If you have ventured outside while wearing anything even remotely “different” you have likely experienced negative reactions to it. From stares, rude comments and questions, to malicious strangers trying to take your photo in public. Some venues will go so far as asking paying patrons who don’t “blend in” to leave.
I recently read an article by the inspiring Victorian lifestyle couple, Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman, who live full-time as Victorians- about how they were refused entry to a historical garden in British Columbia, Canada due to their manner of dress. Likely the manager of the gardens thought that other patrons would confuse the couple with employees of the park (and maybe worries their behavior might reflect negatively on the gardens- because obviously alternative lifestylers are wild monsters capable of anything). All really flimsy reasons.
There is (I have no idea if this was added after the couple visited or not, I imagine it likely was posted after due to how specific it is) a brief “Please note, costumes and period style or historical dress is not permitted in The Gardens” on the gardens’ website under Accessibility and Services. Though rules aside, I think there is a valid discussion to be had on what the intention is behind these kinds of rules, and responses to “dressed up” types.
(Update- see comment on this blog with the wayback sources indicating these rules have indeed been posted/altered since this experience)
To their credit the Gardens did refund the couples’ costs for the tickets and tea they’d prepaid for and their transportation back, but only after much hassle. I feel so sorry for this couple, the experience sounds awful, and it’s something many of us weird looking people will have encountered in one way or another.
Mrs.Chrisman said in the article: “The absolute worst part is that every time something like this happens, I hear the voices —a whole chorus of voices— of every single person who’s told me they wish they could do something outside the mainstream, but they feel like they can’t. This sort of thing is exactly why they feel that they can’t. I hate it.”
Mr.Chrisman said: “We do it to show people who want to be themselves that it is possible to be an individual, and that people don’t just have to conform and squish themselves into the mold of what society dictates that they should be.”
What’s the worst that could have happened if the gardens allowed this couple in? They must have staff to monitor if guests are interfering with or damaging the plants, as being a vandal doesn’t require a specific style of clothing. So a couple of other patrons confuse this couple as performers working for the park and take photos of them? Wouldn’t that just enhance their experience there? If the requests for photos were met with “We don’t work here, sorry” what’s the harm done? Their clothing wasn’t obtrusive, it’s not as if they were risking the plants by being different, and it doesn’t seem like their response to being ejected from the park before entry was especially rude…… It all seems so 1990s Satanic-Panic style to me, the fear of alternative people as being dangerous degenerates.
Might be time for Butchart Gardens to consider updating their policy?
It takes bravery to choose to express yourself when that expression doesn’t match the mainstream. People will chide you for not fitting in, they’ll mock you to single you out, they want your choices to align with theirs in order to validate their lifestyle. Fit in. Tone down. Get smaller and less obtrusive! We’ve heard it all, and in 2016 it seems kind of ridiculous that we’re still having conversations about excluding alternative fashions/lifestyles.
Remember why you chose this style to begin with, why it delights you- and hold that belief close because the world is working really hard to shatter it. 🙂