H&M has apologised after staff in the Philippines stopped a transgender woman from trying on a swimsuit and referred to her as a man.
Paulo Adrian Bataller was recently shopping in a H&M store in the Phillippine capital of Manila when she was prevented from trying on a swimsuit by store staff.
In a since-deleted post on Facebook, Bataller recalled the incident and said that while she would not usually speak out about this on social media, she felt motivated to by Pride month.
“I don’t usually post stuff like this on social media but in the spirit of pride month, I decided to speak up.
“I picked a swimsuit and when I was about to fit it, staff in the fitting room stopped me.”
She then explained to store staff that she was a transgender woman. However, staff continued to stop her, calling her a man.
Bataller said she was told: “The swimsuit might get ruined if men try it on.”
She then told staff that they were discriminating against her and that she had tried on a swimsuit in the same store the day before.
However, the staff insisted that she was not allowed to try on the outfit.
In the Philippines, there is currently no formal recognition for transgender people and they are unable to change their gender legally.
Bataller said that the experience had disappointed and hurt her, especially as one of the staff members was a gay man.
She said: “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.”
She added: “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.”
In a statement to Rappler, a H&M spokesperson said they were “shocked” about the way Bataller
“We are very sorry for the experience she had, this should never happen to her or to anyone.
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“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 spokesperson added: “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.”
The Philippines is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia, with a 2014 poll finding that 73 percent of Filipinos believe homosexuality should be accepted.
However, as well as a lack of legal recognition for transgender people, there is currently a ban on same-sex marriage.
On Tuesday, the Philippines Supreme Court began to hear a legal challenge in order to legalise same-sex marriage.
The court began to hear the challenge from gay activist and lawyer Jesus Falcis, 31, who is seeking to challenge the Family Code of the Philippines, a law that defines marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman.”
Falcis will argue that the law violates his constitutional rights to life and liberty, and argue that limiting civil marriages to opposite-sex couples violates the equal protection clause of the Philippines Constitution.
The move is opposed by religious leaders in the strongly Catholic country, but Falcis contends that his right to a civil marriage is nothing to do with religion.