Self Storage and Cross-dressing: Problem or Party?

Carrie Royce |
A self storage manager’s recent post on the industry’s popular social forum asked for advice on a unique situation: What to do with a customer who walks into his storage unit as a man and walks out a woman. Does one refuse to do business with him, or attend her drag show? Hurlco’s startling title “Here comes a drag queen?” and the numerous responses (both mocking and insightful) have caught the eye of the highly vocal gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (GLBTQ) community. Now the subject is taking on a life of its own in the rainbow blogosphere and Twittersphere (I happened to see it on a @gay retweet), quickly penetrating small mainstream media. I could write a few paragraphs touching on the nuts and bolt of this issue, but far more entertaining than my long-winded drivel are the comments themselves. So without further ado, here are some conversational highlights from SelfStorageTalk, Queerty and Topix:

Self Storage Cross Dresser

Conversational highlights (quoted verbatim) from SelfStorageTalk, started on September 22:

(Visit the forum to read the full thread, context, and identities.)
  • "I have a very bizarre problem. I rented to a guy who now visits his space as a man, changes clothes and emerges as a woman. He does not look very convincing, in fact, he's quite ugly as a woman. I now have other customers complaining about the freakishness of this guy. Two other customers have now told me that if he doesn't leave, they are moving out. Has anyone encountered this before? Can I kick him out? Can we be sued for asking him to leave or stop his drag queening?"
  • "Now if he emerged as a good-looking shapely woman, would you still want to kick him out?"
  • "Well, I know that, that would make the situation more palatable, however, my concern is for the tenants that feel squeemish about his antics. My boss thinks I should kick his 'gay butt' out of here! (Not my words)"
  • "You don't kick him out - you don't renew his lease. Send him the required notice of lease termination according to your lease agreement. Usually cross dressers are harmless but if you are going to lose customers then do not renew his monthly lease."
  • "If he is using your facility to change, then it might be against your rental agreement....but really who is he hurting beside whoever he is hiding this from? Let him know that by getting changed in the facility that is making other tenants uncomfortable."
  • "Wow. I have never heard of this being a problem. Personally, I wouldn't kick him out. Just get to know him a little and then explain to your concerned tenants that he is ok. Your tenants trust you.....why should you lose any customers?? He is not a criminal...."
  • "I wouldn't kick him out, I'd just let him know that using the unit for the purposes other than storage ( such as changing ) is not allowed. Be polite, be understanding, but just let him know that it's nor acceptable."
  • "hmmm. this is 2010. I would say you should get to know him/her and just let him know not everyone is as accepting as some people and that maybe he should not change in the unit, If this happened here I would not "kick him out" But I would tell him he really shouldnt change in his unit, and tell the other people he is harmless as I am sure he is. THat is ONE weird situation you have there, keep us posted."
  • "Unit is for storage and that's all!"
  • "Tread very carefully, or you could be facing a lawsuit. I would try the soft approach and speak with the 'gentleman' about the impact on your other customers and that's not what storage is meant for, but check your contract. There is probably nothing other than a no loitering clause in it. This is one of those times when it is probably best to ask your attorney how to address the problem. Honestly, it is the occassional female's attire around here that gets my hackles up. Women over a certain age should just not wear short shorts. Ewww! But I don't kick them out."
  • "He probably keeps all his female attire in the unit...would you feel better if he assembled his outfit for the day, then went into your facility restroom to actually 'make the change'? Actually I don't know that all cross-dressers are gay. I dated a very wealthy and reputable lawyer back in my single days, who liked to dress up as a woman from time to time. I tried to ignore it, since he had a 5000 square foot house on a lake and his own airplane, and I liked being whisked off to parts unknown with plenty of $$$ to enjoy myself when we got there...I just didn't see long-term potential in the relationship, so it didn't last. But he definitely was NOT gay."
  • "there is a difference between a crossdresser and a transsexual. But that being said, I have two cross dressers, one a biker and the other just an average looking guy. They keep their dresses here and I don't mind them changing in their space as long as they close the door. I have asked them NOT to come into the office in drag as it always startles my tenants. The one guy named Steve/Stephanie looks better in drag, the other guy, yikes! Actually, my biker guy referred us to Steve/Stephanie. Maybe you should post an ad on Craigslist.org advertising that you cater to alternative lifestyles. There may be a market here!"
  • "If he is using your facility to change, then it might be against your rental agreement....but really who is he hurting beside whoever he is hiding this from? Let him know that by getting changed in the facility that is making other tenants uncomfortable. I'm w/ Ron on this one. Handling the situation tactifully may produce results far more favorable for all. From the initial posting, it sounds as if this fellow is changing behind closed doors out of sight of all and doesn't hang around the place after donning the femine attire. It also doesn't indicate that he's approached others in an unsuitable manner. So, really - what has he done that's harmful or illegal? The questions that struct me are: Are they complaining that he's using the unit as a dressing room? (How many folks have changed out clothing in a rest room because they didn't have time to go home before heading to the 2nd job that required a unitform or perhaps to the gym after work. How about the teenaged girl changing into "that blouse" mom didn't want her wear?) Are they complaining about the person or his costume? (If he came out dressed as a clown that wouldn't make him John Wayne Gacy. Let's not forget J. Edgar Hoover - he like his lace, too.)..."
  • "I guess you could say the unit is being used for 'residential purposes.' Oddly enough, my two cross dressers don't ever give me any problems. My biker guy stores here because his wife is of "ample frame" and she is intimidated by his size 11 dresses. My other tenant says his wife is cool with the lifestyle, but she does not want the kids exposed to the confusion. Hey, far beit of me to probe much less understand the interworkings of the human mind. My greatest fear is that they don't pay their rent and I must auction their dresses, shoes and nylons to my auction crowd. P.S. I usually give my buyers the 'backstory' on an auction unit before the auctioneer calls the bids. What should I say 'This tenant was a cross dresser with an affinity for Gucci and Prada?' "
  • "...and eventually the family unit would disappear and so would the very underpinnings of our society. Acceptance of everything is not necessarily 'enlightened', in many cases it is extremely destructive. Unfortunately, some things cannot be reversed once the destruction takes place. Disapproval of one's actions has no bearing on the love and respect one can have for the person. Teaching love for one another to your children is paramount, teaching acceptance of everybody's actions no matter what it is, in my opinion, wrong. (but that's just my opinion, so who really cares? ) To the original question, I wouldn't address with the tenant what he is doing or why, I would treat him in a manner I would ANY tenant that was making other tenants uncomfortable with their actions. Whether it is leering at females on the property, acting strangely, lingering near other's units, etc. I would tell him there have been complaints by other tenants and it seems, according to them, that he has been using the units to change clothing, which is NOT considered a proper use of a dead storage facility..."
  • "Drag Queen Update: I want to thank everyone for your input on this rather unusual situation. The tenant came into the office this morning dressed normally and asked me to attend his drag show at a local bar on Friday night. By the way, I am not gay and I have references. Anyway, I am curious to attend the drag show since I have never been to one. But, it just seems freaky to attend anything that a tenant appears in, much less a drag show. If I attend, he will see that as my acceptance of his unconventional lifestyle. My boss says that if he makes a spectacle of himself on the property that he must leave. I want to be fair as I don't really see anything wrong with what he is doing. I guess the question is, if he offends other tenants or makes them view the facility in an unfavorable light, should I ask him to move to Public Storage?"
  • "...Couples questions:1) What are your other tenants doing loitering around the property with nothing to do but watch this guy go into his storage unit and change and come out again? I can guarantee you if he's changing from a guy into a gal, he's not doing it in 5 minutes, he 's in there for some time fixing up the pantyhose and such. I don't know that anyone at our facility would even notice something like that.2) If a girl went into her storage unit in a frilly party dress, changed into her work clothes of blue jeans and a work shirt and came out, would anyone be complaining? Maybe your lease should state that all changes of clothes of any type by any gender are prohibited inside a storage unit? I have had tenants come in from time to time and change clothes in their storage unit..."
  • "It sounds to me it's the tenants that you mentioned complaining and feeling 'odd' about this other tenant are the problem... I mean where does a Manager differiniate (sp.?) between someone like this guy changing into what he came onto the property wearing into woman's clothes and say a contractor parking his trailer/putting up equipment and wanting to take off his filthy T-shirt and possibly filthy pants from a hard days work and quickly and behind his unit door slipping on a clean pair of the above? And who would be any the wiser OR be bothered by him coming out in clean jeans/ t-shirt when he came in in dirty one's? Obviously this scenario wouldn't draw any attention, and even IF he were gay, that's other people's problems, and only a homophobe would want to 'kick his ass for being gay'..."
  • "Just convert one of the 5X10 into two dressing rooms. Put a coin operated controller on the door and sit back and watch the $$$$ role in. Problem solved."
  • "I have been tracking this thread closely as I too, have a few drag queens/cross dressers at my facility. The debate has been good and I value everyone's opinions. But let me ask you this, 'What if Hurlco had a tenant that had a Nazi flag in his space that was prominent anytime the door was open and he frequented the property with a Nazi symbol on his tee shirt? If tenants complained about this tenant, would we (storage managers) address this issue or would we tell our existing tenants that he is exercising his constitutional right to free speech?' "
  • "I see a new marketing opportunity ... Your drag queen outfits freak your family out! Store'em with units starting at $29.95! A whole new industry to cater and rent to! Ok, now seriously. I'd talk to the guy and just let him know some customers are having a problem with all this. Make it clear that you and the company do not. Would he be able to help you. Maybe a unit further away from those concerned or something. You definitely want to tread lightly on this. In the end, he's a customer and he's not doing anything wrong. The problem more resides with the others who can't quite hack it. We have a similar situation here, although I don't recall anyone threatening to move. Some tenants have commented though."
  • "and what is a storage unit? your extra closet away from home! There's been talk in previous threads, and some of us have actually experienced it, with a person renting a storage unit to have "low-rent rendezvous's" with their non-marital partner. Maybe we should have a whole new section of the forum for these sort of threads?"
  • "Not that I would kick someone out over that, but...I have a ten day quit notice on the lease and I don't have to give a reason. Doesn't everyone?"
  • "Interesting thread and interesting responses. Some of the things that immediately pop out at me as questions: First, to those tenants of yours that are raising your cross-dressing client as an issue, and making them feel uncomfortable - what are they saying and how are they broaching their concern with you?I think I would have more questions for the people raising their concerns than I would the cross-dresser, like how often are you coming down the the storage facility that you would be offended by the occassional presence of another tenant? They rent storage space from you and are therefore entitled to come down as often as they please as long as it is within your facilities hours. But it would seem to me that people abnormally hanging around mindful of others' business would raise more of a concern for you than this cross-dresser. Second, if this is more of an issue with your boss than it is for you, then I think you need to have a sit down with your boss and discuss what strategy for handling the situation. Some here have cited having they have clauses in their leases enabling a five-day advanced written letter to sever the lease with the tenant. If you've got something like that it may be hugely advantageous. However, doing something right in business often yields two or three recommendations while the opposite can yield hundreds of complaints and a turndown in business. I agree with the tactful method of handling if you actually deem it to be an issue.I come back to the business side though and have to ask 'If he/she is paying their rent on time, then why is this an issue?' "

Comments (exact quotes) posted in response to Queerty.com, starting October 1:

  • "Believe it or not, I've heard of this kind of thing before when a younger, just-blossoming transgendered person is just starting to explore, and they don't have a safe place to change before going out. I wish instead of just hyping it and making bad jokes, Queerty would discuss the fact that usually yes, it IS against the law to kick these people out."
  • "Being offended and threatening to leave is one thing, but how many of these customers would actually go through the hassle of packing up and trucking their stuff to another facility. Not many, I'd bet. Paradoxically, I think the more the guy keeps to himself, the more the disturbed customers' imaginings run wild. If they knew that he was a performer preparing for work, it would puncture the discomfort of most. Nothing sinister going on here."
  • "This story [sounds] like a hoax. How often would other customers ever see this guy? People don't tend to spend much time in their storage units."
  • "Hmmm……I'd suggest he wait til the drag queen goes into the storage unit and then lock the door on him, but that would only give the drag queen the opportunity to ham it up by banging on the walls and screaming, 'I want to live !' "

Lastly, the most intelligent comments (uh, sarcasm) from Topix.com, started on October 2:

  • "It's obvious what the manager should do - critique the ensemble and help remove any lint and fly-aways!"
  • "this is what you do.... count the money you were paid for the storage garage and mind your own christian business. :) PEACE."
  • "Hmmmmm, If you need the $$$$$( Or are GREEDY ), Charge them as TWO seperate customers ( lol ),... Other then that ,( As posted above )CRITIC the Outfit ( True "Ladys" appreciate a good compliment ) and Mind your own Business ( Maybe even advertise as that could be a NEW "Cliante Base" )"
  • "unusual. but I dont see a problem here."
  • "Yes, I've always loved drag queens. My fiancee of 10 years was a dra gqueen. And i dated alot of drag queens. I never made a secret about that."
  • "There is no issue here. Customer = not breaking the law. End of issue. Wasn't that simple. It's always so, so simple."

Now, my perspective, posted on... Er, what is today? Ah, October 2:

As StorageFront’s obsessive-compulsive marketing chief, my favorite comments of the bunch relate to marketing, “Maybe you should post an ad on Craigslist.org advertising that you cater to alternative lifestyles. There may be a market here!” In all seriousness, if a self storage operator has a facility in an urban area that’s highly competitive, GLBTQ would be a great peripheral market to tap. They are, for the most part, highly loyal to the businesses that support them. I wonder what readers of Self Storage Marketing Ahead would think if I recommend such an out-of-the-box (and out of the closet!) idea. Having been to my fair share of drag shows, transgendered people don’t even faze me. Of course, they are outgoing and boisterous to the point of being a little terrifying, but they mean you and yours no harm. Just like alcoholics, they're generally content just torturing themselves. If you can laugh at yourself as much as at them, they can be entertaining as all get-out—or come-out, as it were.