The U.K. fashion retailer Topshop announced gender-neutral dressing rooms in their stores after a complaint from a transgender customer was refused access to a female-designated cubicle. Now, the store is facing backlash from their new store policy.
Travis Alabanza is a performance artist who identifies as trans female and prefers the pronoun "they." While shopping in Topshop in Manchester, they attempted trying on dresses in the women's dressing room but was intercepted by a disapproving store clerk who promptly told Alabanza to head downstairs for Topman, Topshop's male counterpart clothier.
They told Buzzfeed, "I said, 'I’m not going to be safe down there. What do you want me to do?' and they just kind of shrugged."
"I was pretty pissed off," they added. "It’s my only day off this week and I just wanted to buy some clothes. I didn’t have time to buy them online. I did think I could buy the dresses and take them home to try on, but I felt like, why am I doing this? My day instantly became politicised when all I wanted was a chill day shopping."
The stares they got as a trans customer was exacerbated by the employee's confrontation.
"Naturally I was already getting looks and stares as I always do, and that is the kind of thing you’re used to when you’re trans, but I think when I was stopped at the changing room, I noticed the stares even more," they said.
The dissatisfied customer expressed her frustration on Twitter by slamming the retailer owned Sir Philip Green.
"Hey @Topshop just experienced transphobia in your Manchester store. Not letting me use the changing room I decide is shit, sort it out," Alabanza tweeted.
Hey @Topshop just experienced transphobia in your Manchester store. Not letting me use the changing room I decide is shit, sort it out.— Travis (@Travis) 1509896361.0
@Topshop Gendered changing rooms , effect and put queer and trans shoppers at risk from harassment from other shopp… https://t.co/hbpnyd26t8— Travis (@Travis) 1509896440.0
@Topshop Who made you in charge of deciding who is woman enough to use ur changing room? U just lost an easy sale and money.— Travis (@Travis) 1509896544.0
It wasn't until Alabanza made her grievance public that the store announced the existing policy allowing for gender-neutral changing rooms already being in place. Turns out, it wasn't enforced until now.
A Topshop spokesperson said, “All Topshop and Topman customers are free to use any of the fitting rooms located within our stores."
@travisalabanza @Topshop That's disgraceful - according to their new official policy people of any gender should be… https://t.co/K8HRKCar4V— Ferntree (@Ferntree) 1509897831.0
@travisalabanza @Topshop proof of their policy should you need it to throw in their faces. I hate that this is stil… https://t.co/epBRPdaKCz— Ferntree (@Ferntree) 1509897917.0
@Topshop Here's an example @TopShopUK of @UrbanOutfitters not being shitty with their changing rooms - look how eas… https://t.co/Z7XZzqE7Rw— Travis (@Travis) 1509932381.0
@katemoross Hi Kate, Please be advised that we recently updated our Changing Rooms policy. Thanks, TS Help— Topshop (@Topshop) 1509952184.0
The store policy, however, isn't pleasing everybody. Especially parents who are fearful of predators attacking their children in the dressing rooms.
@FreeSpeechGB @Topshop @katemoross I'm a liberal woman and I agree with you. My 17yo daughter doesn't want to chang… https://t.co/lGL3l9t9F4— Lise Meitner (@Lise Meitner) 1510011688.0
@prendergast What about the safety of young people does that not matter.— Blondie warrior (@Blondie warrior) 1510217446.0
@jakesharp921 @MgillAnn @prendergast No, I think paedophiles are a risk to children, and will now be able to freely… https://t.co/v4udwDAGnd— Liz Potter (@Liz Potter) 1510252869.0
Still, one user praised the store for small advances.
One small step for Topshop. One giant leap for humankind. https://t.co/iDTzpFAFBx— Pádraig Prendergast (@Pádraig Prendergast) 1510216868.0
This user proclaimed the policy had been a shopping standard for quite some time.
gender neutral fitting rooms BEEN a thing, my first job we had free for all fits and that was 12yrs ago people need… https://t.co/3lJrEzQvmh— G🧜🏾♀️ (@G🧜🏾♀️) 1510221711.0
gagged at all these headlines and tweets like WOMEN ONLY FITTING ROOMS HAVE BEEN ***ABOLISHED!!!*** so have men onl… https://t.co/7ptNykW8Uy— G🧜🏾♀️ (@G🧜🏾♀️) 1510222731.0
this tweet was added to a moment and there’s another tweet listing all that person’s female family who “won’t shop… https://t.co/IKjI5jWNq9— G🧜🏾♀️ (@G🧜🏾♀️) 1510233838.0
@oneofthosefaces No kidding! I work at AEO & we have one on the men's & women's side but there's no rules like we'l… https://t.co/uu61F4kbZp— selena (@selena) 1510266034.0
Alabanza just wants the store policy maintained by better-trained staff members. "Topshop’s just been awful," Alabanza said. "They responded to two people saying they didn’t have gender-neutral changing rooms, and now they’ve said they do. It seems like they’re not consistent in their response."
The confrontation dampened they and their friends' shopping occasion. "I was considering going and getting a suit but I want to stick to my principles. It’s just been a whole stretched-out thing when all I wanted was to go into Topshop and go out."
Alabanza suggested the retailer go beyond the store policy and encourage staff members to know "about what it means to serve every kind of customer, how to advocate for us and respond against people who are phobic."
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