Transgender woman settles out of court after being refused service in a pub

Sonia Kolasinska was told to leave Madigan’s bar on O’Connell Street

Sonia Kolasinska who has reached a settlement with the owners of Madigan’s bar in O’Connell Street after she was refused service there last summer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Sonia Kolasinska who has reached a settlement with the owners of Madigan’s bar in O’Connell Street after she was refused service there last summer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A transgender woman who was asked to leave a Dublin bar last year has received an out-of-court settlement and an apology from its owners.

Sonia Kolasinska (39), a software engineer, had been attending a political meeting at the Gresham Hotel on separating church and State last August 25th, during Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland.

Afterwards, she and friends decided to go for drinks in Madigan’s bar, next to the hotel.

“We could see about 20 people from the meeting already in the pub. The doorman said, ‘It’s a booking-only night.’”

I had been having a nice night and then suddenly this person comes and makes me sad, telling me I cannot be with my friends

“I said, ‘Okay, the organisers must have booked a space because I can see my friends’ and I walked in.”

She had not yet ordered a drink when the security guard approached her, telling her she had to leave.

“I told my friends and they asked why. They started arguing with the guy. I heard the bouncer talking to them and I just overheard ‘trans’ and ‘this trans person’.

“I had been having a nice night and then suddenly this person comes and makes me sad, telling me I cannot be with my friends. I was stopping myself crying. It was so humiliating and it was like my whole world broke. I realised this is what it feels like to be discriminated against.”

Kolasinska, who came out two years ago, has never been denied service in a shop or bar before.

Contacting solicitors

In the end she and her friends were able to stay. They had one drink “to make our point” but went then to a different bar where she knew she would be welcome. She wanted to do something about what happened however and approached a number of solicitors who, she says, would not take her case.

“I don’t know why. One said the costs would be more than any compensation. I asked a friend to recommend a lawyer and he told me about Gary Daly solicitors. Gary wrote to the owners of Madigan’s, Alabaster Associates. I signed the settlement in January and they published an apology in Gay Community News this month.”

I want people to know about this case. Companies must be more diligent about how they treat people

The apology says: “On behalf of Alabaster Associates Limited and its directors, we wish to sincerely and unreservedly apologise to Sonia Kolasinska, a transgender woman, who was subjected to discrimination and humiliation by a third-party security contractor at our venue on the 25th August. The actions of this contractor do not reflect the values of our company and our employees.”

Though happy with the settlement Ms Kolasinska is disappointed the apology was published only in an LGBTI community publication and not a national newspaper.

She has not experienced verbal or physical abuse as a transgender woman, and this was her first experience of discrimination. But she has felt people staring at her, heard comments, all making her feel “unpleasant”.

“I want people to know about this case. Companies must be more diligent about how they treat people. The important thing is not Madigan’s, or me or my community. The important thing is everyone else, knowing we exist and we have feelings.”

Alabaster Associates did not return calls from The Irish Times.