Transitioning in the workplace
In 1998 I began my journey to transitioning while at the same time graduating from manicuring school as a nail technician. This turned out to be a bigger mission than I could have ever thought or imagined, filled with excitement and hope, later realizing I would have a life with more lows than highs.
I was immediately hired to work at Premier Salon International inside the Macy’s in downtown Atlanta. Every day, after I had finished with my clients and networking, I would go into the salon restroom and change into more comfortable clothing. “Comfortable” for me meant women’s clothing. Unfortunately, prior to being hired I had not had enough courage to tell my boss that I had just “If greater nondiscrimination efforts can make our state even more economically competitive for job growth and wage increase, then we have an opportunity to gain new allies in the fight for equality and equal treatment.” started my journey toward being a woman.
Luckily for me, I had an attentive boss who noticed my transformation after work. He sat me down and had a conversation with me about it. I will never forget him asking me, “Do you really go in the bathroom and change every day?”
“Yes,” I replied. He told me that was “unacceptable.” I was thinking, “Oh no, I’m about to be fired.”
But to my surprise, the contrary was true. He suggested holding a staff meeting before I came into the salon the next day to explain to them that my name was “Chanel,” that I was a woman and to expect me to look differently that day and every day thereafter.
I was 18 then, and I am now 35. In my pur- suit of other careers and jobs I quickly learned that the next 17 years would not be that easy for me or for any other transgender woman living in Georgia or the United States.
Every day, transgender men and woman are faced with the uncomfortable, degrading situation of workplace discrimination. Workplace discrimination for a transgender person can include being terminated for transitioning on the job, denial of access to workplace facilities accessible to other employees, being required to use a restroom not consistent with their gender identity or presentation, harassment, allowing harassment by other employees, and/or negative employment actions not consistent with company policy that are taken because the person is transgender. And of course, all of this happens only if the transgender person can make it past the hiring process. And usually they do not.
There are so many transgender men and women who are skilled, qualified, eager, ablebodied and ready to work given the opportunity. If only the playing field were leveled.
Passing The Equality Act of 2015 would ensure workplace protection for all Americans. And all Georgians would benefit from a comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure protection from being fired from a job or judged for anything other than the merits of their work performance.
“There are so many transgender men and women who are skilled, qualified, eager, able-bodied and ready to work given the opportunity. If only the playing field were leveled.”