M&S apologises after queer, disabled woman told she’s ‘not disabled’ and forced to use men’s toilet

Tay Beales and her partner Freya Baldwinson

M&S was forced to apologised to a disabled queer woman who was misgendered and told that her disability didn’t exist by a staff member.

Tay Beales and her partner Freya Baldwinson were shopping at the M&S on Exeter High Street for items for their new home together, but the experience soon turned sour, leaving Beales near tears.

Beales told DevonLive that when the couple went to use the toilets, a staff member blocked her from using the disabled toilet.

Beales, who has epilepsy, said the M&S worker told her: “No, no, no, you’re not going in there. You’re not disabled.” Beales said that the toilet door even had a sign that read: “Not every disability is visible.”

She said she was then “shooed… into the men’s like cattle”. Feeling uncomfortable, Beales left to use the women’s toilet. There, she said she was confronted by the same staff member, who then told her to used the disabled toilet.

“In the moment it wasn’t that I was angry; I felt upset and embarrassed,” she said.

“I was trying not to cry. When I was trying to explain what happened I was choked up.”

Beales’ partner Baldwinson said she later heard staff gossiping about the incident, debating Beales’ gender and describing her as “not disabled”.

The couple complained to an M&S manager, having to explain the events in front of other shoppers, but Beales said she doesn’t “think the manager took the incident seriously”.

“It’s no employee’s place to decide whether or not anyone has a disability or whether a customer is a man or a woman,” Baldwinson said.

“I think it’s awful that a brand that represents different disabilities and pride and all of these campaigns, hasn’t taken it seriously, especially face-to-face. There was no reassurance that the problem was going to be dealt with.”

M&S said in a statement: “We have a zero tolerance approach to discrimination across M&S and we always work to ensure that our stores are welcoming for everyone.

“We are very sorry that Tay’s experience did not meet the high standards of customer service that we set for ourselves, and for the upset that this caused.

“We have spoken today with Tay to apologise directly and she has accepted a gesture of apology.”