A woman was left “embarrassed” after her hidden disability was disregarded and she was misgendered by a Marks & Spencer employee.
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Tay Beales was shopping on Exeter High Street yesterday with her girlfriend Freya when they decided to go into the M&S to look for homeware items.
Tay, who suffers from epilepsy, had to use the loo and when she tried to go to the disabled toilets she says a staff member turned her away saying she was “not disabled”. She said the staff members also ushered her into the men’s toilet.
She said: “Freya went into the ladies toilet and the M&S woman was standing in front of the disabled toilet and so I opened the handle and she said: ‘No, no, no, you’re not going in there. You’re not disabled.’
“I said to her I am disabled, I have epilepsy, a sign on the door even said that ‘not every disability is visible’. Then she told me ‘no, you need to go in there’ and shooed me into the men’s like cattle.
“I didn’t know that I was going into the men’s at this point. I got in there and there was a man having a wee. I felt uncomfortable and walked back out and went into the ladies’ toilet.”
“This staff member then saw me again and said ‘no you need to go to the disabled’ and again, shooed me out the ladies loo like cattle. At the moment it wasn’t that I was angry; I felt upset and embarrassed. I was trying not to cry. When I was trying to explain what happened I was choked up.”
Freya, who was using the toilet at the time of Tay’s encounter, says she heard the staff member gossiping with a customer when she came out.
She said: “I could hear the customer talking to the employee and the customer said ‘I can’t believe you have let a man into the toilet’ The staff member then said ‘She’s not a man and I didn’t know where to put her, she said she’s disabled but she’s not’.
“The customer started asking if she thought Tay was a man or a woman and then I intervened.”
Tay said: “We went and spoke to a manager who apologised. It was only after we told the manager that we were going to make a formal complaint, did they take my contact details. I don’t think the manager took the incident seriously.”
Freya said: “It was embarrassing, we had to explain everything that had happened on the shop floor in front of customers. It’s no employee’s place to decide whether or not anyone has a disability or whether a customer is a man or a woman.