Upstate transgender woman’s experience raises questions about bathroom accommodations

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BOILING SPRINGS, S.C. (WSPA) – A transgender woman says she was asked by the manager of a local restaurant to use the men’s bathroom.

In 2016 and 2017, South Carolina lawmakers introduced a Bathroom Bill that failed both times. The U.S. Supreme Court has also not made a ruling.

“I’ve always known all my life, that I was a woman inside,” Drew Jarrell said.

Jarrell made the decision to transition five years ago.

“My clients, friends and family… however they react is however they react. I felt like I had to be myself. It was either suicide or be myself,” Jarrell told 7News.

She says she faced many challenges adjusting to a new life.

“What am I supposed to do for the bathroom,” she said.

Jarrell found answers and comfort through a local group known as Gender Benders.

“[They told me] just go into the women’s bathroom,” Jarrell said.

On Thursday, Jarrell says she went to one of her favorite restaurants in Boiling Springs. On her way out of the bathroom, she was stopped by a manager.

“He had told me that I was to use the bathroom in the way I was born,” she said.

Right before leaving, she used the women’s bathroom again. That’s when she says deputies were called to the restaurant.

“It was humiliating,” she said.

Jarrell shared video of a manager explaining she has to use the men’s bathroom. In the video, the manager says it’s the law in South Carolina.

7News asked Greenville attorney John Reckenbeil what the law is in this case.

“Right now, we don’t have any public accommodation laws for the state of South Carolina that deals with transgender individuals,” Reckenbeil said. “So realistically it’s up to the business owner at this point in time.”

“What happened to Drew is a perfect example of why legal protection in public accommodations and nondiscrimination policies are so critical for us,” said Ivy Hill, executive director of Gender Benders.

Jarrell says she wants to use her experience to educate not to promote hate.

7News reached out to the restaurant for comment. At this time, we have not heard back.

Reckenbeil says the Supreme Court could make a ruling on the bathroom rights of transgender individuals as early as next year.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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