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Interesting encounter at a popular store...

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I stopped in a favorite store yesterday for a quick check of their discount area/"dollar spot" while I had a few minutes to kill while waiting to pick up my son. Once I grabbed the packs of tiny erasers and seasonal pencils, I passed by the clothing area where I got distracted by an employee (who I found out later was a floor manager/team leader) putting out new fall sweaters. The sweaters looked scrumptiously soft, so I stopped to look at them. 

The employee turned to talk to me and I noticed he was wearing a gorgeous shade of pink eye shadow, long lashes, and a red ladies' blouse & pants. With a full beard. So we chatted about the softness of the sweaters, I asked him if the turtlenecks were very snug (I cannot stand anything remotely turtleneck-ish), he suggested I try one on, we discussed color, etc. A very nice, normal, pleasant conversation. 

I debated color a bit, found a few in my size to try on (debating between sizes), and he passed back by. I stopped him and asked could I ask him questions; he readily agreed. So then we had a really good conversation about diversity, how nice it was to see this store embracing and allowing self-expression w/o discrimination or gender bias limitations, he shared he had the full support of his bosses all the way up the chain to district and regional managers. He kindly answered my questions about his pronoun preferences, and my apologies at being awkward about how to ask; he assured me that it's basically always ok to ask "May I ask you a question? What pronoun do you prefer?" and let the conversation go from there; he assured me I didn't say anything wrong (I hope he wasn't lying to me out of a sense of obligation as "the customer is always right" but he seemed pleasant throughout). 

In our area, I've quite a lot of friends who stopped shopping at this chain because of their (not so recent anymore) bathroom policy, and it's encouraging to me to see that this store isn't letting that stop them from being a front-runner in diversity, gender equality, etc. 

Not sure why I'm posting..just wanted to share. It struck me how far we've come as a society, that this is allowed and encouraged. By a really large national retailer. And yet how far we still have to go....I know there are probably just as many people (at least in my area) who would have turned away and sought help from someone else. Or not looked him in the eye. Or any number of negative responses. 

I am staunchly an ally, but without much real life opportunity to demonstrate that, and so I feel at times rather clueless about proper etiquette about asking after pronouns, is it okay to say "hey, I love seeing you dressed like this, I love that your store allows it", stuff like that. We hear/read all the time articles/posts by people ranting about the "Rude/Insensitive" things people say, mostly things said by accident or from a place of simply not realizing that might be an offensive thing to say -- I don't want to be that person, saying the wrong thing because I just don't know better....but that makes it tricky to ask in real life and learn, because what if in even asking, that in & of itself is offensive....? 

Also, I realized something: We have the use of various additional pronouns (he, she, they, xe, ze.....), but are there other terms to use in place of Mr.  or Mrs./Miss ? Sir or Ma'am? It seems like that would come up much more often in addressing someone......is there a term that goes along with the pronouns they/them or xe/ze?  I feel like I saw an article recently about a teacher who got fired over this issue, sending out a graphic to their students requesting an alternative but I can't remember what it was or find the article.....anyone know? 

Mostly I just wanted to share this post so others could be aware this retail chain is truly embracing equality. I hope we see more stores follow suit (and more people/employees brave enough to be themselves at work). 

 (I hope I've given enough clues w/o naming it, I didn't know if we'd get spams or internet trolls if I spelled out the name of the store)(but the employee's blouse was red, if that helps clarify....) 

 

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WRT your question, you might find something on Gender Spectrum's website but I'm not sure, having only recently become aware of it.

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Target is pretty good at LGBT in my area. Nordstrom Rack is good too. However I am near to San Francisco. IKEA has gender neutral family restrooms for quite a long time.

I like the single family restrooms at Target, great for everyone to use. 

If you are referring to Target, people I know shop there less  now because they have higher price than Walmart but quality isn’t better. We find cheaper and nicer stuff at Nordstrom Rack, Last Call Neiman Marcus and the Premium Outlets. Target used to have good seasonal sales.

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They have always been supportive. I worked in the Napa Target store in the late 90's - early 2000's. It was a brand new store then. They had a robust charity head that had found all kinds of public works for us. I remember being bused in for the SF Aids Walk. I think that was in '99?? I remember corporate following Disney's lead in HR and public image, that's why they call them team leads. 

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1 hour ago, Plum said:

They have always been supportive. I worked in the Napa Target store in the late 90's - early 2000's. It was a brand new store then. They had a robust charity head that had found all kinds of public works for us. I remember being bused in for the SF Aids Walk. I think that was in '99?? I remember corporate following Disney's lead in HR and public image, that's why they call them team leads. 

That's really cool to know; thanks for sharing that! 

 

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3 hours ago, Arcadia said:

Target is pretty good at LGBT in my area. Nordstrom Rack is good too. However I am near to San Francisco. IKEA has gender neutral family restrooms for quite a long time.

I like the single family restrooms at Target, great for everyone to use. 

If you are referring to Target, people I know shop there less  now because they have higher price than Walmart but quality isn’t better. We find cheaper and nicer stuff at Nordstrom Rack, Last Call Neiman Marcus and the Premium Outlets. Target used to have good seasonal sales.

Yes, Target. And I love Nordstrom Rack. 

Locally, price vs. quality varies between Target & WM depending on whether we're talking clothing or other stuff. And my local Nordstrom Rack doesn't even begin to come close to WM or Target pricing, or even JCPenney's or Kohl's pricing. (well, I did score some 1 cent shoes there once......)

But I appreciate the info on who else is LGBTQ friendly; that's nice to know. 

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I do think you are bold for asking the questions and going there directly. It is possible, I guess, for it to not go well. 

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Whew, I started reading your interaction, thinking that it was going to end with some other customer or person doing or saying something rude. I’m so glad I was wrong and that it was entirely positive! 

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Since you used he in your post, I'm going to assume he identified as a gender non conforming guy, which I think is great! I also think it's good that his workplace is supporting that. I assume they also work to foster a welcoming environment for all their employees, including the female ones.

I've seen Mx (pronounced like mix) as a gender neutral title. 

I think bathroom debates get really... tribal, and so I'm not getting into it.

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7 minutes ago, LMD said:

Since you used he in your post, I'm going to assume he identified as a gender non conforming guy, which I think is great! I also think it's good that his workplace is supporting that. I assume they also work to foster a welcoming environment for all their employees, including the female ones.

I've seen Mx (pronounced like mix) as a gender neutral title. 

I think bathroom debates get really... tribal, and so I'm not getting into it.

Yes; he said he preferred the pronouns he/him, sometimes they, and that he simply preferred to express himself with female dress, wearing full makeup and women's clothing. 

I do think this store is supportive and welcoming of all employees, from what I've seen. This particular expression of it was new to me, though, and I felt it worth the mention. 

Thank you for the pronoun/title help! I think Mx is the one that was in the article I saw, now that you mention it. 

And yes, I don't want to get into the bathroom debate, at all, just mentioned that as an illustration of our particular region, and why this encounter stood out to me, and also why I felt compelled to speak to the employee and let him know I found it a pleasant, welcome thing to see. If we lived somewhere that this was more commonplace, or where he likely would not ever face negative feedback, I likely would not have spoken up about it. 

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1 hour ago, Quill said:

I do think you are bold for asking the questions and going there directly. It is possible, I guess, for it to not go well. 

Well, I shared a very abbreviated version here. The in person conversation was much lengthier, and I did not ask him his pronoun preferences until much later in the conversation; first I just told him how great it was that the store allowed self expression in that manner (it probably still was awkward, as I could not figure out the right terminology, so kind of said, "I just want you to know I think it's wonderful that the store lets you, umm, -insert kind of blushing smile as I try to think-, dress this way and that they encourage.....ummm....." to which he filled in, smiling, "diversity of self expression?"  "Yes, exactly!" (insert relief on my part for a very kind human being I was talking to) and then we just kept talking. 

We were at least 5 minutes into the conversation before I said, "Oh, I'm sorry...can I ask you, I mean, umm, do you have preferred pronouns? I don't want to refer to you wrongly...." (or something equally as eloquent....)

Really he was an absolute gem and I was kind of a bumbling fool trying not to trip over the feet I was trying to not put in my mouth, as I tried to say something I hoped he would find kind. Because we do live (me personally) in an area where I expect he still gets more negative reaction than positive, and I wanted him to know "I see you, and I think it's a good thing, and I'm so very glad you are not only able to do so but brave enough to do so, and maybe in another decade, we wont' have to stop in stores and say how okay it is...." 

Well, and I also, just in case, prefaced it with, "If I accidentally say something rude, one, please forgive me, and two, please tell me so I don't make the same mistake in the future." 

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Regarding alternatives to Mr/Ms...  I work in customer service (phone, online chat) and we have been told to call all customers by their first names to avoid the quagmire than Mr/Ms could be. Many people have neutral or unfamiliar first names, and voices are not always helpful (and nonexistent with online chat).  So, we don't guess that, say, "Chris Johnson" is a Ms or Mr. 

Now, that can present its own problems; I have gotten yelled at by customers for using their first name, and told "I am Ms Smith to you!"  So far no one has given me a bad rating over it, as far as I know.  

But, from what I have gathered, that is the way some businesses are going - just skip the title and go right for the first name. 

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