All change! (trans need not apply)

I guess it serves me right. No sooner do I gird myself up to write, in some detail about issues raised by an employee refusing to allow a trans woman into the trans changing rooms in Macy’s, then Nemesis, always listening, ups and bites me in the bum.

Bras to die for

Yesterday, with two hours to kill between meetings, I was happily shopping my way down Oxford St. Lingerie shopping mostly and, since John Lewis in Peterborough had, in the end, turned out to be so helpful, I swung into John Lewis Central London.

Some lovely stuff on display, and was instantly in love with their range of t-shirt bras. Clean lines, minimalist pattern, a wonderful range of pastel colours. I was about to say no frills: but actually not the case: they mostly came with ribbon inlay and/or added (decorative) buttons, which worked well with the overall simplicity.


Shock! Horror! (Tranny alert!)

I was very happy with the way I was treated by the floor staff in the lingerie department: happily picked up a couple (of bras!) to try on, at which point… the bottom fell out of my afternoon.

Noting that I was about to head to the main (women’s) changing room, one of the assistants looked worried. “Oh”, she interjected. “Perhaps you should use this changing room”, indicating another smaller room away from the main facility.

Huh? Outed, put down and made to feel like total shit in just one sentence.

“Why?”, I challenged.

“I don’t see why she can’t use the main room”, the other assistant added sweetly (for which I am seriously grateful). So:

“Well, er, OK”. The first one grudgingly allowed, before following me to the changing room and standing bulldog guard outside my curtain.

I tried on the bras. But my heart wasn’t in it. My day was utterly spoilt and I was on the verge of tears. After, I approached the department manager, who was apologetic, but added comment along the lines of: “its not about you. Its just that some people might object”.

Ah. I wonder if John Lewis also maintain a separate changing facility for jews and persons of non-white origin in case their BNP shoppers object?

Also added was some stuff about how I might be embarrassed. Really? I guess if I was I could have made that known: they could have asked before assuming.

So tomorrow I shall be complaining. Loudly. To their head office. And I shall be wanting some very serious answers, because this is not the first time.

Because the last time I had to endure this sort of indignity, phrased in almost exactly the same terms, was back in 2010 in a totally other branch of John Lewis. The similarity is too great. It really does seem to me that they operate a transphobic policy – and if that turns out to be the case, I am not going to hang about before resorting to the law.

On what happened yesterday, I’ll concede that it is possible – as some posters have suggested – that it is actually store policy to lurk outside changing rooms for reasons of helpfulness. In this instance, I may have interpreted it as more sinister than it was given the original insult (and the fact that there appeared to be no-one lurking outside any of the other changing cubicles.

All growed up – and not taking it any more

Otherwise, what happened back in 2010 was a near carbon copy. I was welcome to try on garments – but assistants directed me to another changing area altogether. Then head office excused this with almost exactly the same wording – about how some folk might object.

Back then, early days, self-deprecating, mostly asking permission just to be, I went along with that. Today I’m bloody not. As I said (politely) to the manager: its none of her business what I have in my knickers (I was good enough not to threaten to drop them in front of her)…but irrespective of that, the main reason I haven’t bunged in my application for a gender recognition certificate (and thereby obtained my full legal recognition as female) is that I haven’t had time to look out the paperwork.

It doesn’t matter. I’m female. Which is what it says on my NHS records, Tax records and soon (when I replace the old one), my passport, too. And I am very, very angry.


12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    I work at M&S. I make sure that everyone knows that the back of my hand will be felt by anyone who dares to facilitate this ‘penis=rapist’/oh, people might be offended’ line of reasoning.
    Some people are dicks, unfortunately we have to deal with this, but complain all the way and remind them that their policy and what their staff do aren’t necessarily congruent.

  2. 2

    Natacha said,

    This is odd, because I tried on a skirt on the forst floor of John Lewis in Oxford St. a couple of months ago, and the assistant I had asked to find the right size for me just led me straight away to the women’s changing rooms and left me alone. No problems. No eyelids batted when I came out and handed it to the other assistant because it looked crap on me either…

    Now unless I have got much better at passing and somehow my voice, despite almost no training or practice, was somhow sounding very girly that day, I am sure she must have read me.

    • 3

      janefae said,

      given that one of the assistants was ok with my using the women’s changing room, you may have a point. Still, having spoken to JL’s diversity manager over a year back and being assured my experience then was a one-off, i am not in a mood for taking prisoners.


  3. 4

    Rebecca Shaw said,

    Currently in the middle of drafting a response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I have until close of business tomorrow. The EHRC wants to remodel itself along the following lines;

    1. An outcomes focused modern regulator
    2. The principle promoter of best practice and effective standards
    3. The most authoritative centre of intelligence and innovation
    4. A trusted national and international partner

    It seems to me from your experience that if the EHRC really wants to be a trusted partner to the transgender community, any intelligence it has at its centre needs to be devoting itself to developing best practice and effective standards guidance in the retail sector and ensuring that it regulates those that fail to deliver, whether it be John Lewis or any other organisation.

    Perhaps I ought to try and find ways of expressing that a little more diplomatically.

    Look forward to hearing the next instalment.

    B x

  4. 5

    Liz Church said,

    What a horrible experience. I wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of your wrath and they’ll get what they deserve. I’d suggest doing your GRC when you can spare the time. Life the post-surgical relief, it’ll be another weight off your mind.

  5. 6

    misswonderly said,

    This immense eagerness to ‘protect’ ‘SOME PEOPLE’ always strikes me, especially how blind they are to the offence they are causing directly. ‘Othering’ pure and simple … “I’m protecting MY people from alien you”.

    This eagerness to ‘protect’ others is equally othering in the ideological opposition to surgery. “It’s my duty to protect you from becoming one of ‘THEM'” In this case it’s always ‘MANY PEOPLE’ who apparently regret.

    It’s like when politicians say: “What PEOPLE want is …” Immediately you know what they are speaking subjectively: “What I want is … “

    • 7

      I’ve always thought that the “some (person)” who might object, when such a thing is uttered, is the person who says it. They’re just projecting in order to be insulated from their own bigotry.

      Jane, I hope you rain down merry hell on their heads.

  6. 8

    This mythical ‘some people’ that might not like it, or might be offended, or upset? They should stow it. It sickens me that JL and other retailers would put their anticipated and possibly imaginary desires before any person’s real and immediate need. Good luck with challenging them – I hope you get a response.

  7. 9

    AJS said,

    How is this any different from asking a black person to use a separate trying-on room, in case customers (who might be racist, even if the Policy manual says the management and staff aren’t) complain?

  8. 10

    Suzanne Bessent-Rothwell said,

    John Lewis we have no experiance with however other shops have been known to behave in this way to my partner. The same tired excuse is however trotted out as a reason to se the disabled toilet or to go to the bar and ask to be allowed to use the loo.
    The GRCert would not help, even producing documents declaring gender as female fail to work.
    The EHRC were very helpful when the heard of one incident.
    M and S refused training to a trans person who wanted to learn bra fitting.
    Kick ass if John Lewis are at fault.

    • 11

      janefae said,


      Feel free to e-mail me in confidence if you’d like.

      I mention the JL experience because i just haven’t had this elsewhere…though well up for believing others have.


  9. 12

    […] for operations, retail and diversity. This, as some readers may recall, is the follow-up to my upset in early December when a member of staff in JL’s Oxford St store lingerie department “helpfully” […]

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