It’s all about publicity

by Kira Wertz
Community Issues Columnist

There’s an important distinction between a company publicizing its stance on trans rights and one which does not. Those who publicly speak up for the trans community get the kind of publicity most companies don’t want.

So, instead of being vocal about support for trans rights, they choose to remain mum.

However, when it comes to decent and respectable treatment of transgender individuals, Target takes the most public stance. They toed a hard line about respecting the gender identity of their employees and patrons, while many other large businesses cowered at this issue.

There were a handful of protests when Target publicized its bathroom policies. It didn’t change one important fact; many companies have gender-inclusive policies. The protesting public fails to realize that while Target was publicly pro-trans, the competition did not publicly take a contrary position.

Publicity tends to be the issue where the public seems ignorant. Those who chose to protest Target’s gender inclusiveness enjoy proclaiming victory due to a sales dip. In reality, market fluctuation caused the shifts in online shopping.

The protest did nothing except remind me where I won’t be targeted, which is ironically at Target.

There are individuals within all companies who don’t know the company’s policies or refuse to acknowledge those policies instead of acting on their own beliefs. These rogue individuals might justify such discrimination based upon some righteous indignation.

What companies should reiterate to these employees is they aren’t hired to be free thinkers, but rather ambassadors for their brand.

Since transitioning, I’ve had a couple of encounters with these individuals and my use of the restroom. Some have been very direct in their approach; blatantly telling me to leave, or telling me they wanted me to use the men’s room because of my “men’s boots.”  

Some have been quiet and subtle. It leads one to believe there’s an attempt at gaslighting. In one incident a female Home Depot associate stood outside the restroom. When I exited, she was there fidgeting with a box cutter.

Following that incident, I’ve witnessed more of this subtle behavior at that same store, though it hasn’t been anywhere near as threatening.

One transwoman I know recently recounted a story of being denied checkout at a Walmart by an associate that cited religious reasons for her discrimination. In a further twist of irony, the cashier was African-American.

When individuals who have been subject to discrimination choose to discriminate, our society begins to deny its progress. In this situation, a manager took care of my friend, but this is not a solution to the problem. Failing to discipline an employee for instituting personal will over established policy needs to be a concern for all businesses.

If the management of these businesses refuses to administer discipline for these rogue actions, it sends a blanket statement to the community that the whole company is unsafe.

During the 2017 push in the Texas legislature to create a state bathroom bill, the opposition from big business was overwhelming. Purportedly, 720 businesses and their leaders opposed the bill; among them were 51 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Here we realize the talent of trans individuals is so undeniable that big businesses would rather threaten to relocate then allow those individuals to face discrimination.

Corporations must convey this message to everyone employed within those organizations. Everyone from the custodians to the managers needs to realize that intolerance is bad business and an affront to any corporation’s branding.

Anyone incapable of treating a trans person as an equal perhaps needs to find an equally intolerant place to work. Businesses need to have zero tolerance for employees who are going rogue.

The Gayly. February 9, 2018. 10: 21 a.m. CST.