Tran­si­tion­ing in the work­place

GA Voice - - You Words Your Voice -

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.”

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