A transgender woman was prevented from entering the Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Virginia, because a security guard at the gate considered her skirt to be a costume.
The woman, who went to the park's Halloween event, Howl-o-Scream, with her girlfriend, was denied when a security guard saw her long skirt and told her she was wearing a costume and costumes were not allowed inside the park, according to WTVR.
"He very slowly looked her up and down, shook his head, and was like, 'You can't come in here because you are wearing a costume,'" said Bria Gibson, the woman's girlfriend. "After saying, 'What costume do you think she's wearing?' he completely ignored us and shooed us away and nothing more to say on the subject and there was nothing more we could do about it."
Employees at guest relations were more sympathetic, but still insisted that Gibson's girlfriend would have to change.
So the couple swapped clothing.
Gibson put on her girlfriend's long skirt and her girlfriend put on the shorts Gibson had been wearing. Dressed in each other's clothes, the couple had no problem entering the park.
"Even though [the skirt] looked more ridiculous with what I was wearing," Gibson told WTVR. "There's just no reason for them to do something like that to a couple of people who just wanted to hang out and have fun at the park."
In a statement, Busch Gardens said it welcomes transgender people in its parks and the guard was wrong to consider the skirt a costume:
We are committed to providing an enjoyable experience for all guests. We respect the rights of people to dress as the gender with which they identify and in a way that enables them and others to safely experience our parks.
Unfortunately, we misapplied the park's policy of not allowing costumes in the park. We will take steps to evaluate future application of this policy. We have been in contact with the guests and have invited them to visit again soon.
Gibson told WTVR the park had contacted them and she might go back in the future, but the incident had caused great pain to her girlfriend.
"I had to comfort her. She was going to cry over this. It's basically saying your identity isn't real," Gibson said.
In its 2011 Buying for Workplace Equality Guide, the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, highly rated Busch Gardens on its approach to equal rights for LGBTQ workers.