Discrimination in intimate places

 photo carmen_zps57632587.jpgPetticoat Fair is a well-known Austin lingerie shop specializing in “custom filling of women’s intimate apparel since 1964.”

 photo KylieJack_zps947f0b32.jpgKylie Jack is a transwoman who went to that store for a bra fitting recently.  Last weekend she posted to her Facebook account:

Hello Austinites:  today I went for a bra fitting at Petticoat Fair, where an employee humiliated me by asking for ID stating I was female and saying I needed bottom surgery in order to get a fitting.  If you are in solidarity with trans women, please boycott Petticoat Fair until they remove their transphobic and cissexist policies.  Please feel free to share this post.

A store employee first asked Jack to see her ID in order to prove that she was legally female.  That was followed up by a statement that she would have to have had bottom surgery in order to be served by a fitter.

None of that seems to make much sense. Trans women may or may not choose to undergo surgery for any number of reasons, which are their own, and genital surgery is irrelevant to bra-fitting anyway. I’ve been wearing bras since I was 12, and I’m fairly certain that bras and vaginas have nothing to do with each other.

Elizabeth Licata, The Gloss

The store’s Facebook page was flooded with demands that it apologize. Owner Kirk Andrews defended his store at first:

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 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.  If it’s unclear whether a customer is a man or a woman, we err on the side of caution as a protocol, but never on the side of discrimination or intolerance.  That’s just not who we are as a business.


In other words customers are required to pass sufficiently to satisfy the shop’s bra fitter.

That doesn’t quite jibe with the store’s website:

Every woman is treated with respect and given one-on-one attention and is helped to feel comfortable and confident in properly fitted undergarments.

Licata challenges that and also remarks that “the idea that anyone has a right to question a customer about her genitals before allowing her into a bra fitting room is absurd.”

Despite this nopology Andrews agreed to work with the Transgender Education Network of Texas to discuss a better way to interact with transgender customers.

Further communication from Andrews:

We want you to know that we are listening to your concerns, and that we are taking steps to further educate ourselves.  We had a productive and respectful meeting with Kylie yesterday, in which we reiterated our apology to her.  We are planning to meet with representatives of the trans community, including the Transgender Education Network of Texas.  We will be clarifying our store policies and will communicate those.  This will be a thoughtful and inclusive process that will take time.

We ask for your patience in this.  In the meantime, because much of the conversation on social media has devolved into unproductive and even hateful and threatening posts, we are calling a halt to the conversation on this topic here.  As we said before, but which has gotten lost in the shuffle, we have appreciated-and learned from-much of the dialogue.  We will leave most of it intact, but we will delete posts that are violent, obscene, racist, sexist, abusive, or threaten our employees or other individuals.  Thank you for listening, and for your patience and support.


The problematic part:

We have fitters who are experienced with fitting women in all stages of life, and we aim to make all women (transgendered and cisgendered) 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 imposters, can pose a safety risk to the Petticoat Fair staff.


Kat Callahan from Jezebel picks it up from there:

Dressing rooms are vulnerable places, sure.  For women and girls, sure.  Trans women and trans girls are, well, gee, women and girls.  This is getting worse and not seeming very apology-like.  The idea that men or boys above a certain age are not allowed into these dressing rooms is absolutely irrelevant.  Kylie Jack and her girlfriend are both women.  So the policy against men and boys shouldn’t need to be trotted out.  Likewise, the fact that Andrews even felt the need to bring it up is implicitly suggesting that trans women aren’t women.  This appears to be confirmed with the last sentence, where Andrews mentions that those who do not match up to whatever the staff’s idea of “woman” looks like is a “delicate situation” and could be an “imposter.”  This is the same idea trotted out every time we try to discuss bathroom usage, and it’s false.


Although I have not currently received a response, I have asked Andrews to explain to me what would happen if a cisgender woman who did not fit a staff member’s conceptualisation of “female appearance” were to refuse to submit to these restrictions?  What bra fitting requires someone to show their genitals or prove they are in a certain configuration?  What would happen if the documents were provided and offered as proof of cisgender-ness?  I’m openly trans in most areas of my life, but not in my position as a school teacher.  I am stealth.  My documents all say F on them.  What if I provided multiple forms of ID (I have them) which say F and insisted I was cisgender?  What would I be told?  “I’m sorry ma’am, but unless we have proof you are a card carrying vagina possessor, we can’t help you”?  The logical conclusion of this so-called “inclusive policy” is anything but!


Personally, I tend to go braless.  I find bras to be uncomfortable nuisances.  I’m fortunate that although I am 66 years old, my breasts are effectively 22, with sufficient “perk” for my taste, and I’m sure sufficient “perk” for those that enjoy sites like hdpornvideo.xxx.  That’s not to say I haven’t had complaints about the fact that I don’t wear a bra.  When they come from people who don’t accept that I am a woman, I file such complaints in the circular file.


    • Robyn on July 5, 2014 at 05:41

    …beginning some time Sunday as I must pack my computer for the movers who are arriving bright and early Monday.  We plan to arrive in Southern California around July 23.

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