I wandered into the American Eagle Kids store yesterday just to see if I might find my favorite AE clothes in a size that fits me. I got a little concerned when I saw the gender appropriate skate board and sport decorations of the boys’ department - but even worse were the signs on the dressing rooms: “Boys only, keep out!”
Might I have to go all the way to the girl’s fitting rooms even though I was trying on boys’ clothes? Would they let me try things on, or understand my reasons for shopping there? Would they look confused and force me to explain myself? Though there weren’t kids around, what would happen if some parents brought them in? Might I have to pretend that I was shopping for my little brother or nephew?
I tried to remain calm because I know I am one of many dykes faced with this challenge, and I hoped that I might not have been the store’s first encounter. Out of respect for the “boy’s only” sign, I decided to tell a sales clerk I was ready to try things on and see what he said. With an animated smile, he pointed to the fitting rooms in the boys’ department and said, “The fitting rooms are there, or if you want you can go to the little girls’ rooms over there.” Wow!
I let out a huge sigh of relief and hung my XL boy’s clothes on the skate board wheel hanger. He got it! He knew I was a grown female bodied person trying on boys’ clothes and told me I was welcome in either fitting room. I started thinking about the store’s gendered marketing tactics, and couldn’t help but understand their reasons for making the store feel exclusive to people like me. In order to succeed, they need to market towards their general audience of children wanting mainstream clothes that go with our society’s gender binary. I am satisfied as long as they show compassion towards people like me who are forced into a store intended for people possibly the farthest away from us in terms of interests and experiences.
As it turns out, American Eagle did instigate a trans friendly employee policy in 2010, which includes training around being friendly to trans customers (which suits my needs as an androgynous Dyke). And clearly the clothes themselves are friendly towards transmasculine people, because they fit pretty well! The sleeves were a little short, but still manageable. Pictures of my successful findings are sprinkled through out the post. I didn’t buy anything this time, but very well may in the future.