By ALI CUDBY
In the lingerie industry, we talk about ways lingerie enhances – and even transforms – lives. Sometimes it goes deeper. Sometimes lingerie can literally save a customer’s life.
Three years ago, Esprit de la Femme Lingerie experienced one of those moments. Nelson, where the store is located, is a small town in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada. So it was notable when Glenn, a burly local truck driver, began frequenting the store.
Eventually, he shared something startling with Esprit de la Femme owner, Cheryl Côté. Glenn had feelings about lingerie, and about himself. He could no longer rule out the possibility that his true self was a woman, not the man his body said he was. He wanted to explore the connection between the lingerie and the complex feelings he was experiencing.
In time, he took more steps toward the person he felt inside – the one who felt like a woman. He wore women’s clothes. He began sharing his true self with his wife, his family and eventually, his employer. To hear Cheryl’s account of Glenn’s experience, those conversations were not always well received. His marriage ended, and he was no longer accepted by some in his small community.
One day, Glenn came into the store – he was distraught. The negativity he experienced was so intense, he’d taken steps to end his life. The only thing that stopped him, Glenn shared, was knowing people in Esprit de la Femme accepted him for who he was.
Until then, some members of the staff had struggled with their feelings about Glenn’s presence in the store and his transformation. Hearing Glenn was a blinding flash of clarity for Cheryl and her team.
“We have the power to accept people and allow them to hold their own space,” Cheryl shared. She had known about the empowerment of lingerie for women – this literal life vs. death moment took her understanding to an entirely new level. “The root of how people define themselves is through their lingerie.”
For Glenn, Esprit de la Femme was the place to investigate his feelings about being a woman, with all of his vulnerabilities and fears. Because he did not feel judged, Glenn was able to acknowledge his truth, and ultimately embrace it. Because of the store, he felt safe. “Because of you, I’m here.”
For Cheryl and her team, it was a reminder of how deeply important it is to accept every customer for who they are, and to be a haven where people are cared for, connected and celebrated.
Right now, Glenn is finalizing his surgical transformation and will soon return to Nelson as Danielle.
Knowing the part Cheryl played in Danielle’s decision to move forward with the transformation was a reminder for Côté and her team. “We need to be very mindful of how we treat people. All the time. You never know where someone’s coming from in life.”