Nordstroms Making Change for Transgender Community
Last month a local lesbian decided to go shopping for clothes at a Nordstroms Rack at Miracle Market Place in Miami and although her experience was “less than pleasant” it has sparked a new awareness and a positive change from the department store.
The incident in question involved openly lesbian Maureen Colon of Miami. She went into a Nordstrom store and picked out a few men’s flannel shirts and men’s boxers shorts.
The problem occurred when Colon says she asked to be taken to the dressing room. Problem is while trying on the flannel shirts inside a private room she heard male voices in another dressing room. That’s when she realized she had been taken to the men’s dressing room instead of the ladies room. She quickly got dressed and left the room. She then complained to the employee and management about the incident.
Although Colon is not transgender, her general masculine appearance and selection of male clothing and underwear apparently confused the store employee who mistakenly thought she was a male. Colon shared with me how distraught and embarrassed she was about the situation. Even though the staff at Nordstrom apologized to her about the mistake Colon was still outraged. After the incident the staff asked Colon if a similar situation arises in the future should they ask which dressing room the person prefers? Colon responded that she has breasts and feels that the employee should have noticed that fact and immediately escorted her to the ladies room without question despite her masculine look and choice of male clothing.
“The reason I felt violated and humiliated is because I do not think that I look like a man so I was offended that they stereotyped me as ‘transgender,”’ she said. “I could not have been that confusing to them because I have breasts. Even though I wear men’s pants, shirts, and underwear I’m still a woman and I feel as though and should have been treated as such.”
Colon told me she frequently shops at the Miracle Market Place location and was aware the employee was taking her in to the men’s dressing room.
“A red flag went up,” she said. However, she didn’t question the employee because, “Well I thought that perhaps they had redesigned the fitting rooms.”
It’s important to note that Nordstroms has a very high rating with the Human Rights Campaign for being supportive of gay rights and equality. They always have a presence at the gay pride parade in Chicago where they are based.
While contacting Nordstroms I discovered they even have a Diversity Department, which I believe speaks volumes. I got in touch with Tara Darrow in the Diversity Department who was very familiar with the incident and considered it a priority.
She told me the company wanted to extend their heartfelt apology to Colon for unintentionally offending her. She explained to me that they are making efforts to come up with a reasonable solution and assured me they are making a serious attempt to ensure that an incident like this never happens again. Darrow expressed that she would like to better educate employees and even asked me how to handle a situation like this in the future since I am transgender.
She also asked if I would be interested in attending a staff meeting at one of their stores to teach a sensitivity training course.
She then told me the employee, who mistakenly thought Colon was a male, is very distressed and apologetic and wants our readers to know that it was not intentional.
“We are working feverishly to transition our Nordstrom Rack male and female dressing rooms over to “gender neutral” dressing rooms since this incident with Maureen occurred and we have already made those changes in our Nordstrom Department Stores last year,” Darrow said. “The incident with Maureen Colon was an isolated occurrence that was an honest mistake as we would never deliberately offend nor discriminate against anyone for any reason. My experience through speaking with you about this incident will better help our company learn and grow in an ever changing world as we want everyone to feel welcomed and accepted in our stores.”
My advice to anyone like Colon in the future is simple. If ever in a public place and you need to ask for a dressing room or restroom it’s always best to be as specific as possible. I would phrase the question like this: “Can you please direct me to the ladies room, or can men’s room?”
I want to commend Nordstroms for offering gender neutral dressing rooms as this will be much appreciated by the transgender community as well as others who feel their gender may be in question. I also want to thank Maureen Colon for making this all possible by having the courage to come forward with her personal experience.