Op-ed: Impellizzeri’s Pizza hosts anti-trans event, perpetuating anti-trans stigma and violence 

Editor’s Note: Comments were requested from both Kelly Craft and Impellizzeri’s Pizza, but neither responded. A request for the police report has been submitted the the Middletown Police Department. We will add to the story as soon as it is available.

On Monday April 10th, a Black trans man from Louisville’s West End, Alexander Griggs, went to Impellizzeri’s Pizza on Blankenbaker Rd. He wasn’t going for the pizza, however, but to converse with two of Kentucky’s most popular transphobes: Kelly Craft and Riley Gaines.

Craft, a republican running for Kentucky governor, organized the event, one of several “meet-and-greets” featuring Gaines, the anti-trans activist and competitive swimmer who became internet-famous after she was allegedly assaulted by trans rights activists. Craft has been extremely vocal in her support of Gaines, describing the athlete as “one of the most fearless women in America, standing up to the radical Left’s agenda to push biological men in girls’ sports.” 

Griggs was accompanied to the event by Maddie Spalding. Like Griggs, Spalding is well known in the community for her trans activism and advocacy. We knew that we were going up against deep biases,” said Griggs. “But we hoped that meeting some real life trans people would at least open someone’s mind, or plant a seed.” 

As Griggs and Spalding approached the restaurant’s bar area, where the event was taking place, a woman holding a tablet asked for their names. When Spalding responded that they hadn’t registered, Griggs noticed a change in the woman’s demeanor. 

“Her facial expression changed and I felt the energy shift,” he said. 

At that moment Spalding received a call, and she and Griggs excused themselves so she could answer it. They lingered near the door until Gaines rose to speak. As they rejoined the crowd, Griggs noticed security, the four tall white bald men in suits, easily over 300 lbs each, were now watching them closely. 

When Gaines finished speaking, Griggs and Spalding made their way through the crowd to join the line for the meet-and-greet. This, according to Griggs, is when things started getting weird. 

“The woman with the tablet cut in line in front of us. Then one of the guys in the suits got in line behind us.” 

When it was their turn to meet Craft, the woman with the tablet wouldn’t let them pass, in Spalding’s words, “using her body as an obstacle at every turn.” Finally Spalding pushed past her, and when Griggs tried to follow Spalding’s lead, the woman grabbed his forearms. 

“I started to yell ‘get your hands off me!” said Griggs. 

He added that the woman then dropped Griggs’s arms, allegedly saying “You’re on me! You’re in my face!’ 

When Griggs took his phone out to start recording, the security guard allegedly said “We’re not doing this today” and snatched the phone from his hand. Griggs snatched the phone back, and he said the next thing he knew two men in suits were dragging him, by either arm, toward the door. Griggs resisted, digging his heels into the floor. 

“They dragged me about ten feet to the wall separating the bar and the restaurant. The man in the blue suit slammed me up against the wall, with my face to the wall. He held me against the wall, and was yelling for me to calm down. I kept screaming at him to let me go. As they held me against the wall, I feared for my life.” 

Griggs said he wasn’t sure how long he was held there, but when the man finally released him from the hold, he remained trapped against the wall for several more minutes. 

“We were facing each other. There was less than a foot of space between our bodies,” said Griggs. 

With his hands now free, Griggs attempted to take a picture of the man’s face, but the man blocked the camera with his hand. 

“Okay she’s done, get out,” said the man when Spalding returned. Spalding, who is partially deaf, was unable to hear Griggs screaming her name. 

Before they left, Spalding asked to speak to the manager.

“I was just slammed against a wall. Do you condone your patrons being treated this way?” Griggs said to the employee who identified themself as the manager. 

“I don’t know, I didn’t hear anything, I was in the bathroom,” they allegedly said, before going to retrieve the General Manager. 

“They did nothing to acknowledge the harm this event caused, framing the event as a ‘both sides’ issue,” said Spalding. “They [also never] took responsibility for the physical harm Alex endured on their premises.” 

When Spalding asked for an incident report, the GM allegedly replied that they didn’t have one. 

“So if someone falls in your parking lot you don’t have them report it?” Spalding asked. 

“Of course we do,” said the GM. 

“Okay, give me that.” 

The GM refused, saying that Griggs “could report it to the police, who are right outside.” 

When Griggs conveyed that he felt unsafe doing that as a Black trans man in Middletown, he still refused to provide the incident report form. 

Griggs and Spalding left on their own accord. Outside, they saw the police cars, which they said had not been there when they arrived late to the event. Spalding walked Griggs to his car, and he drove her to hers. 

“We were both scared,” he said.

A third trans person, and former-Impellizzeri’s patron, Carmen Lee, was also in attendance. Afterward, Lee called upon the people in her circles to call the restaurant and voice their disapproval. According to Lee, most of the individuals who did were hung up on. When Lee called and pretended to be a supporter, they didn’t hang up on her. Listen to Lee share her experience here.

*

The next day, some of Griggs’s friends supported him in filing a police report. Griggs’s friend Heather, who accompanied him to the Middletown Police Station, described the atmosphere. 

“It became blatantly obvious that my entire purpose there was as a white person, for you to be shown respect and listened to and heard. [The officer] definitely addressed all of his questions to me, and even looked at me while Alex was talking, as if to confirm or check with me. The way a doctor would talk to me if my kid was the patient.”

“I’m not sleeping very well.” said Griggs. “I’m having nightmares about being grabbed. My physical injuries were superficial, but the emotional ones…those are pretty deep. I’m seeking therapy for that, for the constant anxiety. I’m behind on my homework, and I’m worried about this jeopardizing my scholarship if I can’t get a hold of my focus.” 

Griggs is working on his Doctorate in Psychology from National University, with a concentration in gender and sexual fluidity. 

“Whether or not they perceived me as trans, they definitely knew I was Black, and they treated me a lot differently than they treated Maddie. They only stood in front of her. They grabbed me. Nobody shoved her or held her against the wall. And outside one of the cashiers, I didn’t see any Black people in the room at all. This was most definitely hate.” 

Griggs said he wants the trans community to know that, despite the trauma he endured, he’s not giving up. 

“I won’t stop fighting for the rights of gender expansive people until there is no more need for TDOR.” 

TDOR, or Trans Day Of Remembrance, is a day where we remember all of the community members we have lost to anti-trans violence. 

*

Griggs’s statement is profound, both in its formulation (“until there is no more need for TDOR”) and in its unwavering commitment to the struggle. It also raises an important question, one that I think we would all do well to reflect on. Namely: Who is responsible—who is to blame—for these countless acts of violence?

Kelly Craft, the security guards, the managers on duty, the restaurant: each of these parties undoubtedly caused harm. In Griggs’s words: “A trans person was assaulted right in front of [Craft], and she did absolutely nothing to stop it. I personally don’t want a governor that is going to sit there and watch somebody get assaulted.” 

Of course, Craft was no mere bystander. The ability to shape policy and public opinion is one of the greatest forms of power on earth, and not only does Craft have access to this power, she is using it to torture and abuse trans people. I hope her actions cost her the election. 

What are their consequences? And how do we make sure that the right people feel the weight of them? And above all: how do we make sure that anti-trans laws don’t continue being passed, and that what happened to Griggs doesn’t continue to happen? Smear campaigns and boycotts are good lessons for oppressors and cathartic forms of revenge for the oppressed. But smear campaigns require a lot of resources (that oppressed people don’t have) and boycotts often inflict harm on the innocent, in the form of pay cuts and terminations. 

Another problem with these responses is that they only treat the symptom, not the sickness. That sickness, capitalism, runs deeper than the single issues that divide most Americans. It’s the reason Republicans make anti-trans laws and why Democrats make laws that are just “a little” anti-trans. It’s the reason businesses make unethical choices, and put their underpaid staff on the front lines to deflect the backlash—so-called “progressive” businesses included. It’s the reason poor and working class people become police, security guards, prison guards, and soldiers, and why they are emboldened if not required to use unnecessary force on vulnerable, innocent civilians. It’s why LGBTQ+ non-profits will cancel and/or make demands on conservatives, but won’t call out their local Pride festivals for allowing racist off-duty LMPD officers to attend and run security at their events. And it’s why LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are powerless in the current political climate.

Image source

We live in a system that incentivizes injustice, rewards complicity, protects the oppressor, and punishes the oppressed. This will never change unless we get clarity about our self-interests as working-class queers, and build power by organizing together and fighting back. We can’t fight the system alone. But together we will win.