by Drew Adams
Today, October 8th, 2019, history is being made. At the Supreme Court of the United States, 9 justices are hearing a case so that they can decide whether or not it is illegal to fire trans people just for being trans. We need the Supreme Court to say that employers cannot just fire people for being who they are, because this case will impact trans people for years to come. Both James, my boyfriend, and I have had experiences being outed as trans at work, and if the Supreme Court allows it, people like us are going to suffer. Here are our stories.
Drew’s Story: A little over a year ago, I went to my early morning shift at the local McDonald’s, tired and dreaded the hours of order taking and fry cooking ahead. I took my position in the back drive thru window after saying good morning to the crowded kitchen staff, and put on my headset. A rare lull in the morning customers, which was greatly appreciated, but in the calmness, I heard a beep on my headset, indicating that the other worker with a headset would be talking to me through the headset.
“Hey Drew,” a coworker I had talked to a few times but didn’t know particularly well said over the headset, “Is it different being like, y’know, how you are?”
I immediately got anxious and went to go talk to her. I asked her what she meant. She said that one of our managers, one that I didn’t know very well, had shown her an article about me being transgender. I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks. It wasn’t that I was hiding who I was from everyone, but I wanted to come out to my coworkers as I felt comfortable, and in my own time. The control I had over my coming out was taken from me. Everyone knew.
I was lucky. Out of the coworkers who knew, no one seemed to really care. As far as they were concerned, I was just another teenager stuck working at McDonald’s for the summer. Where I lived, I didn’t have any employment protections. I could have been fired just for being trans. The luckiest part was that my managers didn’t care.
James’ Story: About 6 months ago, I went in to work expecting a normal day. I usually closed my respective department of where I work and typically I work alone so I was not expecting to deal with much that evening. I am not out at work due to the pretty unsafe environment for queer people. So I go by my deadname and have to use the wrong pronouns. Anyway near the end of my shift while I am taking out the trash an employee from one of the other departments approaches me.
This guy is already well known around the store for having anger issues and having very conservative ideals. So when he asked me if I was a boy or a girl, my heart sunk. At first I tried to laugh it off and then walk away but he continued to bring it up. He explained to me that he had been hanging out with an ex coworker of mine who showed them my social media which all uses my correct name and pronouns. I was rightfully terrified that he knew as well as another old coworker of mine knew as well as that was something I never shared with coworkers.
I tried to fumble through explaining to him what being trans was and who I really am but he had no care or interest other than to tell me that everyone at work now knew and was talking about it before walking away. This ruined my working experience. I went into work scared everyday afraid that one of my coworkers would have an angry or violent reaction to my gender identity. I spoke with management who did nothing and did little to help me.
The guy who outed me still works with me but most of our coworkers from the incident have been replaced and we even have new management. I still try to hide who I really am at work because I feel like it’s safer for me that way. I still have to deal with working with the guy who outed me and know that he could do it again at anytime.
Thousands and thousands of trans people like us are watching the courts right now because of cases like this- cases that will define how safe trans people feel at work, walking down the street, and in their homes. No matter what happens, we will fight for our rights. There is always hope, so keep your head up, and have a wonderful day.
About the Authors:
Drew Adams is a transgender college freshman at the University of Central Florida who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. Nationally, Drew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Drew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.
Additionally, Drew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Drew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.
James Tinkler is a 21 year old college student living in central Florida. He is a gay trans masc person, and he uses he/him pronouns. James is a psychology major and a humanities minor. He wants to be a therapist one day and help trans kids access medical care, and he loves Harry Potter, Bad Suns, and LGBTQ activism. He was Vice President of the lgbtq group on his campus for a year, and will continue to keep activism close to his heart in everything he does.