Gay dads Jade Hearne and Garth Shaun with Taylor-Jane and Inathi
A recent incident at a Cape Town clothing store left a little girl and her gay dads shaken, shedding light on the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ families in everyday situations.
Jade Hearne and his partner, Garth Shaun Kayster, took their two children, Taylor-Jane and Inathi, shopping at the Canal Walk mall on 4 August.
Their visit to women’s clothing retailer Foschini, however, took an unexpected turn when they attempted to assist eight-year-old Taylor-Jane, who was trying on clothes for an upcoming wedding.
Upon arriving at the fitting room, Hearne and Kayster were abruptly stopped from entering to help their daughter. Despite their explanations, a staff member insisted that only the mother could assist.
A family’s day out ruined
After an embarrassing standoff, one of the men was finally allowed into the fitting room by the store manager who offered an apology. Unfortunately, the incident had already left its mark on Taylor-Jane, who was visibly shaken, ruining the family’s shopping trip.
“Taylor-Jane is very perceptive so while I was explaining to the fitting room assistant that she has two dads, she is adopted and so she doesn’t have a mom that could assist her; Taylor-Jane could hear my entire dialogue,” Hearne told MambaOnline.
“When she exited that changing room, there was a look of fear in her eyes. She felt scared. She immediately ran to me when she saw me and hugged me and said ‘daddy, what’s going on?’”
The incident resonates with the broader struggles faced by same-sex and single-parent families, highlighting the uphill battle they often encounter in their daily lives.
“The experience made me feel really sad. It took me back many years ago when I was mocked for being gay,” said Hearne. “That feeling of not being accepted, an outcast and really just left me feeling a bit sick to my stomach. Even more sad that my daughter had to be ‘in the middle’ of it all.”
A lack of awareness and training
Hearne noted that the family had previously visited other clothing stores where the gay dads were welcomed into the fitting areas. “You assume all kids have mothers? You deny two dads from assisting their daughter?” he asked.
While acknowledging the store manager’s eventual handling of the situation, Hearne emphasised that such a situation should have never arisen. He attributed the shop assistant’s behaviour to a lack of awareness and training rather than overt homophobia.
The couple left their details with the store manager with a request that the company contact them about the incident but they didn’t hear back from anyone. Even tagging Foschini in a Facebook post failed to elicit a response.
After MambaOnline reached out to the Foschini Group regarding the incident, the company issued an apology and affirmed their commitment to embracing diversity and inclusion.
“We welcome all families and parents, in whatever form, into our stores,” said Foschini. “Our commitment to inclusion ensures that every customer and store team member should feel respected, valued, and supported when they walk through our doors. We do sensitivity training around diversity and inclusivity with our store teams regularly, however, we will be implementing a refresher session with the Canal Walk team to address this issue.”
The company also assured the couple that a personal apology would be extended for their unsettling experience at the store.