When Caitlyn Jenner publicly transitioned in 2015, she helped push transgender rights into the national consciousness. Now a restaurant in Allen, Texas, is using her experience as a gag — and many people aren’t laughing.
Dodie’s Place Cajun Bar & Grill shared photos of its weekly specials and new bathroom doors in a Facebook post in mid-August, and now it’s going viral. Jenner’s famous July 2015 Vanity Fair cover, which marks the first time she publicly revealed herself as Caitlyn, is splashed across the door of the women’s bathroom. The men’s bathroom door, meanwhile, is covered in a photo of Bruce Jenner at the 1976 Olympics. “Come meet our newest members of the Dodie’s crew, Caitlyn & Bruce! Stop in for our weekly specials, served all day!” the Facebook caption reads.
Reaction was mixed. About half of commenters thought the new doors were hilarious. “This is awesome! Funniest thing I’ve seen in a while!” one person wrote. “Ha! Ha! Love it!” another said. But the other half wasn’t amused. “That’s disgusting, I’d have to leave so I could use the restroom somewhere else,” one person wrote. “I hope Caitlyn comes and rips this place apart,” someone else said. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It would be different if you were showing your support of the LGBTQ community,” noted another.
Dodie’s Place responded to the controversy via a statement on Facebook on Thursday. “First and foremost, our intention was not to make fun of or offend anyone when we installed the pictures of Bruce and Caitlyn on our bathroom doors,” the statement read. “It was merely a lighthearted gesture to push back against the political correctness that seems to have a stranglehold on this country right now. We believe that political correctness has done more to silence rather than encourage important discussions that our society probably needs to have. Based on the mind-boggling feedback, both positive and negative, people are having that discussion.”
“However,” the statement continues, “name calling and words like transphobic, deviant, racist, homophobic, bigot, etc. serve nothing but to continue to divide us instead of uniting us. After all, we are all part of the same race — the human race. Surely, we can discuss this topic and many others without slapping hurtful labels on each other. Please know that we are here to discuss this and move forward as a community. Everyone is welcome here.” The debate continued in the comments of this new post as well.
Dodie’s Place isn’t the first establishment to do this — Nickel Bar in West L.A. also used Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair cover on the door of the women’s room, and a Bruce Jenner Wheaties box image on the door of the men’s room upon opening in 2016. (A Nickel Bar employee told Yahoo Lifestyle on Friday that the restaurant had “no comment” on the bathroom artwork.)
Though some people think the doors are funny, “there is nothing ‘lighthearted’ about this,” MJ Okma, a spokesperson for GLAAD, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “These signs feed into dangerous myths and false stereotypes used to suggest that trans identity is somehow invalid.”
The doors show “disrespect” for bathroom bills, which have attempted to restrict which restrooms transgender people can use, Okma says. “Transgender people, especially trans women, confront everything from harassment to physical violence for merely using the correct restroom.”
Using before and after shots of Caitlyn is also concerning, says Liz Owen, director of communications for PFLAG National, the nation’s largest organization uniting LGBTQ people, their families, and allies. “Sharing pre-transition images of any transgender person is mean-spirited and potentially damaging,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s especially cruel at a time when our trans loved ones’ rights and lives are under attack on all fronts — from small local businesses, to county school districts and state legislatures, all the way up to the highest offices of the land. Fighting for our families isn’t about political correctness, it’s about survival.”
When reached for comment, a Dodie’s Place employee tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the future of the restaurant’s bathroom doors are uncertain. “The attorneys are working that out now,” he says.