Last Saturday transgender woman Kylie Jack went to Austin intimate apparel shop Petticoat Fair in hopes of being fitted for a bra. According to Jack, an employee at the store — which offers a personal fitting service — humiliated her by asking for an ID listing her as female. Unable to provide such documentation, Jack says she was denied service, as the employee told her the shop was unable to assist her.
Jack vented about the experience on her Facebook page and began exchanging posts with the shop:
Over the course of that Facebook conversation, Jack posted a list of possible remedies that Petticoat Fair could adopt.
After an initially ham-handed response, shop personnel began to demonstrate an understanding and willingness to educate themselves on trans issues, seeking solutions that would allow them to properly serve all clients with respect and dignity.
"I'm fairly privileged to be in a city like Austin," Jack tells The Advocate. "For the most part, I can get through my days without harassment for being visibly trans. Sometimes I just get misgendering, but I've been nonconsensually photographed and groped. I've never experienced discrimination before at a business — I have had no issues at Nordstrom, Marshall's, or Zara."
Asked why she decided to share her experience at Petticoat Fair on her social media channels, she explains that there are really two reasons behind it: a need for emotional support and to help educate others.
"When I do experience transphobia, I post these experiences to Twitter and Facebook for two reasons," she says. "One, I get a tremendous amount of emotional support from transgender friends who have shared experiences. Two, it serves as education for cis [nontrans] allies and friends who aren't necessarily familiar with transgender issues."
Jack says that she's since met with the store's owner, who seemed well-meaning, but, by Jack's estimation, still had some growing to do on the issue.
"I met with the owner of Petticoat Fair," Jack continues. "He sincerely apologized to me in a face-to-face meeting. He explained the conflicts he sees in trying to make a more inclusive policy. While he did offer me a fitting, my options were either outside of normal business hours or when one of the main fitting areas was not in use.
"I declined because I could not in good conscience accept treatment that continued to 'other' me and that didn't help other trans people in my community," Jack says. "He seems committed to working with transgender groups to make changes, but only time and action will tell. At this time, I am still waiting for the store to issue a formal public apology to the Austin transgender community."
When reached for comment, store owner Kirk Andrews clarified several points.
"We've already come a long way since that first [response on Facebook] and understand that trans women are women," Andrews tells The Advocate. "We’re now working to educate ourselves and to thoughtfully craft a policy that is sensitive to the needs of all of our customers, including trans people, and our employees."
Andrews admits that the store simply hadn't encountered this type of scenario before, and as a business, was caught off-guard.
"Because our approach is always customized to each person's needs, we haven't had a fully articulated policy in the area," he says. "Now that we understand that we need one, we are working on it, and are making it a priority. It will take some time."
While many businesses have unknowingly interacted with trans customers before, some have been caught in the same position, unsure of how to handle some of the more unique situations that may arise when it comes to trans people. In the case of Austin's Petticoat Fair, however, this unfortunate situation could ideally result in a more knowledgable, welcoming, and trans-accommodating shopping experience for all customers.