If you want to know what it feels like to get fired for being trans, here’s the statement I gave to the stranger:
Monday, July 7 2014
I was working the salad station near the entrance to the restaurant of Broadway Paggliacci’s. Working there, your function is greeting customers, taking and making salad orders, and bidding customers farewell. It was in the evening on a shift I’d picked up from a coworker when I was saying goodbye to one of our regular customers. He returned the gesture, misgendering me as “man,” which isn’t something too unusual in my life.
I corrected him, “It’s ma’am actaully.” He didn’t hear me clearly the first time, and asked me to repeat myself.
"Ma’am, I’m not a man." He heard me clearly that time, and laughed at me before going about topping his pizza with the condiments we keep by the door. I had a few moments to say something, but I was too in shock to respond. On my way home I resolved to say something to him if I saw him in the restaurant again.
Friday, July 11 2014
Just about midway through my shift working the til at Pag’s he showed up again, waiting at the slice bar for service. I stepped over to him and said, “The last time you were in here I corrected you on my gender and you laughed at me. That was really rude, and I’d like you to apologize.”
He replied, “I don’t really care what’s happening in your life, man, I just need my pizza.”
I responded, “I just need to be respected in my place of work, and I reserve the right to refuse service to you.”
He asked me to have someone else serve him, and I stepped back and asked the kitchen, “Anyone else want to serve this guy?”
Mark the assistant manager stepped up and asked what was going on, and I relayed to him the details of what’d happened the previous Monday. He nodded, and served the guy his pizza. Again I was in shock, this guy had pointedly mocked my identity, and refused to acknowledge any wrong doing, and we were going to serve him? I questioned Mark, and he said “after that rush in the kitchen, I just didn’t want to get into a thing with that guy.” I was in shock again that my dignity was something so easy to dismiss. Should I have been surprised? This was a guy I’d had to ask not to use the word “tranny” around me.
After I took some time to cool down, I told Mark I disagreed with what he’d done, that it sent the message that it was fine to harass me and other trans women like myself. He told me he’d talked to the guy, and told him I preferred female pronouns before asking him, “Are we square here?” That’d been enough for him, but it wasn’t for me. I’d been harassed by a customer for being trans, and I wanted an apology, or to bar him from service there permanently. I decided to wait until Maria, the general manager arrived and bring it up with her.
Maria got in early and I asked her upstairs to talk about what had happened. She told me Mark had already spoken to her about what happened, and she’d spoken with Angela, the head of the company’s HR department about what to do. She told me company policy for dealing with rude customers is to continue serving the customer. To avoid conflict I would step in the back if he came in again and have management serve him. I told her this wasn’t about rudeness, that what he’d done was harassment based on my trans status. She told me there was nothing else she could do.
I went downstairs and thought about what had just happened, that the company I’d worked at for over a year had just backed a customer’s right to trample my identity over mine to speak out against discrimination. I talked over putting in my two weeks with my coworkers, and then went upstairs to do so. I came back downstairs and told my friends at work what’d happened, and why, “If this was about anything else, like race or sexual orientation, something different would’ve happened.”
Mark interrupted me at that point, angrily telling me if I had more to say I should take it upstairs with Maria and him, and that if I was quitting there were papers I needed to sign. I told him I had already given Maria my two weeks and went about my shift as usual. Mark disappeared for about ten minutes before coming down to tell me I could go home. Thinking this was in regard to a request I’d made earlier to Maria to clock off early and take care of errands at the bank I clocked off and went upstairs to change for the last time.
When I got to the top of the stairs, Maria was there with my discharge papers. “Mark told me you were saying Pagliacci’s doesn’t care, and I can’t have you doing that. This is your last day here.” That’s when it hit home for the first time that Pagliacci’s really didn’t care, and I said as much to Maria, signed my papers, changed, bid farewell to my coworkers and stepped outside into unemployment.