Guest Blogger

Austin Lingerie Store Shames Trans Woman, Faces Backlash

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 07, 2014 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Austin, fitting rooms, gender-appropriate restrooms, Petticoat Fair, Texas

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Guest blogger Andé Morgan is a queer person of color and a freelance writer, covering topics in popular culture and LGBTQ issues. As a staff writer for Bitch Flicks, Andé reviews films from a feminist perspective.

A lingerie store in Austin, Texas, faced a strong social media backlash after an employee allegedly discriminated against a transgender woman last week.

kylie_jack_austin.pngOn June 28, Kylie Jack (right) described being humiliated at Petticoat Fair, an established Austin lingerie store, on her Facebook page. Jack went to the store to request a bra fitting. She says an employee there asked for proof of her gender, e.g., an ID stating that Jack was female. The employee also stated that Jack could get a fitting only if she'd had SRS (sex reassignment surgery, also known as "bottom" surgery).

Response to Jack's post was swift. Many transgender people and allies posted to Petticoat Fair's Facebook page, wrote reviews on Yelp, and sent emails to the store to express their displeasure. For example, Casey Clough wrote,

"People are people, breasts are breasts, and people with breasts need bras. What is in their pants is none of your business. Bigotry is ugly. I will not shop in your store again, and I know that I am far from the only one. Very bad move in the city of Austin."

Kirk Andrews, owner of Petticoat Fair, issued a statement on June 29 that many are calling a non-apology:

"Hello, Based on today's posts to this page and elsewhere, there seems to be a misconception that Petticoat Fair has a policy of not working with the transgendered [sic] community. That is not the case. In fact, we have served the transgendered community for most of our 50 years in Austin. What we do have is a policy regarding who may or may not enter our fitting rooms.

We regret and apologize for the unfortunate experience relayed here by Kylie Jack after visiting our store yesterday. We are reaching out directly, to find a time when we can work to accommodate Kylie's needs.

We have fitters who are experienced with fitting women in all stages of life, and we aim to make all women (transgendered and cisgendered [sic]) feel comfortable in our store. The dressing room area is a particularly private and vulnerable place for many women and girls, so it's a protected area. For that reason, we also have a completely separate dressing area for women who have undergone mastectomies and need post-surgical care. (Our fitter invited Kylie and companion into this part of our store so they could have this delicate conversation privately.) Just as a gym won't allow men in a women's dressing room (and vice versa) for the comfort and safety of its patrons, we don't allow men or boys above a certain age in our dressing area. Despite our otherwise inclusive approach, those who might be or who outwardly appear to be men (regardless of how they are dressed) pose a delicate challenge, and in the case of impostors, can pose a safety risk to the Petticoat Fair staff [emphasis added]..."

Many were not convinced.

Among those unmoved by Andrews's apology is Hannah Sunshine Climas, who wrote:

"This doesn't really deserve to be called an apology, and it's reassuring that (as a whole) the wider community recognizes that fact. Misogyny is misogyny and, apparently, is a terrible sales tactic for a store that caters to women. Who knew?"

In response, Kirk again posted to Facebook on July 1 and July 2 to describe "steps taken to further educate ourselves," including a face-to-face meeting with Jack on June 30, and plans to meet with the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and LGBT advocate Meghan Stabler.

In a statement sent to Jezebel's Kat Callahan, Jack said,

"Kirk is sincere in his efforts to do better, but only time and actual action will tell. I'll consider the issue resolved when a formal public apology is issued to the Austin trans community along with the steps they're taking to update their policies to be trans-friendly and trans-inclusive."

In a Facebook post on July 2, Jack added:

"...At the beginning of this, I asked for a boycott of Petticoat Fair as an act of solidarity with trans women. I am rescinding this request for the time being. Some folks will be happy with where the situation stands now, and some will want to wait to see what happens with the policy. So, I leave it up to every individual who has supported me to make a choice about shopping there or not, or to update reviews according to his response."

I asked Jack if she was satisfied that Petticoat Fair was making suitable efforts to resolve the issue:

"Kirk and I discussed the progress via Facebook messages...and I spoke with TENT and the other activists, so I knew what was happening. That gave me the confidence that things were progressing enough to rescind my call for a boycott. If it comes to pass that nothing comes of this, I will keep to my word that I will talk to the City of Austin and Transgender Law Center to figure out next steps.

While I've found Austin to be trans friendly, I don't think that Petticoat Fair is some isolated example of trans discrimination either. That's why I think it's so important to shed a light on this situation. Kirk Andrews and his staff have an opportunity to lead Austin businesses - and frankly, many nationwide - into an era of fair, inclusive policies for trans people anywhere on or off the gender binary. And I know I'd like to see them succeed in that."

Access to gender-appropriate restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms is a major challenge for transgender people, and progress on this issue has been slow. As Jack's experience at Petticoat Fair demonstrates, there is still a long way to go.

Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.