photo of a woman's legs and on her skin is a transgender symbol tattoo

Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería / flickr (CC by 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

Who gets to decide whether someone’s using the ‘right’ bathroom?

A porn awards show is the last place you’d expect to find security guards kicking people out for wearing the wrong clothes. After all the Adult Video News (AVN) Awards—which took place at Hard Rock Hotel last week in Las Vegas and are known as the Oscars of porn—tend to draw some pretty revealing and outrageous costumes.

But on Tuesday, adult film actress Lorelei Lee told the Daily Dot that she and two friends were kicked out of the AVNs by Hard Rock security after guards followed all three people into a bathroom and started harassing Lee’s gender non-conforming friend (who asked to remain unnamed).

“I was about to go in a stall when I saw a security guard walk in and stand on tiptoes to look over the door of the stall my friend was in,” Lee told the Daily Dot via email Tuesday. “I was shocked, and walked over to try to block the guard from violating my friend’s privacy. I asked the guard, who was cis male, what he was doing. The guard said something like ‘They don’t belong in here,’ referring to my friend.”

At that point, Lee said, another porn performer named Maitresse Madeline came to her defense and also tried to block the security guards from peeping. More guards entered the restroom, claiming that other women were feeling unsafe with the gender non-conforming person using the bathroom—which Lee said was not the case.

“The only person whose safety was threatened was our friend,” said Lee. “At that point they came out of the stall and we all walked out. The security guards followed us out saying we had to leave the awards show. Honestly, we were so upset, we could not have stayed at that point.”

Lee stated that she thought the security guards were following Hard Rock Hotel protocol, not that of the AVN Awards, where “many of us who the world looks down on are actually celebrated.” But she also added that at past AVN ceremonies, she has heard transgender and gender non-conforming attendees complain that they didn’t feel comfortable using the bathrooms because of security guards posted either at the entrances or inside.

The Daily Dot reached out to Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos for comment, and learned that Hard Rock’s Vegas location is operated by a franchisee called Bref HR. A request for comment to the hotel’s marketing director did not receive an immediate response.

Trans porn star Mia Isabella backed up Lee’s account, saying the bathroom was full of trans women at the time of the incident but none were approached by the security guards.

“Funny thing about it all is that I was in the bathroom with at least seven of the industry’s top recognizable trans performers and nobody batted an eyelash at us,” Isabella told the Daily Dot via email Tuesday.

Isabella said she came out of another stall and saw Lee “wide-eyed in tears” with a male security guard standing before her: “She said they were trying to get to her trans friend, asking them to reveal their genitalia as she stood guard not allowing them access.”

For Isabella, who said she chastised the guard and left the bathroom “before realizing the magnitude of what was going on,” the incident was an example of a human rights violation that many trans people endure on a daily basis.

“A trans person… is clearly already dealing with a level of discomfort on their own by trying to, simply and discreetly, do something as innocent as use the restroom like everyone else,” said Isabella. “Think about it, do you ever have to second guess yourself with such a mundane task?”

Both Lee, Madeline, and Isabella all tweeted about the incident. In response, many other members of the porn community joined the online conversation.

The incident occurred around the time that emerging star Venus Lux was being awarded “Transsexual performer of the year.” The Daily Dot profiled Venus Lux at the 2015 Adult Entertainment Expo, porn’s largest fan event, where she said she was rejected from booths run by porn production companies despite being nominated for two AVNs.

In years past, trans porn stars weren’t allowed to walk the red carpet or present awards onstage at AVN. In 2012, a group of trans porn performers held a meeting with AVN to air grievances—and the awards show committee responded by adjusting its guidelines. In a press release after the meeting, the AVN committee declared its commitment to making the awards show more trans-inclusive.

AVN has long recognized the transsexual niche as an important and lucrative market segment and if there was more to be done to support the community, we wanted to hear directly from the performers how we could recognize their efforts on a bigger stage. To that end, AVN agreed to present Transsexual Performer of the Year on stage at future awards shows. St. Jordan, Daly and Williams were correct to point out that this award is the most prestigious given by AVN to transsexual performers, and it wasn’t receiving the same visibility as its male and female equivalents. As for the awards nominations and voting, AVN also agreed to cast its net wider and seek out prominent reviewers and observers of transsexual fare to participate in the process for a more comprehensive review of its performers and movies. Also, AVN will take steps to make sure that transsexual performers are included as presenters in future awards shows, and that more attention is paid to red carpet interviews with TS performers.

But while this has resulted in more awards and visibility, it doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the venues where the awards ceremonies are held—or to the beefy security guards following people into bathrooms.

“It’s appalling to me that my friends can be harassed and have their privacy violated,” said Lee, “Just because someone decided their appearance doesn’t match the world’s gender expectations for them.”

Update 1:50pm CT, Jan. 27: The Daily Dot received the following statement from Hard Rock International: 

“Regarding the alleged incident that occurred last week at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas during the AVN Awards, inquiries should be directed to the property directly. 

By way of background, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas is owned and operated by a unaffiliated third party, BREF HR, LLC, an affiliate of Brookfield Financial, pursuant to a trademark license agreement with Hard Rock International. 

Employees of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas are not employees of Hard Rock International. Hard Rock International does not manage or have any direct involvement in the efforts of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, or its employees.”

Photo via Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería/Flickr (CC by 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

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