Creating a Safe Space

At Grey Rock we pride ourselves on offering a safe space and welcoming environment to everyone who walks through our doors.

Grey Rock also offers style consultations, in which we teach men and women how to dress for their body shape and life style.  Recently I offered to do one for my friend Christine who is a trans-woman, to help her with her new look. During this consultation I learned a lot.

Christine commented that as a trans person she must be a body shape all to herself, which would present me with some unique challenges, but in fact she did fit nicely into one our 12 women’s body shapes. The consultation went very well, and I think we both learned a lot. One thing I learned about was the difficulty some people on the LGBTQ spectrum can have while shopping for clothes. I’d never thought about the judgment they might feel when shopping in the section of the store that doesn’t match their gender presentation.

Christine gave me a real understanding of how important it is that the way a person dresses and presents themselves matches how they feel inside. It saddened me to learn that a person presenting as a man who’d like to buy a dress for himself may be forced to pretend to be shopping for their wife, in order to avoid the negative judgments of sales people or other customers.

I told Christine I wanted to help, and to come up with ideas for ways that I could support the LGBTQ community in this. She arranged for us to have dinner with Dave Vervoort, a therapist who is very active in the LGBTQ community in the Guelph and Wellington area.

Over dinner we talked about putting a rainbow sticker – the LGBTQ symbol – in the store window as a first step in letting people know the store is a safe space for anyone, regardless of their gender identity or presentation. I think they were quite impressed when I instantly agreed to do this. Businesses do have to be careful about doing anything that might alienate a segment of your customer base. For example, I explained that, while I do feel loyalty to a political party, I’ve been reluctant to support them openly with my business; I don’t want to turn off customers who may not agree with my political views. However in my eyes this issue is totally different. In politics everyone should have a choice, but this is something that I believe has only one right position.

What they helped me realize is that unfortunately not everyone shares this viewpoint, and that can sometimes result in negative experiences for transgendered people. This is why one small sticker prominently displayed can really make a huge difference to how comfortable someone might feel in my store.

So, with my rainbow sticker proudly displayed we’ve started brainstorming more ideas to truly make Grey Rock a safe space, and to help people feel comfortable shopping in any section of the store, whatever gender they might be presenting.


Here are some things we’re toying with: staying open late one night each month for LGTBQ shopping nights, offering shopping appointments outside of store hours, and offering style consultations on a sliding price scale to remove the barrier of cost for people struggling to dress a new body or identity.

If you’ve got any suggestions, thoughts or ideas we’d love to hear them either in the comments below or through email at

Finally, here’s Dave Vervoort’s website:

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