Last week, a bouncer at the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots believed to have kick-started the modern LGBTQ rights movement, denied entry to a blind person with a guide dog.
Lynn Zelvin, who is queer and uses they/them pronouns, tried to enter the bar with two friends last Friday night. When a bouncer asked to see a “card” proving their dog’s legitimacy as a service animal, they balked, explaining that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits guide dogs to be allowed in public spaces—and that there is no “card” to show.
This went on for 20 minutes, reports Them, and 10 of those minutes were caught on camera.
The video sees Zelvin try to explain the ADA’s regulations to Stonewall’s staff, to no avail. “This is my life,” they say, their voice heavy and dejected. “Welcome to my life… [this happens] everywhere.”
After the incident, Zelvin told Them that they feel “numb and a little bit sad” about being refused entry, especially at one of the queer community’s most iconic and historic spaces. (In the past, they were admitted into Stonewall by a different bouncer with no issues, they recalled.)
“I felt really bad for my friends who couldn’t go in, because it felt like I’m the person in the group who is keeping everyone from having a good time,” Zelvin added. “They didn’t feel like that, but that’s how I felt, like I’m this walking problem. I feel really sad in general that I don’t have a place in a community that I should be a part of and have been a part of my whole adult life.”
In a statement to Them, the inn’s co-owner, Stacy Lentz, said that the staff is taking steps to make sure this never happens again: “We will insist that everyone affiliated with Stonewall understands the laws regarding service dogs.”
However, news of Zelvin’s mistreatment has hit the beloved spot hard. A number of reviewers on Stonewall’s Facebook page have called out the inn for not knowing ADA protections and illegally refusing entry to a disabled person.
Zelvin says they’ve encountered treatment like this before at other supposedly inclusive spaces, including New York’s Callen-Lorde LGBTQ healthcare clinic. It’s just one example of ableist bias within the LGBTQ community.