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“Trans-Friendly”… Yeah, What Is That?

What the hell is ‘trans-friendly’ supposed to mean anyway? My twin sister from another mister did a recent post that got me thinking. She does that; write posts before I do and makes them better, but I like that because it always gets me thinking. In this case she talked about many trans women being a bit behind the curve due to post-dude-traumatic syndrome damage sustained, and how we often seek the back of the bus because of it. At the least of it, we get a little touchy simply by the nature of our identity realization. One would think that changing genders is relatively simply and seamless, but no, no it’s not.

One aspect of this I often see on message boards is a focus on whether a particular business, restaurant, employer, or service of some kind is “trans-friendly”. What I find interesting about this is that the whole concept is entirely made up by the trans community as near as I can tell. I’ve scoured sign making businesses far and wide and have yet to encounter one that offers any kind of ‘come hither’ placard that specifically welcomes trans folks. Not even Spencer’s which you think would have a clever little ‘No Heels, No Service’ bit of drollery. Conversely, there also seems to be a dearth of ‘Tranny Beware’, or ‘Shoo Freako, Shoo’ signs as well. It’s as if we are never even a thought in the mind of these establishments. What gives?

The prevalence of ‘trans-friendly’ type questions is a clear indicator that this is an issue of significant importance to a lot of folks. Even with my crushing lack of perception on the subject, I would still like to know if they are going to spit in my turkey club down at the Ptomaine Diner, and if so, whether it’s clear or implied policy by management. Look, implied policies can be negotiated, so I don’t hold them to the same importance. As it turns out, any mention of trans people in any company literature from the mom and pop corner shop to a global dominator of corporate power is greatly lacking unless lumped in with dozens of other groups they pledge not to discriminate against. Even my grizzled veteran of HR with his dozens of years of experience had to have me bring a book in to get an idea of what this new transgender headache really meant for him. Face it, we aren’t even so much as an afterthought.

Yes, Transphobia exists, as does the clear discrimination and poor treatment that results from it. I’ll never argue against that point. Aside from some obvious organizations like the WBC and KKK who pretty much want to tell everyone to suck it, I do have to say that it’s a rare organization indeed that has explicit trans-unfriendly sentiment built into the business model. By logic then, anyplace you reasonably want to go is decidedly not trans-unfriendly. Even holy rollin’ Chick-Fil-A won’t lock the doors in the unlikely event they see us pulling up to grab a sandwich made from the most boring meat on earth with three shitty pickles scattered on top. Anyone who wants to make money will probably take yours.

Many of us have had bad experiences, or at least mildly uncomfortable ones. Last time I went to IHOP the host ogled me with such intensity that I’m not inclined to return. I don’t think that was a management directive though. What we really encounter are individuals who for whatever reason, aren’t as nice and polite as they should be when we walk through the door. Chances are, if we got someone else in front of us, they would be perfectly nice. An employee with skewed notions about things is a far sight different than the whole place being trans-unfriendly.

The real issue then is our own sensitivity. I don’t think we can help that due to the nature of transition and attempting to present ourselves far differently then we came up being trained to do. My ex brought this point up in the spring when we were waiting for her car to be completed at Firestone, and they totally forgot about us long after the work was complete. “If something like this happens after you transition, we are going to assume it was on purpose because you are trans.” Oh, so very true. Meatball waiter screws up our order? Trans-unfriendly. Cable guy comes late? Trans-unfriendly. Greasy Joe down at the oil change place tries upsell us on some bullshit package we don’t need? Trans-unfriendly. The truth of course is that the poor quality service with an attitude is simply what we can expect as Americans and has nothing to do with our trans status. If anything, I think I’ve actually gotten better service overall, and I’m not even one of the pretty ones who dresses sexy. Not that this makes them trans-friendly necessarily, but that they suddenly remember that they will have perceive themselves as a dick if they don’t step up the game a bit.

I stopped replying to those threads a while ago, though admittedly for time constraint reasons. My universal answer is that all places are neither trans-friendly nor trans-phobic. They are places with employees who are as diverse as any demographic and that you should go there. If you get poor treatment, simply don’t go back, or go back when someone else is working because there is something there you have to have. Your money is just as green as that of the half-drunk schlub in the zuba pants with a hankering for Jim’s Steak Out.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

2 responses »

  1. I think, like you suggest, we create a lot of the friendly or unfriendly ourselves.. When I respond to most post I some times feel that there are those of us that think its a test or something, who has the better answer or even if were from the same click, sounds like any other group of folks to me, were not that special are we, I hope not.
    I just want to be seen as another woman just doing her thing, I would feel a lot better about that. Sometimes I feel I have to get away from the trans talk just to get the proper perspective back and going on about shoes gets old sometimes too.
    Don’t get me wrong I like to talk about things that affect us trans exclusive or not but it sometimes gets to be too much.
    There has been many post about Employers, equal treatment, laws and such. The replies are for the most part negative, I kill the thread by telling about how wonderful my Employer has been in detail and than sit back and watch to conversation die on the vine, sad and funny I think. I only bring up these other issues to make my point.
    We can be our own worst enemy. I don’t hear from you as much.

  2. Hiya Sis,

    Having worked for twenty years in a prison where the inmates did the cooking helped me to develop an immunity to spit in my food. Hey, what we don’t know won’t hurt us, right?

    Great spin on this. I think you also touched on a good thing by pointing out that transition isn’t seamless and smooth.

    BTW, crappy customer service is not uniquely American, although it has been elevated to an art form there. The difference here is that the British have perfected the art of telling you to f*** off and sounding completely polite as they do it. You are ten steps out of the store before you even realise that you have been abused. The people here are so used to waiting in long queues only to be told they are in the wrong place and now they have to come back tomorrow, that they take it all in stride. Trans people could take a page from this book. You can’t always prevent the crap from hitting the fan, but you can learn to duck and keep it from messing up your whole day.

    As usual, great post.




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