BY SLADE VAN ROOYEN
For many students, Dorp Bar on Andringa Street is a convenient place to socialise over a drink after class. This was the intention of BAHons Journalism student Giuseppe Guerandi, who identifies as non-binary, before things went awry and they allegedly found themselves “[thrown] out” of the bar after having entered the women’s bathroom.
The incident, which Guerandi described as “discriminatory” and “violating”, allegedly took place on the evening of Friday 22 October. Three of Guerandi’s friends, one of whom accompanied them into the women’s bathroom, were present when Guerandi was removed from the premises.
“When I go out in public … I always use the girls’ bathroom. That’s a common practice for me and my friends. That’s just what we do,” said Guerandi, who explained that they never enter a women’s bathroom without the company of a female friend. “I’ve been like this long enough to know how to navigate [these situations].”
Guerandi recounted how, during their second visit to the women’s bathroom that evening, they heard “aggressive and loud” knocking on their bathroom stall door. “I unlatch the door … [and] it’s the bouncer … [who] grabs me by the arm and starts dragging my body out [of the establishment]”. They explained to Die Matie how their friend attempted to inform the bouncer of the situation, but that the bouncer was “having absolutely none of it”. An eyewitness and member of Guerandi’s party, who chose to remain anonymous, confirmed seeing Guerandi “being dragged out [of the bathroom] by the bouncer”.
Around the same time that the bouncer in question left the scene to call the manager, another bouncer allegedly “got very threatening” and responded to a staff member’s questioning of their co-worker’s conduct by saying, “No, it’s a man”.
Guerandi lamented, “By then, I felt absolutely defeated.” After profuse apologies from the manager, Guerandi was allowed back inside, where they went on to use the women’s bathroom, and left shortly thereafter.
According to a co-owner of Dorp, Marcus Oosthuizen, Guerandi—whom Oosthuizen describes as a “male individual”—was “warned” by the security staff not to enter the women’s bathroom, and was “removed by [their] security and asked to exit the premises”, as they “chose to ignore” the warning. Guerandi claimed that no such warning was issued. Oosthuizen went on to say that “no force was necessary” to remove Guerandi, who expressed indignation at the fact that Oosthuizen did not regard the way in which they were treated as forceful.
Oosthuizen argued that the decision to “divide [their] toilets into sex and not gender” is “due to the nature of gender-based violence in South Africa”. When asked whether the bouncer on duty that evening was acting within the authority conferred on him by management, Oosthuizen stated, “the directive from management is for all personnel working for Dorp to keep our patrons [safe]. That includes keeping male individuals [sic] from entering our female toilets.” He continued to say, “We cannot know what the intentions are of a male individual [sic] entering the female toilets. … Our rules are in place to protect our customers against potential predators.”
Guerandi rejected Dorp’s rationale, alleging that the bar was “using something as serious as GBV as a front for what [was] in and of itself an act of GBV.” They alleged, “It’s a gender-violent act that they committed against me,” and continued by stating, “We don’t pose a threat to women, or any other gender for that matter, by virtue of our non-binarism or genderqueerness. … I know what it’s like to feel unsafe around men; hence, I use the women’s bathroom when there is not a gender-neutral option for me.”
A member of the Anti-GBV Movement SU (who chose to remain anonymous) echoed Guerandi’s sentiments, stating, “If you don’t have that neutral space … why on earth would you ask [non-binary people] to [use the men’s] bathroom that is filled with those same misogynistic people you are afraid for women to engage with? … You’re forcing queer bodies and non-binary people into that space for the exact same reason that you would not let women into that space.”
Guerandi alleged that women have never expressed discomfort around them when they have used the women’s bathroom in the past. “The only response I get from women when I go to these bathrooms is support [and] love… Women were the first people to come to me in that bathroom to console me [after the incident].” They contended that “the only act of gender violence here was a genderqueer person’s body being dragged out of the establishment”.
Despite the incident, Oosthuizen maintains that Dorp “[welcomes] all humans and [tries] to accommodate every individual”. He stated that QueerUS, which had allegedly made a reservation to host their year-end function at the bar prior to the incident, cancelled their booking “without any consultation or opportunity to discuss the incident”, and that Guerandi’s party “by their own [admission] were regular customers of Dorp” before the events in question transpired. Guerandi’s friend, who witnessed the incident but chose to remain anonymous, confirmed that they had received “great service at Dorp” on previous occasions, and described the way in which Guerandi was treated as “quite disappointing”.
Oosthuizen further alleged that the bar’s management have, in reference to a letter of complaint drafted by those close to Guerandi, “been bullied and inundated with copy-and-paste emails sent by 50+ individuals”. The letter describes the conduct of the bouncer in question as “insidious and transphobic”, and “demands” that Dorp’s management issue a public apology for their staff’s behaviour or face “legal action”. Oosthuizen responded by saying, “We see [this course of action] as a missed opportunity to engage in a positive manner.”
Like Oosthuizen, Guerandi views the incident as an opportunity for meaningful engagement. They intend to use what happened as “a springboard for … very important conversations,” saying, “I’m not the only genderqueer person in this town. I’m not the only genderqueer person who needs to use bathrooms that are not designated for them by the rest of the world to feel safe.”
Guerandi is of the opinion that establishments in Stellenbosch should prioritise the provision of gender-neutral bathroom facilities, or should alternatively make a third bathroom option available for patrons who do not conform to the gender binary. In addition, they believe that bar and restaurant staff should be informed as to the appropriate manner to deal with situations such as that which they experienced. “If [they] have no idea of what the world looks like outside the gender binary, then that’s an institutional problem,” said Guerandi.
They contended that “this entire town needs an upheaval of its understanding of gender”. This may prove difficult to achieve, with Oosthuizen maintaining that “unfortunately, due to the GBV situation in South Africa, [they] plan to keep [their] toilets divided by sex and not gender”. Guerandi is undeterred, stating that they “even had strangers come to [them] in public” to express their support. “That’s … social change that I love to see.”