Transgender personality and blogger Mary Haddock-Staniland says she was ridiculed and discriminated against in a Farmers store.
She says when she went to use a female changing room at Farmers in Botany, staff asked if she was a man or a woman, then said she was “half woman” to other shoppers.
Haddock-Staniland was born a boy, but has lived as a woman since age 18.
She has become a public figure representing New Zealand’s transgender community, as well as a public speaker on diversity.
Haddock-Staniland says her experience proves big Kiwi companies like Farmers aren’t giving their staff enough training in LGBIT issues.
“As a trans person, mild humiliation is sadly par for the course when shopping; I use the women’s changing rooms and ask if my best friend can come in with me, a reasonable request and one I’m sure they get all the time,” she says.
“But this was on another level. I am a customer like any other, there to shop, not to be laughed at, not served and described loudly to other customers as in a derogatory way.”
Farmers has said it is taking the matter very seriously and is conducting an internal investigation.
It said in statement a senior executive was at the Botany store talking to staff.
“Farmers is very supportive of the transgender community, in fact just last week we had Attitude TV filming a piece in one of our stores where we provided a makeover transformation to a young transgender customer. Our staff (also transgender) was the beauty consultant.”
“Farmers does not discriminate against anyone and welcomes all people into our stores. We apologise to Mitchell Harvey and best friend Mary Haddock-Staniland for the experience they had. Our senior executive is currently in store speaking to our Botany staff.”
Haddock-Staniland says she wants to use the experience as an opportunity to ask Kiwi businesses to review their diversity training practices.
“No person of any kind should be treated this way,” Haddock-Stanilands says.
“But let’s use this is a chance to make a change in our society.”
Haddock-Staniland’s experience could be defined as misgendering.
The LGBTI Health Alliance says misgendering is addressing or describing someone using language that does match how the person identifies their own gender or body.
It says using inclusive language by calling an intersex or trans woman “she” and “woman” instead of calling her “the person”, “he”, or “it” is the way to go about it.
“Using inclusive language means respecting people’s genders even when they do not look or sound like we might expect from someone of that gender,” the Alliance says.
“We can respect people’s genders regardless of their voices or bodies. We can check people’s preferred pronouns directly with them rather than assuming.”
Overseas, transgender discrimination in stores is a common problem.
In England, a transgender woman was barred from using the female changing rooms altogether by a staff member at Primark and told to use the men’s changing rooms upstairs.
In Texas in the US, a retail worker suggested a transgender woman should have reassignment surgery if she wanted to be offered a bra fitting.
Not only customers are affected, either.
A US transgender employee at women’s clothing store Forever 21 was told she looked “disgusting” and “a hot mess” by a manager. She filed a lawsuit against the company.