With Donald Trump's administration taking a seemingly anti-trans rights stance regarding transgender people using bathrooms that align with their genders, the push for gender-neutral restrooms gained a powerful boost. With states like North Carolina enshrining legal discrimination of transgender people and others attempting to follow suit, now is the time for businesses to step up to the plate — but some conservative business owners are pushing back. Rather than just boycotting your local transphobic establishment, you can write letters to companies that don't support gender-neutral restrooms to let them know that you as a customer reject their decision.
Voting with your dollars is an important form of consumer advocacy, but letting businesses know what you think about their policies is similar to calling your representatives. In some ways, reaching out to businesses directly could result in quicker and potentially more positive results than lobbying Congresspeople simply because there's less legal red tape for company owners to go through to make changes. On this issue in particular, business owners in states like North Carolina have shown their support for inclusive bathrooms, and that fact could be used to convince businesses who have not yet introduced gender-neutral bathrooms to do so. Letting local businesses know what you think is an effective way to present feedback for their service, and doing so with regards to this important issue could benefit LGBT citizens in your area.
First and foremost, you need to know where to address your letters to the businesses you intend to write. Knowing a physical address to send a letter to can be one useful course of action, but email might be preferable to foster a better back-and-forth and more immediate response times. Once you know where you're writing, you can then set that knowledge aside while you write your statement.
It might be tempting to write a long-winded essay about inclusion of transgender people in public spaces, but the fact remains that many conservative business owners are turned off by discussions of LGBTQ issues because they deem them "too political" for the business sphere. As such, knowing your audience is key — if you want your hip local coffee shop to swap out their gendered restroom signs for gender-neutral ones, it might be worth mentioning, but if it's a mom and pop diner, it might be best to stick to the term "gender-neutral" in hopes of getting a better response.
Here, it's important to note your intention and potential outcomes: If you want local shops and restaurants to be more inclusive to trans folks, let them know in simple terms, but know that they might not respond the way you want them to.
I will not support companies with racist, homophobic, sexist, and/or transphobic owners. Never have, never will.— Ethereal SoapsⓋ (@ethereal_soaps) September 6, 2016
After writing and sending your letters, it's important to know that they may either choose not to respond or respond negatively. If they do respond in ways that appear bigoted or otherwise un-supportive of trans people, my advice as an activist is to not engage with them further, especially on social media. You can and should alert your community to their remarks if they're egregious, but arguing publicly solves nothing and often ends up making activists and their movements look bad. Let your friends and family know what they say, but don't waste time or energy on those whose minds are stubbornly made up.
After a campaign of asking businesses to offer gender-neutral restrooms in Asheville, North Carolina, was mostly successful, one implication became clear — that asking businesses for something as simple as inclusive restrooms isn't radical or offensive, and can result in more business for trans-friendly owners. Let your local business owners know that when you write them, but don't expect any specific response in return.