As founder of Sh! and creator of its ethos, I have been asked to clarify our position on trans people visiting Sh! We have been re-visiting this issue for almost the entire history of the store. I remember clearly the first time we ever had to address the question; 3 months after opening a builder came to the door and on being told he had to come with a woman, revealed he was wearing fishnet stockings…
Since then we have had many trans moments in about every permeation possible and often this has led to
Sh! does not believe in restrictive labels of "female" OR "male", just as we don’t we believe in “gay” OR “straight” or "vanilla" OR "kinky"
We believe gender, like sexuality (and, actually, most things in life!) can be much more fluid than society dictates.
However much we may disagree with it, those born and living in this (male-focused world) as female, having been socialized as girls from the moment they were born, have a different outlook, have different permissions granted to them and have different opportunities open to them, to those born and living as men.
We understand that trans people, having been born & socialized in a gender they don't feel entirely or partly comfortable with, have a different set of challenges.
Sh! was created as a female-focused erotic shop almost 20 years ago as an antidote to sex shops that are alienating to women or which are prescriptive to our gender or sexuality.
Our policy is that we ask for a man to come along with women or to come on their own during “Gents Nites” held every Tuesday.
When we say “women” we generally mean anyone who identifies as female and uses the pronoun she/her.
When we say "men" we mean anyone identifies as male & who use the pronoun he/him.
We hope that trans people, however much they feel/felt excluded/isolated from the gender differences imposed on us all, can remember/empathise with women born, brought up and living as women in a pro-male society.
Our policy is not about excluding ANYBODY, but about making women feel safe in ONE place where they can talk about, express and explore their sexuality.
Its in place so that a woman never feels out-numbered or intimidated at Sh!
Men historically have the permission and the extra cash (30% + of it) to explore their sexuality and there’s many male-orientated shops in which they can.
Sh! would certainly make a lot more money if this policy wasn’t in place, but until women feel safe and celebrated out in the world (and as this hasn’t happened in millennia, I wouldn’t hold your breath…) we will keep the female focus of Sh!
· Anyone who has ever served a rape victim, a cervical cancer survivor or vagiismus sufferer would understand why women want and need a space like Sh!
· Ditto a lesbian who’s just coming out…
· Ditto a women who’s never had an orgasm…
· Dittto a menopausal women who is finding sex painful..
· Ditto a hundred different scenarios where a woman wants to talk about something deeply personal to her, without feeling anymore inhibited than she has to.
Our policy is not about men “behaving badly”. Certainly a minority of men do still see a woman in a sex shop as an easy target.
But simply the presence of a single guy (or being out-numbered by a male presence) can be enough to inhibit a woman from revealing herself and her sexuality. We wish it were not so, but this is fact. Until everyone’s sexuality, right to privacy and safety are deemed of equal value, then we will continue to be strong about our ethos and reason for being.
“Presenting” as male (or female) is a very subtle thing and sometimes (though we hope rarely) we may get it wrong. It is certainly not about looking “male” and we have many super- butch customers to prove it.
Male-born men (presenting as men) have a certain confidence in the way they enter the shop and our decision is generally based on this energy. We have 20years experience of serving queer folk so if we are in anyway unsure we will generally listen to that and veer on the side of a maybe…
A trans man, who is living as a man / transitioning / taking testosterone will be asked to come with a woman. We hope that, as we respect his decision to enter a different world, so he will respect our space.
If we get it wrong and ask someone who is *not* transitioning, someone who's 'hybrid' ( as we hear some trans people refer to themselves) or 'intersex' ( ie they have a pussy and they're proud of that!) to come with a woman, then they simply need to quietly let us know. If our customers can reveal something as private as sexual abuse, then surely we have created a safe enough atmosphere to do that?
We understand that this is a minefield and one we must re-visit quite regularly as more trans peeps come out and trans-identities become less binary.
We would welcome discussion on this as we do all issues that the Sh! ethos throws up. We’d like a dialogue so we can understand the issues as fully as possible and to be as inclusive as we can within our ethos.
If you are interested in joining us for a discussion ( and by that we don’t mean a slanging match!) then let us know and we’ll set it up.
Finally, just to clarify, the pink in Sh! is ironic … as is the name!
Folks who find the pink of Sh! Hoxton gender-offensive, will be happy to know that the discussion will be held over at Sh! Portobello which is in our re-branded colours of deep midnight & fuscia – though the discussion will be held in the art-space basement which is wall to wall white!