Today’s guest blogger is B, who has asked to be anonymous for this article. B has experienced extreme homophobia in the workplace because of their sexuality and gender identity. Because B works in an employment-at-will state, they’ve been in constant fear of losing their job. While their current employer is not homophobic, we’ve agreed to keep B’s identity fully anonymous to protect them.
How do you deal with homophobic/transphobic people? What kind of self-care do you practice at work and at home to keep yourself safe in a world that can be so unwelcoming?
I encounter the question, “Are you a man or a woman and why do you dress like that” daily. My wife and I get the questions of, “Hell, how do you have sex?”, and my personal favorite is, “Your son, or any other kids you two will be around, will now be LGBTQIA.” I deal with it better than my wife does in that I don’t notice the staring anymore. I shrug off the demeaning comments and only pay attention to those individuals who are honestly asking questions to be better informed and not to cause offense or place any kind of judgement. As far as self care…before I had to take on 6 jobs due to the pay cuts from discrimination, I was an avid Crossfit individual and loved going to the range or taking the dogs on a hike to help center myself before the next week.
Which LGBT+ persons do you consider to be mentors or role models for you and the community at large? Who did you look to as representation for LGBT+ people when you were growing up, or was there a lack of representation for you?
To be honest, I have yet to meet another non-binary masculine-identifying individual in my community. I have [found] several on social media and I follow their stories of triumph through their top surgeries and over body dysphoria.
I feel that living in the South–although it is getting better [because] more people are coming out and feeling safer about being who they are–there are many that are still closeted due to the right to hire/fire state rules. I also feel less in the spotlight when I go home to visit family in New York, where not only do they not stare or make snide or lewd comments, but they also embrace the entirety of the LGBT+ spectrum–not just some. I am terrified going into a men’s restroom after my top surgery and having to defend myself, or worse yet going into the women’s restroom and having some angered father come in to protect their child after the entire bathroom debacle that unfolded a few summers ago.
What can heteronormative people do to make a positive difference in how LGBT+ people are treated in society? How can heteronormative people be better allies? How are they failing LGBT+ people?
Educate yourselves. Don’t assume because your parents said, your best friend said, you watched The L Word, or any other strange combination of sources that you are the expert. Don’t assume to know what it is like to be trapped in a body that doesn’t feel like yours, to walk into a dressing room and have everyone cover up or run away. Don’t assume that because we are being nice with you that we are hitting on you–education of the LGBTQ+ community goes a long way in dispelling rumors and myths.
Hetero people are an ally when they are educated and can help educate others. The majority of my friends are hetrosexual individuals who are married. What makes me feel safer and more at ease is when they tell me that they stood up to a bigot today or they educated a person who was narrow-minded. It seems like in the South, if they hear it coming from a hetrosexual’s lips, it is true, as opposed to my mouth which apparently does nothing but sin.
If you could go back in time and offer sixty seconds of advice to yourself at the age of 10, what would you say?
You are enough. You will fall in love–don’t rush it and don’t force it. God does not hate you. He created you and knew who you were before you did.. you can’t pray the gay away. You are enough.
What’s been your experience with discrimination at work?
I have had several experiences of discrimination in the workplace, beginning in public schools where I was an educator. I was informed at all school functions that I needed to either have a man with me or no one. That I would not be permitted to be seen in public with my fiancee within the city limits or they would fire me.
Shortly after obtaining my Master’s degree, I started at a police office. By this point I had fully embraced my appearance and so had the many individuals I worked with. I climbed the ladder fast and thought the bad news was behind me.
Then I was tagged on a heterosexual friend’s Facebook page in a costume (face not showing) and immediately called into HR as the costume was of an inmate and the back said “Baby Daddy”. I was informed that the “gay” content would not be tolerated and that I was being sent back into the facility (the other officer that was in full uniform in the picture with a shirt that said “Baby Mama” did not get reprimanded at all).
After one week of being back in the facility I was called yet again to HR and was told that my lifestyle choices were nauseating. The HR employee told me he would find a way to fire me if it was the last thing he ever did. So began the final year of my employment there with constant attempts at reprimands and constant mandatory overtime. The hazing got worse, to the point that the other Lieutenants even noticed what was happening. At one point I was trapped into a corner by another Lieutenant who informed me that it had now become his mission to create a paper trail to get me fired. I applied for another position within the city thinking that if I just got away from them I would be fine.
I accepted a new position in the same city at the same pay rate I had been making at the other office. Once I was hired, they dropped my pay $20,000, blaming “budget cuts” due to a reelection year. I was assigned three times the case load of the other officers and maintained all of my paperwork. When they realized they were almost out of their 90 day right to fire me they called me in for mandatory “computer training”. When I showed up it was a police officer, HR representative, and my supervisor. They told me I was either fired or I could quit because they felt that my appearance was too “abrasive”.
I had all of these conversations on tape at one time, and considered suing the city, but my issue was this: did I want to become the face of the LGBTQ+ movement for all of the city? I would never be able to work in the city again. Instead I opted to bury the hatchet, as many of us know how to do far too well. I took another pay cut but stayed within the city–luckily, under a female elected official who told me when I got hired, “I don’t care who you do on your off time or what you do when you aren’t here. I only care that you will be professional and get the work done while here.”
B’s story isn’t unique. Estimates are that 15% to 43% of people who are LGBT+ have experienced harassment or discrimination at work. For employees who are transgender, those statistics rise drastically. If you are being harassed or discriminated at work because of your gender, sexuality, or gender presentation, you’re not alone.
To report harassment at work, visit your HR office if you feel safe enough to do so (and your company has one). Record all incidents in writing or on video/audio. Tell others that the harassment is happening both for your sanity and to leave a paper trail. You can also report the harassment to the EEOC. Remember to look for LGBT+-specific resources in your community and to use resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline whenever you need them.