“Gender stereotypes are built into traditional restaurant service,” lamented the New York Times Tuesday. Chairs are pulled out for women. Women are served first. People are greeted by either “sir” or “ma’am.” It’s all just another example of the discrimination inflicted on “gender-expansive people,” says the New York Times.
“The misgendering of guests by restaurant hosts or servers may seem like a small thing,” the Times admits. But really, the paper explains, it’s painful “or even dangerous.”
But luckily, the Times tells us, lobbying groups are stepping up to push restaurants to make “T.G.I.” people happy. (T.G.I. is another new term to describe such individuals, and stands for “transgender, gender-variant, and intersex people.”)
Sydney Rogers, the education and training manager of one such organization, TransCanWork, warns readers of the Times that even gay-friendly restaurants are “daunting” for “gender-expansive people.”
“A lot of people don’t even realize that when you deal in a world that is all binary gay and lesbian,” Rogers said, “when a T.G.I. person comes in you’re automatically subjecting them to that world.”
The New York Times details restaurants who have become models of transgender accommodation.
The vegan restaurant Gay4U in West Oakland, California, which is run by a person named Ginger Espice, gives “transgender people of color” a free meal. Simply state that’s your identity, and you’ll be given a free cauliflower dip or tofu soup. (Evidently, Espice concluded that the format of the restaurant would prevent would-be pretenders from taking up the offer of a free meal.) The New York Times did not mention the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Times also showcased HAGS, a “queer fine-dining restaurant” in New York City set to open later this year, for its innovative “gender-neutral garments” for waiters and waitresses. These incredible garments can even be “cinched in various places to alter the shape to appear more masculine or feminine” so staff members can change their gender depending on the day or even the hour. A majority of the staff members who have been hired are “gender-expansive,” says chef Telly Justice. The restaurant will even give guests pronoun pins so that waitresses will be sure to not inflict any undue distress on customers.
Another restaurant, Kismet in Los Angeles, California, trains its staff to only address patrons with gender-neutral greetings and pronouns. Waitresses use “they” as a default pronoun for describing customers and often greet customers by saying, “Hey, folks!”
“It’s simply just a small amount of training to make sure that your staff members understand the importance of not making any assumptions about someone’s identity, and defaulting to they/them and/or asking point-blank how, somehow, someone would like to be referred to,” said Sara Kramer, the restaurant’s chef.
The Times sees room for change. “Services like Resy, OpenTable and Yelp don’t offer a pronoun field that allows diners to identify their gender,” it says. Every guest, the Times suggests, should be required to give his or her gender when making reservations.
When Times reporter Rax Will took the brilliant idea to Yelp, the restaurant platform’s chief diversity officer told the paper, “You bringing up the question even now makes me think this is something we could certainly surface to the product team.”
So look out for the restaurants near you. The Times and its affiliates will be pushing to install gender-neutral bathrooms, gender-neutral uniforms, pronoun pins, free meals for people who identify as transgender, and gender-removed greetings.