Trans friendly shopping – battle of the high street brands
February 3, 2011 § 8 Comments
As many of you will know, I’m singing tomorrow in En Travesti Ensemble’s fabulous Forgotten Voices concert at Handel House. Now, even someone as ragged and dishevelled as I tend to be realises that important events require swanky clothes, so I set off to Oxford Street to purchase me some fancy garments.
Obviously, I went to TopMan first. My love for the TopShop men’s line is surpassed only by Vince Noir’s.
I know that I present as some kind of gender-variant androgynous pretty boy creature rather than your typical manly blokey man, but seeing as TopShop advertises solely through the good looks of gender-variant androgynous pretty boys I figured that we’d sort something out.
God, there was so much that I wanted. So I trundled off to the dressing room, arms laden, and met with two rather camp shop assistants – ‘guyliner’d up, a little too much pomade, way too tight jeans. And they just looked at me – kind of nervously, as if I’d done something frightening. I counted up the number of items, waited for a tag – and they just whispered to each other, inspecting me. One of them finally mumbled something about ‘the wrong room’, and when I (politely, I promise) asked what their policy was for transgender customers, he ran off to fetch the manager.
So the manager came – and it was three cis guys looking me up and down, expressions a rather unpleasant mixture of confusion and distaste. Finally the manager came to the conclusion that I was not manly enough to try on a pair of trousers in peace, and murmured something about ‘females’ being barred from this particular changing room. None of them would look me square in the eye. And that was that.
I know it’s not one of those big injustices in the grand scheme of bigotry – but I find, at least, that sometimes it’s the little insults, the slights, the erasures, that make me despair. I find it easier to maintain my self-confidence against the obvious aggressors – but when all you want to do is something everyday and supposedly simple it can be hard to bear. It’s the smack in the face that tells you that not only are you considered ‘less than’ for the big issues (births, marriages, deaths) – but that you shouldn’t expect the little things to come easy either.
I’d like to make a complaint to their head office – and the sad thing is that I don’t even know if I’m entitled to. I wrote to my MP to express confusion and concern over the latest Equality Bill and the GRA, and how they apply to genderqueer trans people – she never bothered to get back to me. I have a big old ‘F’ on my passport – it seems safest to keep it that way, when I don’t pass as male. But I don’t also read as female, and I certainly don’t live or ‘present’ as one (whatever that means). If we’re debating the binary then I’ll take neither/nor – but if binary is the only thing offered then I’ll always come down on the masculine side. I would genuinely like to know where that leaves me, if anyone has any information.
Anyway, though, to come back to the title. A battle, you see. Because, fearful of the same thing happening, I visited both H & M and River Island – not entirely sure I’d find what I was looking for, but running out of time. Exemplary service. Not one batted eyelid or questioning tone. Except for when they were trying to sell me similar items I might find interesting, or asking if I’d like them to check for a different size. The tills didn’t suddenly stop working – none of the cis guys caught my trans cooties by being in the locked cubicle next to my locked cubicle . Just basic politeness, and money changing hands.
I’m not planning on going back to TopShop. Ever.