Open Letter Regarding Equality for Trans-Women Customers
I wrote this email to Kirk Andrews, owner of Petticoat Fair in Austin, TX, concerning an incident that happened in his store. The incident involved a customer being refused a fitting due to his store policies towards transgender women. You can read about the original incident here. This post caused a public outcry, and Kirk Andrews response can be found here.
In his response it was clear that Andrews did not understand why the transgender community was so upset and that he thought his fitting room policies were reasonable and justifiable. A summery of his stance is:
Men above a certain age are not allowed in fitting rooms to keep the women feeling safe and comfortable. Genitalia is the what defines someone's gender in their shop. There are no men's fitting rooms. There are no gender neutral fitting rooms. If someone's gender is questionable they ask for an ID to prove their gender. If they are not satisfied with someone's proof of female sex organs, they are not allowed in the fitting rooms. They instead offer that the person in question can buy a garment, take it home, return it if it doesn't fit, and try again.
It's important to note that the major feature and draw of Petticoat Fair is a personal fitting with an employee taking measurements to give you your "true bra size" for the "perfect fitting bra". This feature is denied to transgender women under the current store policies.
After reading his public response, I sent Kirk Andrews an email to open a dialogue. I'm sharing this email because I honestly believe that Andrews does not understand why his policies aren't okay. I also believe that there are still many stores and people who do not understand why policies like these need to change. I would like this email to be public so that other people can see why policies like these are unacceptable, and why the logic behind them is flawed.
-Email is as follows-
I get the impression that you really don't understand what exactly is wrong with your policies, and I'd love to talk to you about why they are exclusive and unequal to the transgender community and why they are outdated and uncouth policies in today's society. You started your Facebook post by saying that you think things were blown out of proportion, but when you described your reasons and policies in the following text you described exactly the reason why everyone is upset. So I'd like to take a moment to explain to you why.
On your policy:
You are describing alternate scenarios for trans women to shop at your store and refusing to give them the exact same treatment and experience as any other cis-female customer. This "separate but equal" is exactly what is not okay. You claim to be protecting your customers ability to feel safe and respected, but you are clearly deciding to do that for only certain customers and not others. By doing this you are saying that the cis-women are important customers that need to be protected, and the trans-women are not. Imagine being a transgender person, and how much courage it takes to walk out the door, to walk into an intimate apparel store, to wonder what people are thinking of you, to have to go ask a stranger for help being fitted. You don't think that person feels vulnerable and needs protecting? Because they do.
Also, I happen to be gender fluid. I live my life in both worlds. As do most cross dressers and drag performers. I wear bras. I wear intimate apparel. I love shopping for them. I just don't wear them all the time. I had actually heard about your store from my girlfriend (who used to shop exclusively at your store) and had considered going in to have the fitting experience she described. You are telling me that if I walked in as a guy you would not have fit me? What I don't think you understand is that THAT ALONE is upsetting and would have caused an upset, let alone someone who came in dressed, presenting and living as a full time woman. If your fitting rooms aren't safe enough to take me back there and fit me, then there is something wrong with your fitting rooms.
On your reasoning for your policy:
You mentioned changing rooms in gyms and other gender separated spaces as examples. What I don't think you realize is that trans women use the female spaces in gyms (and everywhere else they go). There is nobody checking I.D.s and seeing if someone has female genitalia. If there was, this same outcry would be directed at them. In fact, the question of pre or post genital operation popped up a couple times surrounding this incident. Are you aware that in order to have gender reassignment surgery you have to live a full year as a woman (while fulfilling other requirements) before your opperation can be approved? So what is someone who is trying to transition supposed to do? These women are trying to live their lives, and sometimes, shop in your store. Not to mention that a high percentage of trans women never get surgery due to costs, risks, need, insurance, partners, difficulty finding doctors, and/or personal preference. They are still trans women. And they live their lives that way every single day. Every aspect of it.
What about intersex peoples? These are people born with physical or chromosome anomalies that make them have only partial, or both sex traits. Is a person living their life as a woman with no identifiable genitalia or both genitalia allowed to be fitted in your store? What proof do they have to give of their gender? You are basing your dressing room on genitalia that frankly shouldn't be entering the picture. Whether someone can be treated as a woman relies on whether they want to be treated as a woman. And whether someone can be fit for a bra relies on whether they want a bra.
The fact that your worried about impostors is insulting to trans women. Trans women aren't predators. To treat them as such is profiling. Besides, no one is going to go to that length to look at boobs, they would just find an easier and cheaper way than buying makeup and clothes, putting them on, going to your store and buying an expensive bra. Check the news because there are no news reports about men dressing as women to peak at other women. Besides, do you also screen for bisexual and lesbian women? Are you worried they would try to peak and be aroused? No. Because that is a silly fear, and you would have no way to police it without treating all women as predators, and that would be insulting.
Finally, you are worried that some people might not feel comfortable in a changing space around someone also changing who's gender is difficult to discern. But what if you had a customer who was racist, and wouldn't change around a certain ethnicity of women? Would you kick that ethnicity of customer out until the racist customer left? No, you'd tell the racist customer that if they are uncomfortable they can wait until the other customers are done or go somewhere else. Why? Because you value the other customers regardless of their ethnicity and you recognize that the racist woman doesn't. The same should apply to trans-phobic customers. Otherwise you are implying that you don't value transgender women the same way. I think you'll find that the fear of people's comfort is mostly your own exaggerated fear of how people will feel. In this day and age, most people understand that there are different types of women trying on bras.
You really should just be servicing customers and people. Not a subgroup. That's all that women like Kylie are asking for, is to be treated like everyone else. Your policy needs to change. You can still keep the fitting rooms private. But how you ask? If all genders are treated equally serviceable? Easy, by checking if they are being serviced. You don't allow partners and loiterers. If a man wants in, they need to be being fitted for a bra. It's that simple. I'm not familiar with your changing room setup, but if that isn't private enough, you probably need to change it. I imagine that isn't hard to do. I also imagine it's probably already pretty private back there. Otherwise I imagine that more people would be uncomfortable changing in front of the large group of strangers more than they would care about them all being women.
Please feel free to respond:
I know I wrote a lot. But there was a lot to be said. I don't want you to feel like I'm ranting. Please do make this a discussion.