Anti-trans newsletter rant brings community and allies out in force

On Friday January 6th, a little known newsletter shared by Propel Hospitality with its 20k strong distribution list, was used as a vehicle for a transphobic rant.

The newsletter opens with a warning: the subject of the “transgender issue” and “trans ideology” it explains, should not be touched with a bargepole due to the conversation being so “toxic”. The author then goes on to demonstrate exactly why that is the case.

Indeed, the article poses the question of how to treat transgender customers in hospitality venues. But, rather than drawing the logical conclusion: treat them as you would any other human being, with respect…after all they are paying customers just looking for a fun night out, the author chose to go down an altogether different route.

Thus ensued a pseudo mythbuster which cobbled together as much disinformation and misinformation as you could shake a stick at in order to presumably “warn” readers in the hospitality industry of the dangers of being inclusive of gender diverse guests.

The more I thought about the piece, the more upset I became. It wasn’t so much the article itself, which is just a regurgitation of the hate which is available freely enough online, it was more about the intention behind the email and the fact that it had been proactively sent to so many people in the hospitality industry, many of whom I am lucky enough to call my friends. I spoke to a number of them and they all had the same response: How the hell has this happened and why?

Our existence continues to be commented on and questioned despite all the progress that is being made. I think sometimes people outside the community struggle to understand why this is so upsetting. The subtext being that when it comes to acceptance, we should be grateful for what we can get. But I hope for more.

What if the newsletter had been a cautionary guide on one of the following:

- how to treat gay customers in hospitality venues

- how to treat black customers in hospitality venues

- how to treat female customers in hospitality venues

You get the picture.

Having publicly called out company MD, Paul Charity, in a post on LinkedIn for having let this communication go out, reportedly unchecked, I gave him some tips and I would like to share some of them here in the hope that any brands that may be watching can learn something constructive from this debacle:

1. Publicly apologise and tell us exactly WHY you are sorry.

2. Donate to a trans charity and make the receipt public.

3. Educate yourself and then share that what you have learned with your readers

There were also one or two other tips but we won’t go into them right now.

Encouragingly, it looks like some of my advice was taken on board. The MD has issued not one but two tentative apologies, he has committed to doing better by the community (education is planned, as well as a sizeable donation to a trans charity).

However, whether this is an exercise in genuine allyship, or damage limitation remains to be seen. The follow up apology hinted at the latter with Charity’s appeal to readers to show ‘tolerance’. Surely a plea for kindness would be more appropriate? Tolerance is about putting up with something that doesn’t quite agree with you, kindness is about consideration of the experiences of others, regardless of whether or not they differ from yours.

Whatever the impact on this particular brand, what has been incredibly empowering, is the pushback which this episode has solicited from the community and its allies over the weekend and into the following week, the message clear: Hate is not welcome in hospitality.

Read the room

This is a message which is becoming more and more evident. Research suggests that the majority of people are supportive of trans rights, with 42% of Americans stating they know a trans person or someone who goes by gender neutral pronouns. Studies increasingly show that both workers and consumers favour pro-LGBTQ businesses, with companies that stand up for LGBTQ folks coming out on top, from a reputational perspective.

Trans rights are not a matter for debate, they are not an opportunity to share one person’s uninformed opinion, these are real lives and real people and we deserve to be treated with the same respect as anybody else.

The latest update from Propel Hospitality, seems to suggest that a second opinion piece will be published this coming Friday. At the risk of repeating myself I want to make something abundantly clear:

There is NO place for opinion pieces about trans lives and identities in your newsletter. 

It may come as a surprise, in light of everything that has happened, to learn that the proposed author is a cis white woman, which suggests that any optimism I felt at lessons having been learned is perhaps premature.

When it comes to gender diversity, people are very quick to talk on our behalf. If you want real progress to be made, give trans and non-binary people the platform from which to share their own (paid) stories of navigating hospitality, both the horrors of their first hand experiences and how things can be improved to make that experience better. If you are struggling to find contributors, we have access to plenty of awesome talent.


If you'd like to learn more about Allyship in Hospitality, below is the full session from my appearance on a panel on the topic from the Independent Hotel Show 2022, or if you'd like us to come to your organisation to run a training session on trans inclusivity, please contact us here - our packages start at £4500 + VAT for 20 pax.

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Thea Bardot

12th January

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