in the privacy of a men,s and women,s restroom. I'll see you in Denny's restroom ( male or female )?

RONALD RIML's picture

How will that Lawsuit read????

"Great Looking Chick Vs. Alvey Pelletier"

- Sorry, couldn't resist that one, LOL!!!

AL PELLETIER's picture

law suit

c'mon Ron, I may be a little wacked out at times but I don't think I'm in the sicko club yet (but it does sound like good old Navy fun). LOL !!

RONALD RIML's picture

"Sicko Club?" I'll tap you for membership, Al!!!

I'm a card-carrying member......

AL PELLETIER's picture

Denny's

Cool beans Ron, After the initiation I'll meat you at Denny's for lunch and a romp in the lady's room, just don't piss on a toilet seat---the door knob works better!

Barry King's picture

It Should Read...

"Sicko Straight Male" Assaults Patron in Lady's Room!
Period.

Barry King's picture

OMG(oodness!)

LMAO, Ron!
I love your comment and I wish LSJ would put the "like" and "dislike" links back on.
Peace,
Barry

RONALD RIML's picture

Barry....

Hate to burst your bubble, but I darn near cornered the market on 'Dislikes'

Too many folks out there neither have a sense of humor nor an appreciation for the truth. I'll bust anybody's Chops - but am willing to take as well as I give in the spirit of things... ;)

Michael Hiscock's picture

WHAT????

Are you kidding? I guess I won't be eating at Denny's anytime soon, let alone allow my daughter to use the restroom there. I think that they need to reconsider this again. They need to think of the feelings of the other customers that got in there, not just the one. I, for one, am not comfortable with allowing a man into the womans room regardless of what sex he "feels" he is. Until the surgery is done, no way.

Rowan White's picture

That should've been "[...]

That should've been "[...] plus or minus a grand." Epic typo fail on my part.

Rowan White's picture

Not everyone can afford

Not everyone can afford Gender Reassignment Surgery. Hell, the ability to find employment is a huge challenge for transpeople. GRS generally runs about $20,000, plus or minute a grand. This does not include the cost of the psychiatric and hormonal therapy required under the WPATH Standards of Care.

As far as feelings for customers are concerned, she wanted to use the restroom for its intended purpose. Plain and simple. Nothing lecherous to be had.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...