Bra Store in Austin Refused to Serve Trans Woman Without Proof of Bottom Surgery

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There are very few situations in which it is acceptable for a stranger to ask pointed questions about another person's genitals. Petticoat Fair, a lingerie store in Austin that claims to help women “feel comfortable and confident,” should understand that better than most institutions.

Unfortunately, the store demonstrated its ignorance on June 28 when trans woman Kylie Jack was refused service.

“An employee humiliated me by asking for ID stating I was female and saying I needed bottom surgery in order to get a fitting,” Jack wrote on her Facebook wall.

Her experience with the store, which she described as “cissexist, transphobic, and transmisogynistic,” sparked a viral wave of backlash against the store's trans-exclusive policy.

After Kylie Jack shared her experience on Facebook, trans rights advocates took to Facebook to criticize the store's discriminatory policies.

In response, Petticoat Fair owner Kirk Andrews posted the type of fauxpology that we have come to expect when local businesses do and say repulsive things.

Andrews wrote:

    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….

    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.

    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.

A description of a transphobic policy does not constitute an apology for a transphobic policy. There is no reason to discuss a policy of barring men from the dressing room because Kylie Jack is a woman.

And regardless of how “unclear” a person's gender is to an observer, erring on the side of caution means erring on the side of the person's own proclaimed gender identity.

On her Facebook page, Kylie Jack requested a more genuine apology:

    Here's how you can make this right:

    1) Apologize to the transgender community as a whole. Say you're sorry. (Not “we're sorry if you were offended” — that's a non-apology.) Just say you're sorry. Say what you've learned. Say what action you'll take in order to do better.

    2) Update your store's policy on working with the gender spectrum, gender identity, and gender expression–in line with Austin's non-discrimination guidelines and with assistance from the Transgender Law Center (http://transgenderlawcenter.org/). Post your policy prominently on your website's FAQ and on your Facebook page.

    3) Donate $1000 to the Transgender Education Network of Texas

    4) Please do not fire Lea if she was only doing her best to uphold store policy; that is not her fault.

As of Wednesday morning, Kirk Andrews claimed that he was planning to meet with the Transgender Education Network to “develop a policy that is inclusive, respectful, and sensitive to all of our customers and employees.”

“I want to end by saying what many of you have asked for,” he added. “We messed up. We are sorry for that, and we are working diligently to do better.”

“He very sincerely apologized to me, face to face, and I appreciate that very much,” Kylie told KEYE. “But, it's still an unfair policy that's still in violation of the city ordinance so it's something that has to be fixed. Once they change their policies, I will go back.”

Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.

About Author

Natalie San Luis

Natalie is a native Texan, a feminist, and a writer, focusing on reproductive justice, race, and pop culture. When she's not writing (and sometimes when she is), she's brewing beer, drinking beer, and reading stuff on the Internet. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, xoJane, The Billfold, Culturemap, and E3W Review of Books. She tweets from @nsanluis.

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