Facebook post by metro bar owner sparks gender identity conversation

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- A national discussion about transgender rights is in the spotlight, specifically when it comes to bathrooms. Locally, a debate ignited concerning restrooms at an Omaha night club. It was a post to Facebook by the owner of The Hive that caught people's attention.

WOWT 6 News sat down with six trans people to discuss what they believe are the issues they deal with every day. WOWT 6 News also met with the original post's author Jake Gardner who says he's learned a lot from this whole ordeal.

"Equality, freedom, unity that's where I'd like to see this go. I know that my post was divisive and incendiary, but I think that it started quite a conversation," said Gardner.

A unisex bathroom was already a construction project for The Hive as Gardner sent out a post expressing his opinion on the matter. In it he took a stand that only anatomical women belong in the women's bathroom.

"I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to backtrack," he told WOWT 6 News. "I think that the point of the post was that we've got to hem up those loopholes. We've got to actually sit down and talk about this and figure out what's the healthiest thing."

In the digital age it's so easy for transgendered people to feel like they have targets on their backs. Comments flooded in below Gardner’s post. Some of the recent comments included one man threatening to using violence if the bathroom situation involved his children.

Eris Koleszar is a trans woman who lives in the metro. She said she’s seen the comments.

“Is this person so far and extreme in their beliefs that they're willing to beat them into me with their fists? And it only takes meeting one of those people to put you in the hospital or put you in your grave,” she said.

"I was angry about the aspect that he had to bring children into it. As a mother my kids are not anymore in danger of going to the restroom, the same one as a transgender person as they are anybody else," said Dannielle Swope, who identifies as gender fluid.

Gardner says he's learned a lot from all of this. He followed up with a new post and tells WOWT 6 News that he regrets the way his original message was worded and the way the comments became what he called, “nasty.”

"I'm not sure where, even my heart is. I'm just trying to do the right thing for everybody and make sure that everybody's safe, healthy, happy and doesn't feel alienated," Gardner said.

Everyone involved agreed this has opened up the conversation about gender identity. Watch extended interviews and discussion on these topics above. WOWT 6 News spoke with many in the metro trans community about real life experiences of being excluded or threats of violence.

Gardner says anyone can use the bathrooms of their choosing at The Hive

The third unisex restroom will be an option for anyone who feels uncomfortable in the traditional men's or women's rooms.