WILMINGTON –– A Wilmington father said his 15-year-old transgender son was yelled and laughed at by a contracted employee of Live Nation when he entered the men’s bathroom during a Lady A concert Thursday evening at Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park.
In a statement, a Live Nation general manager said the company was looking into the incident.
“All fans should be treated equally, and we are investigating this matter,” Ryan Belcher wrote in an email Monday morning. “Fans are free to use whichever restroom they prefer, and currently about 70% of the venue’s restrooms are gender neutral.”
The company did not address questions inquiring about employee or contractor training or whether there was a disciplinary response.
The father, whose identity Port City Daily verified but agreed to keep anonymous, said his son looked defeated as he returned from the bathroom at the concert. “I just knew something was up,” he said.
In the crowded men’s room, the teen was told, “You don’t belong in here,” the father said. “And the guy said, ‘Girls don’t belong in this bathroom.’ And that’s when it drew all the attention to him from other concertgoers that were in the men’s room.”
The bathroom attendant laughed and pointed at the young teen, the father said. Other concertgoers in the bathroom joined in, he said. “As a parent, my first thing was, well I’m gonna go find this guy,” he said. “But, you know, that wouldn’t have served anything.”
Later on, his son realized he forgot his phone in the restroom during the commotion, so they both went to retrieve it. The father saw the attendant wearing a red Live Nation shirt manning the bathroom with a small fan, candy, and a chair, herding concertgoers in and out of stalls. Accessing the bathroom was “like a cattle chute” given the crowds, the father said –– “he may have just been yelling because of how loud it was.”
Other than the one bathroom attendant, the father was clear the Live Nation employees he encountered at the show were respectful: “All the other employees are absolutely wonderful. Everybody was courteous at the concert. We had no issues with anybody in the crowd.”
After the concert, the father shared his experience on an area LGBT Facebook group. Overwhelmingly he said the response has been: “They need training. This shouldn’t happen.”
He hopes the matter, while traumatizing for his son, can be examined to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. “He’s a very confident person, but, of course, you could see how it basically took the wind out of his sails that night,” he said.
A city parks and recreation representative apologized to him for the encounter, he said. A city spokesperson said staff are reviewing the incident; Wilmington has a management contract in place with Live Nation for the city-owned venue.
“The city takes allegations like these very seriously and is committed to creating a welcoming, inclusive place where all people feel valued,” the spokesperson wrote in an email Monday morning. “Staff are actively looking into this incident and will provide a more detailed update when possible.”
Last month, Wilmington City Council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that forbids the denial of public accommodations based on a number of factors, including gender identity.
Charlotte City Council passed a similar ordinance in 2016 with a specific provision to protect transgender residents while using public restrooms that coincided with their gender identity. State lawmakers quickly retaliated with the infamous House Bill 2, which led to boycotts and millions in lost economic development opportunities for the state.
A moratorium on local nondiscrimination ordinances imposed through the law’s compromise replacement bill passed under Gov. Roy Cooper expired in December 2020.
If a violation occurs under the city’s new ordinance, the city manager can issue an initial written warning of the misdemeanor infraction. Upon the second infringement, a violator can be fined $200, then $500 by the third, and $1,000 by the fourth; after the fourth violation, the city may continue to impose fines and possibly issue an injunction against any business with a continued pattern of discrimination.
The ordinance passed despite the opposition of the city’s own appointed community relations advisory committee. “We recommend more meaningful consequences for civil violation of the ordinance,” the CRAC wrote in an August letter to council.
Likewise, the LGBT Center of the Cape Fear Coast argued the proposed iteration left the community vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.
Saturday morning, the father said a local Live Nation manager reached out to apologize after being made aware of his social media post. The attendant was a contractor with a cleaning company, the father was told, but the manager still took full responsibility and told him he would address it immediately.
The Lady A show was the father’s second time at the new venue, and he has tickets for his third to see Chicago later this month.
“I am really pleased with the response from Live Nation,” he said. “They really stood up and took quick responsibility.”
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