FARGO - Brianna Cassady, a transgender woman, crisscrosses the country as a truck driver. In her travels, she says she uses women's restrooms around the nation without ever a conflict.
But Cassady, 32, alleges a south Fargo spa discriminated against her this month when she was told to use the men's locker room before her regularly scheduled massage appointment.
"I walked out of the salon in tears," she said.
Cassady works for Direct Transport Companies in West Fargo where she said she feels accepted. "This is who I am," she said. "There are a lot of us (transgender people) out there."
Rebel Marie, president of Tristate Transgender, a support group that meets here monthly, estimates there are hundreds of transgender people in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
"Most trans people navigate through Fargo unscathed," said Marie, a transgender woman living in Fargo. "Most employees and employers accept trans women and let them use the bathroom of their choice. Every now and then, they face a situation like this."
Laws addressing bathroom access for transgender people have drawn debate in recent years, with some states proposing bans and others looking to broaden transgender rights.
North Dakota legislators have largely sidestepped this debate. But some Minnesota lawmakers in 2016 floated a bill that would have required transgender people to use the bathroom of their birth sex. The bill, however, did not pass.
'A misunderstanding and nothing more'
Cassady said she's taking hormone medications and meeting with an endocrinologist at Sanford Health while she awaits surgery to complete her transition to a woman.
Hair Success Salon and Day Spa, 1638 32nd Ave. S., was the first salon Cassady went to when she started her transition a little over two years ago.
On Dec. 4, Cassady went to the salon for a massage, which she's done a half-dozen times, she said. An employee started escorting her to the men's locker room, but she said she told the employee that she is a woman. Cassady claims the employee told her that other women in the locker room may feel "uncomfortable."
Hair Success co-owner Jill Krahn said it was a misunderstanding. Krahn said the employee saw Cassady enter the spa in men's clothing and assumed Cassady was a man. After the employee escorted Cassady to the men's locker room, Cassady "went to the front desk, got mad and said she was a woman and walked out," Krahn said.
The front desk called Krahn to explain what had happened and Krahn said she immediately called Cassady to apologize. Despite this, Cassady canceled her appointment and said she would not consider returning.
"I would feel uncomfortable going in there again," she said.
Cassady said she is reaching out to attorneys to potentially take legal action.
Krahn said Cassady is a regular customer and that the business has many transgender patrons.
"Everybody knows her (Cassady), we all love her," Krahn said. "This has never been an issue before."
Cassady said a similar incident happened once last year with an employee telling her she didn't know what locker room Cassady should use. Krahn said she was unaware of this.
Hair Success is in the process of building a new location "with more privacy features," Krahn said, including unisex bathrooms as well as locker rooms for men and women.
"This is a misunderstanding and nothing more," Krahn said. "We welcome all people."
Rachel Hoffman, chairwoman of the Fargo Human Relations Commission, said the commission is aware that transgender discrimination is happening in the community, but the group has not received a formal complaint related to Cassady or any other transgender person.
Hoffman, however, has invited Cassady to share her story at the next commission meeting, Thursday, Dec. 21.