I had good reasons to be concerned in light of some highly publicized Volunteer State incidents such as transwoman Forresta Bee being publicly disrespected at a Nashville radio station party at LP Field to another transwoman being arrested after a protest at a Tennessee drivers license facility to a state legislator trying to pass an unjust transphobic bathoom bill.
The reactions to the overt and covert hatred peddled by Republican politicians has been heard loud and clear in the Volunteer State, and now in the wake of the increasing transphobia I received this e-mail from an African-American transwoman living in the state.
She recounted a less than pleasant experience she and a gay friend endured recently at the A'Gaci location at the Stones River Mall in Murfreesboro, TN.
My name is Paris Pinkerton and I’m 22 year old transgender woman who lives in Middle Tennessee. Last Saturday (January 21), a friend and I went shopping at the Stones River Mall. We ended up experiencing discrimination in A’Gaci that day, which is a department store that’s located inside of the mall.
Once we arrived at the Stones River Mall, we both went inside A’Gaci and started shopping. I found a few items that I wanted to buy so I walked to the cash register to pay for the items I had selected. My friend was standing right beside me while I was at the register, and I kept noticing that one of the cashier’s had a look of disgust on her face. She was telling me how cute my purchases were, but she kept eying my friend who is a flamboyant gay male.
After I made my purchases, I put on the items inside of the store and walked out with my friend. We shopped in the mall for a couple of hours until we got tired and decided to leave, and proceeded to exit the mall through A’Gaci.
I saw a childhood friend while I was exiting the store and we started talking. My childhood friend was actually working at the cash register inside of A’Gaci during that time, and I noticed that her manager (Alicia) was looking at me while standing next to a security guard. After our conversation was over, her manager (Alicia) called my friend and I over to where she was standing. That’s when the security guard informed me that we were banned from the store. I asked why and the manager refused to give me an answer, and just kept insisting that we leave.
Not long after that, the security guard left and I asked the manager if I could speak to her manager. She informed me that the store manager was not there, and that’s when I asked her why I was being banned from her store. This time, she told me that there was a misunderstanding. I told her that I thought she was discriminating against me, because of the fact that I’m an African-American transgender woman. However, she denied that was discrimination and that I wasn’t banned. I was still upset at how she approached me so disrespectfully, that I demanded to speak to the store manager (Amy). She informed me that she wouldn’t be in until Monday, and that I could talk to her then. I called the manager (Alicia) back, because I forgot to ask for the store manager’s (Amy) name. She told me that her name was Amy, and that she had spoken to after my friend and I had left. She also went on to tell me that they had both made the decision to go ahead and ban us from the store.
The following week, I called the A’Gaci store manager (Amy) and explained what happened to her. She pulled the report, and told me that I was banned because I caused a scene by accusing her manager of discrimination. She started being rude and getting loud whenever I told her that I did not cause a scene in the store. I let her know that her manager and the mall security singled my friend and I out by humiliating us in front of everyone, and that I was just taking up for myself. She went on to say that they have the right to ban whoever they want, and that she stands by her manager’s (Alicia) decision. That’s when I asked for corporates number, which she did give to me.
***Shortly after my discussion with the store manager (Amy), I called corporate and was directed to the A’Gaci district manager. I explained what had transpired, and that I was a paying customer, as well as an awards card member in her store. That’s when she told me her team had handled the situation incorrectly, and that she was sorry. She went on to say that she didn’t want to lose me as a customer, however I informed her that I wouldn’t shop at a store that allowed their employee’s to openly discriminate against while still remaining hired. She told me that she was not able to fire the manager that had discriminated against me, but she could train her employee’s how to handle situations better. I told her that I didn’t think that was enough, and she told me that loss prevention would be contacting me later in the week to discuss the matter.The week has already passed, and I have still have not heard from the A’Gaci district manager or loss prevention. With that being said, I know that my rights were violated in A’Gaci that day and it’s sad that I still have not received a concrete reason why I was banned from the store.
I think that everyone should boycott A’Gaci, because they allow their employees to openly discriminate against customers who are part of the LGBT community!
For those of you who wonder why I go ballistic when I hear some transpeople ignorantly assert that we don't need public accommodations language in any trans human rights legislation, situations like these are the reason why.
But back to this post. Ms. Pinkerton has a point. Why is she being banned from a store for simply doing what anyone else would have done in her situation? Wouldn't you if you felt you were being disrespected and discriminated against not only be pissed about it, but demand answers as to why as a loyal customer of the store was being treated that way?
I suspect she's correct in presuming by the A'gaci management actions she is being unfairly treated, and there may be a strong undercurrent of homophobia and transphobia undergirding why this is happening to her and her shopping companion.
It's a things that make you go hmm question that Paris, the Tennessee TBLG community and all inquiring justice seeking minds deserve a straight (pardon the pun) answer to.
At the least, Ms. Pinkerton and her companion deserve an apology.