Genderqueer Student Refused Service At Whataburger

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

As a native of Texas, Whataburger holds a special place in my heart. The burger chain was founded in my hometown, and endless nights spent drinking milkshakes there with friends pretty much defined my high school experience. Which is why this video posted on Twitter over the weekend is especially disappointing: it allegedly shows Whataburger refusing service to a genderqueer student.

Tyler Grant is a student at University of Texas in Austin and identifies as genderqueer. At approximately 1AM on April 11, Grant and a friend reportedly attempted to go to a Whataburger near the university and were allegedly refused service because of Grant’s clothing. Grant recounts the episode in a Facebook post:

So Justin and I went to Whataburger and I'm in drag. I was holding my heels in my hand and the officer outside Whataburger said I had to put my shoes on so I complied. Then he said 'wait, are you a dude?' And I replied 'that's not a very nice question to ask.' Then he replied 'you can't go in there like that.' And he asked the manager and they refused to let me in.

Grant’s friend, Justin Owens, recorded part of the incident and posted the video to Twitter. The video shows an officer coming out of the restaurant saying, “No....You can’t wear it in here,” ostensibly referring to Grant’s clothing (a short dress and stockings); Grant assures him, “I’m wearing like five layers of pantyhose. Nothing is going to fall out,” to which the Whataburger manager replies, “Sorry, it’s just the rules.”

On Monday, Whataburger Corporate Communications released a statement, saying

Whataburger is committed to providing the best possible experience for all our customers. However, we don't allow customers into our restaurants who are wearing inappropriately revealing clothing. We want all our customers to feel comfortable dining with us."

Grant disputes the idea that he was inappropriately dressed, telling The Horn,

What I was wearing was not anymore revealing than yoga pants. It’s just because I was wearing lingerie on top of it, but you still can’t see any skin below the area above my nipples and down.

As Grant describes the events, it seems unlikely that overly revealing clothing was really was the issue at stake, as the trouble, by Grant's account, only began when the officer became aware of Grant’s gender non-conformity, allegedly asking, “Wait, are you a dude?” In his tweet about the incident, Grant initially identified the officer as a member of the Austin Police Department, but later identified him as an employee of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Tom Vinger, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, has told The Horn that “the officer was not on duty and was working secondary employment” when the episode at Whataburger occurred.

Grant hopes to use this incident to prevent others from having similar experiences. In an email to The Daily Dot, Grant wrote,

I hope this brings awareness to identities outside the gender binary and to gender nonconforming people. I would like a full apology from Whataburger and the cop, and a promise that something like this won't happen again.

Grant (who prefers they/them pronouns) is no stranger to advocating for social equality; on their Twitter profile, Grant is a self-described “very outspoken UT student. 3rd year public health major. Feminist, activist, annoying SJW [Social Justice Warrior].”

Image: Terry Ross/Flickr