M&S say ‘as an inclusive retailer and in line with most other retailers, we allow customers the choice of fitting room in respect of how they identify themselves’. This is only right. Unfortunately there is an obsessive campaign to make them kick trans women out of women’s changing rooms. My nonbinary friend who is AFAB says she/they just goes to whichever changing room is nearest- the women’s when she’s in the women’s department buying women’s clothes and the men’s otherwise.
I like M&S, and particularly like their own brand “Per Una” label which I find delightfully feminine. I have had no problem in their changing rooms, nor in Primark, River Island or Monsoon. Hate group WPUK decided to pick on M&S particularly in its campaign to exclude trans women from clothes shops changing rooms, even though M&S has largish cubicles each with a mirror, usually room for a friend to help decide, and walls and doors too high to peek over. There’s a mirror at the end of the corridor too, so I can walk up and down and see how that looks. And the shop has a lot of people even when not crowded. It’s absolutely the last place an AMAB person in women’s clothes would go, who wanted to perve over women.
The Daily Mail used the hate group’s campaign for one of its more clearly propagandist pieces. Its headline on 23 May was “Marks and Spencer’s Transgender Policy which allows men who identify as women to use female changing rooms ‘puts women and girls at risk,’ from voyeurs, campaigners say”. The story was not newsworthy at all- tiny group of trans excluders use ridiculous exaggeration in complaints to M&S- but the Mail made something of it.
Google Marks and Spencers transgender and the first page is press stories- that Mail story, but also “M&S apologises to transgender shopper after a member of staff refused to let them try on clothes”. They can’t win, it seems. Whatever they do is bad publicity as far as someone’s concerned. Which is why I think trans people should give them a break, quietly encourage them, and not amplify the anger.
And then, late on 7 December, Emma Nicholson tweeted an image of a letter she apparently had sent to the M&S chair, in which she wrote, “I was delighted to learn on Friday that your policy on customer changing facilities has changed and that cubicles for trying on clothes before purchase will now be single sex once more.” Challenged to produce evidence of this, she could not.
I don’t think Emma is particularly transphobic. Probably, she has the distaste an elderly conservative lady might have for anything she thinks is a bit weird. But, as a hard right former advocate for the anti-gay law Section 28, she believes she can split the left by trolling about trans rights.
The challenge came from Maya Forstater, an obsessive hater who lost her job because she is so self-righteous about her transphobia. Even such a completely irrational person challenged Nicholson. Unfortunately this did not stop a few “Help Help the Sky is falling!” posts from excitable trans women. One demanded “No more shopping at M&S. Not sure any of us would anyway- there is a reason they are dying out”, showing the Nicholson image as if it had some relation to reality. I did not even believe that Archie Norman is chair of M&S on Nicholson’s say-so, without checking for myself. (He is.)
My posts tend to get archived, and I will leave this here, to last as a monument to my credulity and willingness to think the best of M&S if it changes its policy. I will add any evidence that M&S is hostile to trans people. Meanwhile, nonbinary people and trans women who have not yet decided to transition, so may not be protected by the Equality Act, should use shop changing rooms nearest to their selection- the women’s, if they are buying women’s clothes, because the men’s will be the other side of the store or even a different floor. As soon as Covid precautions permit, of course.
Someone has to play the adult. I was saddened to read this quote: “[Reddit] use the label hate speech to silence speech they don’t want, [transphobic speech]. Radical feminism does not come from a place of hate, nor anything even remotely near it. Radical feminism comes from a place of love for women and girls.” Of course, it does. Any person demonising an out-group believes they are just acting in love for their in-group. That’s why they are so self-righteous about it.
Added 9 December: The Daily Mail, again paying Nicholson far more attention than she deserved, got this statement from M&S:
“in line with most other retailers we will generally allow people to use the fitting room which they prefer, with our colleagues exercising discretion and common sense.”