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    The Bar That Posted An Anti-Trans Message Has Turned The Backlash Into Something Positive

    "It was a real teachable moment."

    Earlier this month, Toronto bar El Furniture Warehouse found itself in trouble after posting an anti-trans image to Instagram.

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    The post was quickly deleted but screenshots circulated on social media.

    Amid the backlash, Toronto Pride officially distanced itself from the bar as other called for a boycott. Get REAL, a non-profit group that educates students about LGBT discrimination, had been planning an event at the bar, but that was swiftly cancelled.

    El Furniture Warehouse issued a public apology for the post, but even in that they used Jenner's former name.

    While the story could have stopped there, something else happened instead.

    Last Sunday, Get REAL held a workshop on gender issues for more than 100 El Furniture Warehouse employees.

    Get REAL

    Led by a trans member of the Get REAL team, the group discussed the reality of living as a trans person and why what some called "just a joke" was far from funny.

    "If you explain that to any logical person that is not hateful they will understand very quickly, in our opinion, why it was a big deal and why it was not funny," said Chris Studer, executive director of Get REAL.

    They also spoke about using gender-inclusive language in the service industry. For example, approaching a table and saying "hello ladies" or "are you waiting for your boyfriend" makes assumptions about the identities of customers.

    "After seeing them come and how moving and touching it was, it’s something that every bar and restaurant could benefit from," said Sean Young, a partner at El Furniture Warehouse.

    Guidance about being inclusive of gender-diverse people is now being integrated into the bar's employee handbook, and will be included in training for new staff. Now, other bars and restaurants are reaching out to Get REAL for similar workshops for their own staff, according to Studer.

    "Moving forward we wanted to get [El Funiture Warehouse] to a place where they’re leading by example," said Studer. "It was a real teachable moment."

    While it's unclear whether the person who posted that Instagram image attended the workshop, the bar appears to be taking the lesson to heart.

    Get REAL

    The group wrote the five values that defined the workshop — family, love, respect, acceptance and diversity — on skatedecks that will be hung at both of El Furniture's Toronto locations.

    "One staff and one contributor does not represent an entire staff or what we feel," said Young.

    They're also planning a future event to tackle gender inclusivity in Toronto's service industry.

    Get REAL

    "It was a really great experience. I couldn’t be happier with the way things are moving. I think we will be a huge part of raising awareness, at least in Toronto," said Young.

    And the same Instagram account that shared that offensive image is now sharing information about trans issues with its 13,000 followers.

    Instagram / Via

    The bar has also made donations to a local LGBT support group and the Trans Lifeline after speaking with members of Toronto's trans communities.

    Just got off the phone with an owner of EI Furniture Warehouse in Toronto. They will be donating money to local trans youth program today

    Sophia Banks, a trans advocate and photographer in Toronto, spent an hour on the phone with Young after the story blew up.

    "We talked abut transmisogyny, why it’s a problem, why it encourages violence against trans women," said Banks. "What I really emphasized is that you messed up and rather than a weak apology, you’re a corporation. You have money. Do something to help the community and help the kids that you’ve hurt."

    Banks said that rather than a boycott that could hurt El Furniture Warehouse's servers, she's glad some good has come out of the incident.

    "I was really amazed how making a phone call and saying, 'hey can we talk about this sort of thing,' you can make real change," she said.