An introduction to “Gender Fluidity” including a parent’s story

In by last blog, “A Diversity and Inclusion Case Study – Getting it Right” I shared the story of a Men’s Clothing Chain whose customer service representative and store manager did a wonderful job of addressing the concerns of a mother wanting to find a nice suit for her gender fluid child to wear to primary school graduation. I promised to share a little more about what gender fluidity is and more of Innes’ (the mother) and Carolyn’s (the child) story.

The “Gender Diversity Education and Services” website had about the best description of what gender fluidity is. They provide this definition, “Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid people do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of women and men. For some people, gender fluidity extends beyond behavior and interests, and actually serves to specifically define their gender identity. In other words, a person may feel they are more female on some days and more male on others, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately. Their identity is seen as being gender fluid.”

Now read the story of mother Innes Clodd telling us about her gender fluid child Carolyn:

“It’s hard to know where to begin, as this really has been more of a journey than a one-time event. She came to me when she was much younger, maybe 9, and said she thinks maybe she was transgender. I really had no idea how to react, what to think, how to feel; it was confusing at best for me, never mind her.

I accepted what she had told me and made some calls, set up some meetings and helped her get in touch with some resources that could help her make sense of what she was feeling. One of the groups had a parental unit, so I attended that group; it was quite helpful, but at the same time, added to my confusion.
As time went on, I decided it was best to let Carolyn set the pace, and I would follow her lead. She had changed her name to August, and the school was very supportive with her decision. He decided he didn’t really like that name, so changed again to Kryss. Again, there was a fairly supportive environment. There are 2 older brothers in the family, who tried to be supportive, but most of the time it came off as making fun, although they did apologize, in a way that boys do, for hurting his feelings.

Again, time goes on, things seem to be going ok, then my partner at the time, who is not the biological father, started to call him names, like “thing, it, whatever.” This spurred many arguments, since I will go to the ends of the earth for my children. Finally it is over, he is gone, the energy calms. Kryss then reverts back to Carolyn, but cannot decide which pronoun to use, neither one feels 100% right. At that point she states that she is gender fluid. Honestly, I had no idea what that even was, I had to look it up.

We moved away from that town, as my ex was stalking us, to a whole new place. The only downfall, it was Carolyn’s last year of her primary school. She was very sad to leave her friends behind, and really had a hard time making friends this past year, as she knew that we would be moving again this summer, so she would again be in an environment as a complete new comer.

Regardless if she expresses herself as a girl or a boy, Carolyn’s joy of life shines through a beautiful smile.

During the past school year, she talked to me a lot about how she was feeling, the struggles she was having, and also the times when she was accepted for being who she was. On any given day she could identify as either male, female, or sometimes flip flop over the course of the day. Her main struggle seemed to be which category she fit in to. I told her not to put herself in a box, not to label herself, and that she did not have to fit in to any category as long as she was happy, being true to herself, her identity would come in time. There were many conversations, and many tears shed. My heart was breaking for her, but all I could do was listen and be supportive.

Finally!! Success!! She began just being Carolyn, sometimes boy Carolyn, sometimes girl Carolyn, hence the nick name “Baby They”. I even got her a birthday cake that said “Happy Birthday Baby They”, she loved it.

Then came time to talk about primary school graduation, something I was secretly not looking forward to. Then the words came out of her mouth, as I knew they would “I want to wear a suit to grad Mum”….

… and you will have to read my previous blog to see how the story of the graduation outfit turns out!

A Diversity and Inclusion Case Study – Getting it Right

Proud mother Innes Clodd with her child Carolyn looking fantastic at primary school graduation.

In early June, I published a blog called “Three key lessons from a diversity mishap.” A Facebook friend of mine witnessed a disturbing diversity misstep in the way a convenience store clerk treated a customer and shared about it on his Facebook page.

Recently I found an inspirational story of how a customer service representative and store manager for a men’s suit store “got it right” when addressing the needs of a gender fluid young woman preferring to wear a nice suit to her graduation instead of a dress. (NOTE – link to my subsequent blog that provides more details on what gender fluidity is and the journey of this mother and her child.)

Here is the story as told by the mother Innes Clodd:

The time came to talk about my child Carolyn’s high school graduation, something I was secretly not looking forward to. Then the words came out of her mouth, as I knew they would, “I want to wear a suit to grad, Mum”. Oh god I thought, where am I going to get a suit that will fit her and look nice? I thought a lot, I looked around a lot, and saw nothing. Then it came to me … Moores, they’re the suit people! I believed that they had to have made some kind of accommodations for the transgender movement.

(NOTE – Moores is a Men’s Clothier Chain in Canada.)

So we went in. I don’t think we were there for 5 minutes when we left. The staff was not unpleasant, but they just said no, there has been no changes, accommodations, nothing to assist the female form, identifying as the male gender in looking the way they want. I mean sure, we could get a suit tailored, but I’m not a wealthy (money wise) woman.

We left Moores and checked out a few other stores in the area, basically looking for a woman’s pant suit, the ones that went out in the early 90’s? Suffice it to say, nothing was to be found. We went back to the car and just sat for a moment. We ended up arguing a bit, and crying, and giving each other the silent treatment, and eventually calming enough to apologize to each other. I was frustrated for her, but it came out in the form of anger with her. She was frustrated because she thought I was angry with her and disappointed that she did not want to wear a dress.

We drove home, pretty much in silence, then all of a sudden I said, out loud, “Nope, this is unacceptable.” Of course Carolyn looked confused. I said no one should feel like they are ‘wrong’ because of who they are, which is how she felt. I said no parent should have to feel helpless, and watch their child’s heart break, or question who or what they are. I said Carolyn, trust me, you will have your suit, and it will look fantastic.

I decided to write to Moores, honestly, not really expecting anything. Maybe an apology, or a discount of some sort, I really didn’t know. The representative who returned my email was actually very apologetic, and asked if we could work together to find a suit-able (I’m hilarious right?) solution. Of course I replied absolutely. But for some reason my emails would not go through. She included a phone number in her email, so I called and left a message, again not expecting anything in return.

Once again I was wrong; she returned my call. We discussed at length the issues at hand, I explained my position, and offered some advice, that perhaps they need to have a few styles of jackets available for the female form, specifically for these occasions. She thanked me for bringing the LGBTQA community to their attention. I didn’t really ask for anything, just that they consider all people, and that although they are ‘Men’s Clothiers” the word ‘Men’ has a new meaning in today’s world.

She was very kind, she listened and she seemed to genuinely care about the situation. I was originally offered 50% off anything I wanted to purchase in the store, which I said was very kind and generous. She then asked me if there was anything else she could do for my daughter, I jokingly said (although we all know there is truth in jest) “free would be nice,” and I laughed it off. Her reply made my jaw drop to the floor; “let me see what I can do about that for you”.

Sure enough, she called me the next day and told me that she had arranged for a $400 gift card at that particular store, and that the manager was at our disposal for when we wanted to go. I could not thank her enough. She said “if there is anything else you need, please contact me directly and I will take care of it.”

When we returned to the store, we immediately saw the lady that spoke to us the first time, who just so happened to be the manager. Carolyn took a very deep breath and said “oh no.” I asked her what was wrong. She said “what if they are mad at us for complaining, what if they are rude to us, I don’t think I can handle that.” I simply said, just relax and we will get through this. We will deal with whatever comes as it comes.

The manager of the store was so kind, and so apologetic. I explained that it wasn’t her, it was the principle that nothing is available. She seemed to understand. She helped Carolyn with everything, right down to the socks, and we spent every penny. After the measurements and the transaction was complete, the manager said “you’re going to look fabulous, not only did we give you a $400 gift card, but we also gave you 50% off the amount above that. Once again my jaw dropped to the floor. My beautiful baby went to graduation in an $800 outfit, looking like a million bucks.

I am absolutely in awe of the amazing customer service we received, and how seriously they took the concern and suggestion. I am absolutely over the moon, because at the end of the day, people do care. Thank you, Moores Clothing!

Carolyn (right) with math teacher “Ms. G” who was very supportive of Carolyn as a gender fluid student.

Carolyn also wanted to color her hair rainbow, in honor of who she is, and to honor those who choose to remain silent, at least for now. Everyone told her how great she looked, everyone loved the hair, the suit, which was pants, a dress shirt, vest, tie and of course matching socks. She felt so proud, so happy, and so confident. She had everything I wanted her to have and more. All of it because someone cared enough to make a wish come true on a very special day.

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Just as my earlier Facebook friend shared the bad experience on Facebook, which was seen by thousands of people, Innes also shared this story on Facebook. Hopefully many people who value diversity and the inclusion of all people in our society will now patronize this forward-thinking store. Link to Moores Clothing.

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Link to my next blog on gender fluidity and more of Innes’ and Carolyn’s journey.