H&M PH apologizes after staff bars transgender woman from trying on swimsuit

MANILA, Philippines – If, to this day, it boggles you that LGBTQ people need laws to protect them from discrimination, let this story change your mind.

In a post that’s been liked by thousands and shared by hundreds, Paulo Adrian Bataller said she was disallowed by an H&M branch from trying on swimsuits because, staff, said, men aren’t allowed to fit swimwear for women.

“I don’t usually post stuff like this on social media but in the spirit of pride month, I decided to speak up,” Paulo said in a post on her Facebook page.

She said that on her way home, she decided to drop by the H&M store in Gateway Mall since the fast fashion giant was holding a sale. “I picked a swimsuit and when I was about to fit it, a staff in the fitting room stopped me,” she said.

Paulo, a transgender woman, explained to the store staff she’s transgender. The staff, however, insisted it wasn’t allowed. “Kasi po mas nasisira po 'yung mga swimsuit 'pag lalaki nagfifit (The swimsuit might get ruined if men try it on),” wrote Paulo, recalling her conversation with the store staff.

She pointed out that prohibiting her from trying on the swimsuit was a form of discrimination. Ironically, she had been allowed to try swimwear on the day prior.

“Ending up, they didn’t allow me. As someone who works in the fashion industry, I am deeply disappointed. No one should ever be restricted in fitting or buying the clothes they want, regardless of gender. Take note, the staff who didn’t allow me is gay and I thought he would be more understanding. Instead, he just raised his voice and emphasized that I’m a man. As someone who identifies herself as a woman, this is very hurtful and offensive,” she said.

“I hope this never happen again to my fellow transwomen or to anyone who just want to express themselves freely. I also hope that H&M revisit their policy because their current one is obviously discriminatory. Lastly, to anyone who will experience what I experienced today, don’t be afraid to speak up and uphold your right,” added Paulo.

Paulo, who herself works in the fashion industry, told Rappler she was “surprised” by what happened.

“But I maintained my ground and composure because I didn't want to make a scene. However, deep inside I felt hurt and humiliated. I felt like I was deprived of my right because I was different. I felt mad because I think it was unfair. As much I wanted to vent out my emotions at the sales staff, I wanted to educate him than embarrass him,” she told Rappler.

Unfortunately, Paulo’s story is not all too uncommon in the Philippines. Pending before Philippine Congress is a proposed law that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. While the measure has passed the House of Representatives, it faces resistance at the Senate.

Both houses of Congress must approve a bill before the president signs it into law. 

In a statement, H&M Philippines said it was “shocked” at how store staff treated Paulo.

“We are very sorry for the experience she had, this should never happen to her or to anyone. We are currently investigating the situation and have been coordinating with both the customer and the said store. We will be taking immediate corrective actions in order to avoid this from happening again, and most of all, to further reiterate the idea and practice of inclusiveness to our colleagues in the Philippines,” the company said.

“At H&M, we have zero-tolerance policy on discrimination. We celebrate diversity and respect our customers and colleagues regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We have a strong and clear guidelines on this as part of the training program that every H&M employee goes through – new and current,” it added.

Paulo confirmed to Rappler that H&M’s communications team had already reached out to her.

Read H&M Philippines' statement, as sent to Rappler, in full here:

We are shocked at the treatment that Pau, our customer, received from one of our staff yesterday evening while shopping. We are very sorry for the experience she had, this should never happen to her or to anyone. We are currently investigating the situation and have been coordinating with both the customer and the said store. We will be taking immediate corrective actions in order to avoid this from happening again, and most of all, to further reiterate the idea and practice of inclusiveness to our colleagues in the Philippines.

At H&M, we have zero-tolerance policy on discrimination. We celebrate diversity and respect our customers and colleagues regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We have a strong and clear guidelines on this as part of the training program that every H&M employee goes through – new and current. This is also published on our website http://sustainability.hm.com/en/sustainability/downloads-resources/policies/policies.html.

H&M is a place where you can be yourself and dress your personality. Our diversity makes us strong, and creates an inclusive and welcoming workplace where everyone’s individuality is highly valued.

Additionally, apart from the many works we have had and are on-going with regards to diversity, this month, we have launched a special collection called Love For All in celebration of the Pride season. 10% of the sales from this collection will be donated to the UN Free & Equal - the United Nations Human Rights Office campaign whose aim is to build a world where no one should be afraid because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

– Rappler.com