Trans teen humiliated by Woolworths’ staff

Trans teen humiliated by Woolworths’ staff

LAST UPDATED // Thursday, 25 September 2014 14:53 Written by // Cec Busby

A Wollongong transgender teenager faced ridicule by a Woolworths’ staff member after being asked to present a driver’s licence in order to purchase cigarettes.

The 19 year-old who was assigned female at birth but identifies as male, has been transitioning for the past twelve months and said the supermarket staffer laughed at him because he looked nothing like his licence photo.  She then refused him the sale of cigarettes.

Ben* told the Sydney Morning Herald the incident occurred on Monday afternoon at Woolworths Figtree (a suburb of Wollongong).

The teen said he was disgusted by supermarket staff’s behaviour.

He told the Herald after being asked for identification the cashier refused him the sale of cigarettes as he did not resemble his photo and when he explained he was transgender the cashier refused to believe his story.

"She looked at me funny, and said it wasn't me in the photo. I've got a bit of facial hair from testosterone I'm taking, and in my photo I haven't got any. She laughed in my face when I told her my situation."

The teenager has been out of work since losing a traineeship at a child care centre and told the Herald he had not been able to afford to get his identification updated.

"She burst out laughing. She may have thought I didn't look like my licence, but it was uncalled for to laugh," he said.

Kelley Glanney a spokesperson for trans activist group the Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust told GNN  the incident was a prime example of the kind of derision and discrimination many Trans* and gender diverse people continue to experience on a regular basis.

"It’s therefore imperative that Woolworths and other employers implement strategies to ensure their staff are aware this kind of behaviour is not acceptable and make it ever clearer that they understand that as good corporate citizens, they have moral, ethical and legal obligation to respect the legal right and human dignity of all Trans* and gender diverse people," Galnney said.

Prior to this incident Ben told the Herald he had often used his licence to enter licenced premises or buy cigarettes and had never had a drama before.

The teenager also suggested the cashier had drawn undue attention to him which had further embarrassed him.

"I'm transitioning and I don't want everyone to know yet. She was so loud everyone turned around. I was so embarrassed," he said. "I was disgusted."

A Woolworths’ spokesperson told the Herald, the cashier was warranted in refusing the sale of cigarettes.

"As the staff member was unable to satisfactorily verify the age of the customer the sale was refused," a statement read. "Our understanding is the customer did not explain their situation ... the customer has made contact with us and we will discuss it directly with them."

Glanney suggested the incident also brought into focus the need to change our current legislative framework to make it easier for Trans* and other gender diverse people to access identity documents that not only better reflect their gender identity, but also ensure they are fully protected under State anti discrimination laws.

"There remains a serious lack of conformity in State gender change and related laws. Here in NSW, many Transgender people are excluded from various protections because they are not  considered “recognised transgender persons” under the current legislation," said Glanney.

“Under NSW anti-discrimination law, you are only a recognised transgender person only if you have had a new birth certificate issued by the NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry or you have an amended birth certificate or an equivalent document known as an 'interstate recognition certificate' issued by another Australian State or other Australian jurisdiction. This means many Trans* people who have not undergone Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) are currently precluded from some legal protections those who have undergone GRS currently enjoy.” (more here

“The ACT has already legislated to fix this – we think it’s time NSW did so too”

* Ben is not his real name.



Cec Busby

Cec Busby

Cec Busby is the news editor of SX and online editor of

Comments (6)

  • William

    20 September 2014 at 18:11 |
    Woolworths runs a fairly hermogonised workforce, thanks to the transphobia in the SDA Union and Labor. I am sure they exist somewhere in the company, but they are clearly not often employed.

    I have never seen ay trans staff at Woolworths, yet odly when I go to Asia, I often see them in customer roles such as at supermarkets or in department stores. Although democracy seldom exist in places like Malaysia, the people are way ahead of the government. If Woolworths wants to be honest, it can let journalist see the security footage.

    I get that you cannot sell smokes to a minor, but the response sounds as though the staff had not had much to do with transgendered people. Their really is a lack of diversity at the checkout with Woolworths. Soon, however, it will all be robots.


  • Michael

    20 September 2014 at 12:51 |
    An other load of crap blown out of proportions, it's infuriating. He could have been a monkey for all i care, in the same situation, i just would not sell the smokes if the ID cannot be verified . And it's likely that i would have laughed too, telling the person to pull the other leg cause i've heard them all before !. Lets just sell Smokes and alcohol to any kid with a fake ID , and make sure we don't smile cause we might offend them and loose our job hey ... cmon people !


  • Nikola Kovacs

    20 September 2014 at 08:35 |
    Because Jane, transgender people are not changing the identities they have known themselves as all along. They are changing an error that society imposed upon us.

    It is not the same at all as voluntarily changing one's name through marriage or otherwise.

    Transgender people face huge expenses during transition already, often including the cost of therapy for having had to suppress our true identities in a world that doesn't believe us. So many of these costs are to cover the effect of the crap that society imposes upon us, not things which we impose upon ourselves.


    • Nikola Kovacs

      20 September 2014 at 08:41 |
      which understandably sounds like I'm having one hell of a big whinge, but consider that while transgender people are saving furiously, often only on welfare, but saving furiously to afford the costs of undoing this red tape, plus the medications, plus the surgeries, other people their age are starting to spend their hard earned on achieving their life goals, climbing employment ladders, traveling and gaining life experience ... and people wonder how we can arrest the fact that transgender people lag behind when it comes to equality in life standing?


  • Nikola Kovacs

    19 September 2014 at 14:03 |
    Why should it cost transgender people anything to change their various IDs?


    • Jane

      19 September 2014 at 17:38 |
      it costs anyone money to replace their birth certificate or ID. Why shouldn't it?
      It'd have to be free for everyone.


Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.