Clothes shopping can be a challenge for many trans and gender diverse people. Mainstream fashion is largely constructed around the gender binary, and may not offer affirming styles in appropriate sizes. Additionally, discrimination and micro aggressions are almost a foregone conclusion for anyone who is challenging gender norms with their expression. . So, when I was shopping for a suit to wear to a Pride gala, I decided to create a video diary about my experience.
I always get a little nervous about going clothes shopping. And this trip was no exception, particularly because I’d decided to shop for my suit in a menswear store. I know, too, this discomfort likely doesn’t compare to that felt by other trans and gender diverse folk – I’m often read as a butch lesbian which is often seen as “way more acceptable” than a transwoman. I’m in my forties now and worry less than I used to about what other people think. Yet, I find myself wondering who’s going to be serving and how they’ll respond to me asking for help.
Without further ado, here’s a shopping day in the life of me!
After I’d recorded the introduction to my video diary, I returned with an update shortly after the store had opened. An older man had entered the shop before me and I’d noticed that there was only one person serving him – who I assumed at the time was (and who turned out to be) the business owner.
I was curious to notice the discomfort I felt about shopping with older people. I still have the expectation that people of my parents’ generation and older may be less accepting of gender diversity. But, the surveys, focus groups and training I run suggest that this may not be the case. In reality, the level of openness towards understanding something new and the way people express their gender is individual and we shouldn’t make assumptions.
I got a suit!
It was a long process. I was in the store for about two hours because it was so understaffed. However, the store owner – who designs his own suits and has them manufactured in Turkey – did spend a great amount of time helping me out.
There were a couple of instances where I felt uncomfortable. Firstly, I did get called ‘lady’. Although, funnily enough, when I was called ‘lady’ my eyes met the eyes of another customer – an older woman who was shopping with her husband – who gave me a look the equivalent of a knowing eye roll. This reinforced for me the idea that our community’s acceptance and understanding of gender diversity is not necessarily a generational thing.
Secondly, I sensed some awkwardness from the men who were also trying on suits. I found I needed to break the ice with them. And finally, at the end of the fitting, the shop owner wanted to pin my pants as he would’ve done so for a woman and I had to correct him. Overall, despite the challenges, I’m very happy with the suit and the experience.
Retail and hospitality often relies on casual employees who receive little to no training outside of the immediate tasks they must perform. This means that these environments are highly likely to deliver microaggressions and discrimination to people from historically excluded groups.
Here’s 5 things a business owner can do to ensure a more inclusive experience for trans and gender diverse customers:
If you’re a shop owner interested in providing more inclusive retail experiences for your trans and gender diverse customers, Bree Gorman can help!
Book a consultation with one of our team members, or, if your business’s marketing material needs a refresh, take a look at our Digital Marketing Inclusion Audit.
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