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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When Queers Go To The Mall

From my friend and bandmate Turtle:

Last week, my mom generously offered to buy me a suit for my 26th birthday. What a nice present, now I can look cute at my cousin's wedding, way to go Mom! So, on Friday, April 8th, I cajoled my friend gina kathleen into accompanying me to the Filene's Basement in Union Square, because I heard they had a vast array of relatively affordable suits. And they did! Rack upon rack of discounted quality name brand suits, in a wide range of sizes. Call me a consumer, but I was psyched at the prospect of finally owning a suit from somewhere other than a thrift shop, that had some hope of fitting me well, or at least being close enough to tailor. I grabbed a 40S jacket and a 34x30 pair of pants, and went into the fitting room.

There were no customers in any of the stalls in the fitting room. Despite this fact, the employee inside the fitting room informed me that I would have to use a different one, upstairs. I told her that I was trying on clothing from this section of the store, I was definitely in the right place, and that I would prefer she quit calling me "Miss." She smirked and repeated "Miss, women aren't allowed in this fitting room," (then what the fuck was she doing in there?) so I asked to speak with the manager.

The manager told me that I would not be allowed to try on this suit or anything else without going up an escalator to an entirely different part of the store he deemed the right place for me. I told him I'm not comfortable in the women's try-on room, and that I should be able to try on the fucking suit next to the other suits, in the suit section. What if I needed a different size? I would have to put all my clothes back on, get on the escalator back downstairs, grab a different pair of pants, and then trudge back upstairs and try them on? He said "this isn't about clothes, it's about your gender." No fucking joke, dude.

The same exact thing happened to me the last time I tried to buy a suit, in 2007, at the Burlington Coat Factory in Atlantic Terminal. In that case, I was given a little number tag for the number of items I was going to try on, then moments later had the number snatched out of my hand as the woman in the dressing room put herself between me and the stall door, demanding that I use the ladies' fitting room on the other side of the store.

I've also been ejected from the hallway of a Victoria's Secret fitting room, which I feel somehow further illustrates this idiocy.

The right to buy shit is obviously not the most important fight for queer & trans people to be fighting. The attitude of gender policing that exists in every corner of our existence, in situations that so many people take for granted, is pretty huge, though. No one should have to leave a shitty discount department store in tears for any reason other than the fact that shopping sucks.

SO! I cordially invite you, your roommate, their helper monkey, etc. to join me this Friday for a little shopping trip. We'll try to try stuff on, in any and every dressing room, and see how that goes. Maybe they had a staff meeting about the sad, sad queer they humiliated last week, and have revamped their policies, and this will be totally anti-climatic, and we can just have a department store fashion show for a few minutes until we get bored. You can help me pick out a suit! I could actually buy it this time! Or maybe they will be total douchebags, again, and we will tell them what's up. Either way, the potential for scene-making is high, and really what could I possibly want more for my birthday than to make a big queer scene?


  1. Thanks for this post. A big queer scene sounds great. After experiences like this, I usually follow up with a diplomatic email to the owner (and cc's to other key staff) detailing the reasons they should change their policies/practices. I'd be happy to send an email if you'd like.

    Also, I'm launching a queer review website where you and all your fellow genderqueers friends should review your experiences in dressing rooms, bathrooms, offices, etc etc etc. QueerSay will be ready for you in May, so go here: and here:!/pages/QueerSay/106058792768640 to stay updated. The hope is that we blaze trails with our reviews to make the world a more queer friendly place!


  2. I love this post.

  3. That happened to me too, at the Filene's on the UWS. I walked into some random (unmarked) dressing room and some woman directed me to a stall. The dressing room was completely empty. I started changing & then a guy ran in yelling, "MA'AM, ma'am you are not allowed to be in here!!!" like there was some sort of crisis going on. He then escorted me to the women's dressing room downstairs as if I was going to dart off & sneak back into the original one. The whole thing was kinda shameful & also i thought it was super-wack that the original woman had let me in & not said anything, and then apparently complained to her boss to remove me. bleh.

  4. Hmm, having a separate fitting room for each customer is a big help when the department stores are full of shoppers. Anyways, you look great with that coat and blue long sleeves. Your mom made you a cuter young man.

    >Larissa Dobbin