Monday, 1 February 2010

Just Don't Be a Dick, Sir John

I had intended to mainly blog about my preparations for the Black Flame Books gig this week, friends on Twitter having announced that, much as addressing trans issues is important, they do like a bit of variety now and then. So I thought I'd blog my progress in rehearsals for the gig, buying the new top I want to wear for it, y'know, decent ordinary meat-and-potatoes blogging like that. Foolish of me I know, but I had the crazy notion that maybe, just maybe, after crawling out of the woodwork to secrete their fluids over the hive-queen Bindel, the transphobes might lie dormant for a bit and it would be safe to come out without the Wayland-Yutani Corp exosuit.

Instead, of course, not only did some blatant transphobia occur, it occurred practically on my manor.

So much for a quiet week, then.

An annoying aspect of this case is that the Sir John Fitzgerald Group pubs are usually, in my experience, pretty good. Well, some of them. Their flagship pub on Grey Street smells of death, frankly, but most of their other pubs are alright. I've very fond memories of some excellent nights spent at the Bridge Hotel, and the Bacchus is absolutely stellar. But there's no way I'm going back into any of their branches until they do something about this. The text of a letter I wrote to them announcing my intention to boycott can be found after the jump.
Dear Sir or Madam,

Re. Transphobic Exclusion at Briar Dene, Whitley Bay

As a longstanding patron of many John Fitzgerald Group public houses, it is with great disappointment that I read about recent events at the Briar Dene in Whitley Bay, where Katrina Harte, a loyal customer who happened to be a trans woman was told by a member of your staff that it would be ‘illegal’ for her to use the women’s toilets on these premises.

It is my understanding from what I have read that there is no specific law regarding who may or may not use the toilets in a public house on the basis of gender. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that the law as it applies to employers states that businesses which employ trans people must allow them to use the toilet facilities of the gender to which they are transitioning. In other words, a trans woman would be allowed to use the ladies’ toilets, and a trans man would be allowed to use the gents’. Guidance on this subject from trades union representatives specifically mentions the alternative presented to Ms Harte, using the disabled toilets, as an unacceptable solution.

I feel the best practice in a situation like this would be for you to follow the law as it relates to employers. Furthermore, there is the fact that Ms Harte reports that for three years she has been attending this public house and has never had any problem previously about using the ladies’. If you are now saying that this is illegal, are you also saying that you have, in fact, been an accessory to this illegal action for three years and done nothing about it?

Expecting a trans woman to use the male toilet facilities is cruel and unacceptable. It exposes her to potential violence and abuse at the hands of cisgendered (i.e. non-trans) males, both in the toilet facilities and outside the venue. It ‘outs’ Ms Harte to people who may not know of her trans status and creates a situation where there is a possibility that, because of your actions, she may come to harm.

It is with great regret, therefore, that I must announce my intention to boycott all Sir John Fitzgerald Group premises until such time as something is done about this situation. I request that you discipline the member of staff involved, and that you also institute a robust programme of gender diversity awareness training for all staff to ensure that something like this does not happen again. A good organisation to co-operate with in implementing such a programme would be the Gender Trust, whose website can be found at, and who can be contacted by telephone at 01273 234024.

I thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and hope that you address these concerns both satisfactorily and soon. I have always enjoyed my visits to your premises, and I would like to enjoy them again in future; but, I reiterate, until such time as you address the concerns outlined herein I will be boycotting all your premises, and advising my friends, relatives and associates to do likewise.

Yours faithfully,

Adam Fish

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