A New Report Pulls Back the Curtain on Changing Room Bias

Trans discrimination not limited to bathrooms

changing-fitting-dressing-room

Bil Browning

With so much media focus on North Carolina‘s anti-transgender bathroom law, LGBT advocates may be overlooking another public space that presents a distinct challenge to the hundreds of thousands of people nationwide trying to live authentically in their true gender. A new report reveals transgender women and all women of color frequently face discrimination when using retail changing rooms, compared to other women.

According to the report, three out of four transgender women who took part in this investigative research project experienced “adverse, differential treatment” in the “quality, quantity or content of services provided” by retail stores in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The researchers report the trans women had “negative interactions” such as verbal harassment, disrespectful or rude service, inappropriate comments, and the tester being ignored, followed or watched by security or store employees.

“In one test the tester was felt pressed for information about her gender identity, while in another test an employee told the tester that her ‘body build’ did not work for the dress she was trying on.”

These tests involved 60 people, matched to be alike in every way except one — one was trans and the other cisgender (meaning, not transgender). The tests were conducted at stores in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Researchers say one Maryland store where a trans woman was murdered was not included in the test, as she was known to some of those taking part.

The report, titled Room for Change, comes from the Equal Rights Center, a Washington-based non-profit advocacy group dedicated to civil rights, and was funded by the Arcus Foundation.

In addition to the findings related to trans women who were not people of color, the ERC noted a significant racial difference in how customers were treated.

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