Gay attorney, trans friend told to leave Paris eatery
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For attorney David Waggoner, a former co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, last weekend was going to be fun and relaxing with his close friend, Aimar Sahae. Currently traveling across Europe together, the pair went on Saturday to La Chope Des Puces, a popular bar and restaurant in Paris. Their visit ended with harsh words exchanged between Waggoner, Sahae, and restaurant management.
Waggoner, 42, is a queer-identified cisgender man. Sahae, who declined to give her age, is a queer transgender woman.
"The restaurant is a famous place for jazz guitar," Waggoner told the Bay Area Reporter via email from Paris. "We both love jazz and it was highly recommended to us by a local."
Waggoner said that he and Sahae had enjoyed the company of a French family they met while having food and drinks. They eventually moved toward the front of the restaurant to be closer to the music, which is when things took an ugly turn.
"We were enjoying the music and occasionally sharing a kiss every five or 10 minutes," Waggoner recalled. "We were not passionately making out. A woman began to ask Aimar if she is a man or woman and asked her why we were kissing. She then pulled on Aimar's hair to see if it was real – Aimar has long hair. Meanwhile, the man who was with her started shaking his head in disgust at us. He then kicked Aimar's chair."
Waggoner admitted that he became irate at this point. He said that a staff member noticed the tension and asked Waggoner and Sahae to move to another table, which they refused to do.
"When I refused to move – as we had done nothing wrong and in fact were being harassed – the staff person told us to leave," Waggoner said. "I was disgusted that the individuals who had assaulted Aimar were not asked to leave or move. Feeling thoroughly outraged, we left."
Waggoner said that he cried afterward.
"Aimar had been getting stared at and misgendered almost everywhere we went so this experience was especially upsetting," he said. "Also, because this is a very bohemian place in Paris, I was flabbergasted. The other patrons assaulted Aimar and used hate speech against us but we were treated by the staff as the problem."
The B.A.R. contacted La Chope Des Puces via Facebook Messenger. A staff member who did not identify themselves by name, gender, or title responded in French. The B.A.R. used Google Translate to translate the quotes.
The restaurant staff said that seeing such behavior in front of the musicians and other guests, they asked Waggoner and Sahae to move to another table.
"It became very aggressive," the person stated. "Other guests can attest to the diplomacy I had towards them. Many homosexuals frequent my establishment and I also hosted the wedding of my best friend, who is gay."
Sahae offered her own version of how the evening transpired.
"I feel angry and a little sad," she said in an email sent from her hotel room in Paris, which was translated from Spanish by Waggoner. "The fact is that for non-binary trans people like me it is a constant job to deal with the prejudice, assumptions, and ignorance of cis people. The problem got started with the woman who kept laughing at us, calling me [a] whore and making fun of us to my face. The best thing we could do was to continue listening to the music. A few minutes passed until she pulled my hair and the man next to her kicked my chair because we kissed each other. The owner of the place arrived and told us the only thing we could do was to change places. David started yelling because, of course, he was angry."
Sahae said that she has no regrets about the anger Waggoner expressed before they left the restaurant.
"After all that happened I am happy that we were visible and didn't hide who we are or feel any shame," she said.
The B.A.R. was contacted via Facebook by restaurant employee Sylvie Lacombe. Facebook's Translate app translated her quotes, in which she said that no one was thrown out of the restaurant.
Lacombe feels that Waggoner had too much to drink and began screaming because he was drunk.
Waggoner said that he had three drinks, but added that he was in full control of himself and remembers everything clearly.
Lacombe said that the owner is a nice man and that all are welcome at La Chope Des Puces, including LGBT people.
Waggoner said that he doesn't believe this.
"What happened to us is yet another reminder that trans women of color are not safe from being attacked with words and violence on any place on this planet," he said. "Trans rights are human rights and the broader queer community must center the lives of trans women of color until this kind of hate will no longer be tolerated anywhere."