Windsor restaurant first to sign up to be trans-friendly

One of Windsor's oldest restaurants is taking steps to become the first trans-friendly and inclusive business.

'We still like the same food, we still laugh at the same jokes,' says trans woman Jamie Defoe

Skippy's Restaurant chef and co-owner Daniel Sims, left, W.E. Trans Support executive director Jayce Carver, centre, and diner co-owner Melissa Martin work together to ensure the business is more trans-friendly. (Jason Viau/CBC)

One of Windsor's oldest diners is taking steps to become the first trans-friendly and inclusive business.

It's a partnership between W.E. Trans Support and Skippy's Restaurant, which first opened in 1981. Training will be provided to staff and hiring practices will be updated.

"It's important that nobody feels like they're not comfortable to go and eat somewhere. I just think that's really sad," said Melissa Martin, co-owner of Skippy's.

All-gender washrooms: small change, big difference

The old fashioned diner's restroom signs, which currently say ladies and men, will change to become gender neutral. A pride and trans logo will be visible on the front door, indicating a welcoming environment.

Jamie Defoe is a transgender woman and peer mentor at W.E. Trans Support. (Jason Viau/CBC)

"As a customer, you feel welcomed. You don't feel ostracized in any way," said Jamie Defoe, a transgender woman. "You just feel like you should feel, like everyone does, you just feel like a person."

"We still like the same food, we still laugh at the same jokes."

Within 20 or 30 seconds of entering a business, Defoe is able to tell if staff or the environment is friendly to trans people, or others in the LGBT community.

One small change that makes a big difference in Defoe's eyes is gender-neutral bathrooms. That experience prompts a lot of "anxiety" for trans people.

You don't feel ostracized in any way ... you just feel like a person.- Jamie Defoe, transgender woman

"Inside they know exactly what they feel like," said Defoe. "[But] they may not show who they really are on the outside depending on what stage of transition they are."

But there's a lot more to businesses becoming more inclusive than simply plastering new signage, according to W.E. Trans executive director Jayce Carver.

Trans-friendly training important piece of the puzzle

Training for front-line staff includes the proper language to use, including words such as transgender, cisgender, genderqueer and gender non-binary. Training also includes what questions to avoid asking transgender people, such as surgical procedures and what it's like to be trans. 

This ladies bathroom sign at Skippy's Restaurant will be replaced by an all-gender sign. (Jason Viau/CBC)

That training also includes inclusive hiring practices and policies around preventing discrimination.

"They see that they're visible in that space and that visibility makes them feel comfortable and confident," said Carver.

Carver hopes other businesses will contact W.E. Trans Support to learn more about safe hiring practices, how to train staff to be more trans-friendly, as well as how to be aware of transphobia and address it on the spot.

As a simple example, Carver said it's also important for transgender people "to feel safe to hand in that resume even when it might not match the ID."

About the Author

Jason Viau is a video journalist, TV host and radio newsreader at CBC Windsor. He was born in North Bay, but has lived in Windsor for most of his life. Since graduating from St. Clair College, he's worked in print, TV and radio. Email him at


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