A nation of shopkeepers


A few weeks ago, at Chams, we had a young chap come to talk to the group, for his research project. He opened with a simple question: What can retailers do for trans people?

The way we play these events, is we – okay, muggings, here πŸ™‚ – makes a quick intro for the group, and then we set the researcher up, in a quiet spot. This allows people to pop over when they’ve got a mo, and it lets those who don’t want to be involved, be… ummm… well, not involved. Seems to be working for us.

After a few folk had wandered over and the evening was in its final hour, I drifted over to see how things were going. I to, was asked the question, and it wasn’t long before Alison, Val and Diane joined in.

So, what can retailers do for we trans folk?

1. Changing Rooms

If the person is dressed like a woman, or dressed like a guy, let them go in the appropriate changing room. If you’re not sure if the person is male, or female; you could always just ask, which they’d prefer to go in.

I’ve been directed to the disabled booth and when I look back, I feel bad that I might have taken that space, away from someone who wanted it. I might be a bit dim, but I can get about just fine.

2. Shoes and Changing Rooms

In the dim and distant, a stealthy trans person could drop a few items and the obligatory baggy jeans on top, before heading to try these on. A dress, a skirt, some shoes; it was all good. Then, some wise spark, decided to make the rule that you couldn’t take shoes into the changing room.

While that may have dropped the thefts, and I assume this was why they did it, it hasn’t helped those of us, who aren’t 100% out. Sure, in a town, far, far away, it’s fine to sit down and try on, but closer to home – like lunch breaks – it’s not so easy.

In the end, and the last time I was in Dorothy Perkins, I just asked outright and while the lady on the door was a bit surprised – it was her first day, bless her – she said yes and all was well. Not that the shoes fit. Why is it a New Look size 8 is fine and a Dotty P’s 8 is like the re-enactment of the Ugly Sister and the Glass Slipper? πŸ™‚

3. Sizes

Which brings us on to sizing. Not all size 16s are created equal. πŸ™‚ This seems an issue for us, as much as (genetic) women.

Also, I bemoan shops – I’m looking at you New Look! – for dropping their Tall range from the high street. Still, your gain in shop floor, is your loss in sales.

On a positive note, more shops are doing a size 8 and 9, in shoes. This can only be a good thing!

4. Help

If I’m out shopping and looking for something specific, sometimes I’m asked if I want any help. Sometimes I’m shopping for the Ever Lovely Mrs J, sometimes for Yours Truly. In either case, sometimes I’m asked, “is it for you?” Perhaps I give off some vibe, or new assistants spot the earrings/eyebrows, I dunno. πŸ™‚ If it is for me, I’ll say so, and there’s no reaction. I am, just another customer, which is just how I like it.

Mind you, 10% off would be nice, you can’t have it all πŸ˜‰

5. Make-up

We had a visit from Boots, a few years back and they mentioned they had a make-over room, which you could book. This was off the shop floor and plenty of (genetic) woman wanted privacy, when discussing cosmetics. It’s all about the practice, practice, practice, apparently, and not all of us do that.

6. Trans Specific Brands

Or, as we like to call it – 30% mark up, ‘cos you put the word ‘trans’ on it. To put it another way, no thanks πŸ™‚

Maybe it’s the circles I move in, but high street, supermarket and on-line are king, queen and… umm… other royalty, now. The idea of specialist trans specific shops, seems to be on the wane. Maybe it’s peoples’ growing confidence, or the realisation that most of the goods in specialist shops, is just plain overpriced.

I think that was our six main points, although, as per, we did waffle around the topic somewhat. What about you, dear reader, anything to add to the list?

Take care,


  1. Totally agree Lynn. I emailed Evans once (being a big girl) and asked about the use of their changing rooms and they replied that I could only use them if I was actually presenting female. When I went to my favourite Evans store (Cambridge) the lady had me trying stuff on in the middle of the store! I think that stores are moving and clearly the fact the they feel that that this kind of research is needed is a great signal of itself..: xxx

    1. It's a slight odd world (hello, understatement), in that there's a disconnect between central policy, and what happens in store.

      I suppose it may be tricky for Evans, because they're a female clothes shop, so it's not like you can pop in 'en homme' and try something on. [pauses] But then again, why not?

    2. I do wonder why not sometimes as everything is happening in a contained cubicle. But I would hate to think that any women would feel uncomfortable or endangered by having me use the changing facilities alongside them. But clearly, I suspect a minority probably do. Whilst that makes me sad, I can understand. They are not realising that crossing that line into shopping in a ladies shop and even more, using the changing rooms takes a huge amount of bravery for me and that I'm finding it harder (despite feeling female inside) because of the level of scrutiny I'm feeling at that moment.

      In the Leeds store they said that they don't have a problem with me using the changing rooms if I went in at the extreme edges of the day when there are less people around.

    3. I think that's the catch, about not wanting to make people uncomfortable. That's a very British point of view πŸ˜‰ I suppose some people, as with the debate over toilets, will be twitchy about trans folk using the same facilities, but frankly, get over it.

      Going out 'en femme' and shopping is, for some, very scary. Hell, i know non-trans folk who don't like – in there words – to 'brave the changing rooms'. It seems they don't like the queuing, nor the shame of items not fitting.

      On the upside, Evans are being accommodating to you in male mode, and I think that's a good thing. Some shops may well turn someone away.

  2. Re "(genetic) women" – I've not heard that expression in a while. I'm wondering now What it means exactly. Morphologically female perhaps? (which would include both cis and trans women), as opposed to creating a female appearance while morphologically male. But then there are all sorts of problematic border territories there (when does someone classify as a genetic woman?), and sex isn't clearly so binary anyway. I dunno. Don't mind me. I'm just thinking out loud πŸ˜‰

    1. The reason I typed that? Because I was too lazy to think of a more suitable term. πŸ™‚ Just this week, the BBC, ran a story about a woman who was genetically male, but (clearly), completely female, in terms of sex, gender and appearance.

      'Natal female' always makes me think of narwhals, the unicorns of the sea. πŸ˜€ If there's a better term, please let me know.

    2. By "genetically male", do you mean chromosomally XY? There are several intersex conditions where that's true; and of course that's in all likelihood true for most trans women as well (not that anyone's chromosomes are ever tested).

      Different terms: I'd probably use "cis women" in most instances. But in this one the distinction seems to be between women (whether cis or trans) and those who aren't. Defining the latter group might prove even more problematic, so how about "actual women" for the former? πŸ™‚

    3. XY, yes. How that pans into trans people's lives, I couldn't say. There's probably a research study around it, and like a lot of things, the truth may well be a lot more complicated πŸ™‚

      I know we're into a labels debate now, but I think we're both safe, in that neither of us will go nuts πŸ™‚ I shied away from the 'actual women' because, and to me at least, it had connotations of real, or authentic. Suggesting there's another category of less real, which seems rude to me. But then, I'm not a TERF πŸ˜‰

      Female by birth? Natal women?

      Cis? I don't know. I'm finding that tricky, but that just may well be my simple brain πŸ™‚

    4. I was using "actual women" to distinguish between those who are and those who aren't – but leaving it to people themselves to say whether they are (or aren't), rather than try and impose a definition of who is (or isn't), when there will always be exceptions. Indeed, "female by birth" and "natal women" seem more TERFish to me πŸ˜‰

      I'm not sure whether this is really a labels debate either; more a discussion of apt and inclusive language – which are always endlessly fruitful and entertaining of course πŸ˜‰

  3. I'm glad to hear you were giving that guy plenty of feedback as being reminded of that reminded me that I was intending to go and talk to him – then got chatting to other people and totally forgot he was there!

    Just one point that I would question – is it fair to say that trans specialist shops are over-priced. To some extent this may be smaller retailers inability to compete on price with larger ones rather than them making more profit out of it. In any event, even if this is true, if more of us are getting more confident on shopping out and about then it will contribute more to their decline.

    1. Hmm.. bad wording on my part, perhaps. Some shops cater to trans folk and non-trans folk.

      There are also some shops which cater just to us, and their prices are like everyone else's, in that they vary based on location and target market.

      Then, (/sigh) there's the rip off shops, which charge way over the odds, for items you can find on-line, or on the highstreet, for significantly less.

      It's the rip off shops I'd like to see the back of.

  4. With regards to sizing. Simply ug!

    The worst I have come across is H&M. Some styles I'm a euro 36, some 38 and for some a 42. (That is a range along the lines of 8 to 14!). For one of their styles it was even worse. In beige a 40 is tight, but in black a 38 does up! (ordered online and never got around to sending it back…)

    The best I found was Mexx. 36 across their entire range.

    If you want to see how bad it can be go to the retro style websites. They measure each of their dresses and give a size table per dress. The difference in sizes can be up to 10cm between then for the same size. As is the translation between UK and Euro sizes. Depending on the dress manufacturer (and again style) I'm a 12 / 42, a 14 / 40, a 14 / 42, a 16 / 42 and in one case an 18 / 44. And all with a 31" waist and 36" bust.

    The only issue I have had with shoes were a really nice pair of courts – I'm normally 5.5 to 6.5 – for this manufacturer (i can't remember which) an 8 was still an inch short!


    1. Wow, that is complicated. No wonder a long top and leggings are so popular. πŸ™‚

      I think I get that sizes are a useful guide, but come on! It's not supposed to be Bingo πŸ™‚

      Maybe the future is body LIDAR (like RADAR but with laser), although that may require standing in your smalls. Eeek! πŸ˜‰

  5. mmm… Specialist shops always give me the shivers.
    I prefer to forget the few items I have bought from those places. They all ended up in the bin.
    Give me proper female clothing any day!

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