GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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February 10, 2010

Transgender club alleges discrimination at Peabody restaurant

PEABODY — Members of a local transgender social club are claiming they were refused entrance into a Peabody restaurant because of their appearance.

Ashley Bottoms, 42, of Saugus is alleging that she and seven others from Sisters Family were not let into Capone's Italian American restaurant on Summit Street because their appearance did not correspond with the photographs on their identifications.

"We feel we're being discriminated against," Bottoms said yesterday.

Bottoms, whose legal name is Robert Knowles, will be before Peabody's Licensing Board on Feb. 22 to submit a complaint against Capone's.

The board will allow Bottoms to be heard, but Chairman Minas Dakos did not know what authority, if any, it had to deal with the allegation.

"I've never run across anything like this," he said.

The city's lawyer could not be reached for an opinion yesterday.

Bottoms founded Sisters Family in 2007 to help individuals new to the transgender community adjust. The group has five chapters in three states, she said.

On Jan. 29, they went to Capone's, which offers live music and charges a $5 cover on Fridays and Saturdays. It was the group's fourth or fifth trip to the restaurant, Bottoms said.

The first visit passed without incident, she said. On the second visit, someone from the restaurant expressed concern about the club members' attire, including Bottoms' miniskirt, Bottoms said. When they returned for a subsequent visit, the group was asked to use the men's bathroom, a request members reluctantly agreed to, according to Bottoms.

"We thought that was the end of it," she said.

But on the night in question, eight members of Sisters Family, including one the state recognizes as a female, were not allowed into Capone's, Bottoms said. Two men working the door between 10:30 and 11 p.m. asked that they show photo identification that matched their appearance, she said.

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