A new poll released on GLAAD Spirit Day finds that 41% of queer bullying survivors have left a job due to being harassed
Rachael Booth is a United States Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War as a Chinese and Arab-speaking linguist. She also happens to be a transgender woman who transitioned after her service while working as a corporate programmer. But while Corporate America pays at least lip service to welcoming veterans, Booth’s military record couldn’t quite compensate for her being transgender.
Before Booth had gender reassignment surgery, her company made her carry a bright red sign whenever she needed to use the bathroom and hang it outside whenever she used the facilities. If there was someone in the restroom, Booth had to wait around with the conspicuous card. “The older women at work are going to make you do this because they’re going to be afraid that you’re going to ogle them in there,” she writes in “To My Trans Sisters,” a book out today. “Or that you’re going to physically assault them. Or, most ridiculous of all, that you’ll leave AIDS on the toilet seat.”
When it comes to facing discrimination, Booth is not alone. Two in five lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender employees in America report having been bullied at work, according to a new CareerBuilder survey of almost 3,500 people. That’s a rate 11% higher than that reported by the average worker. Of those who say they’ve felt mistreated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, 56% say they’ve been bullied repeatedly. Over four-tenths have left their jobs for that reason.
Indeed, 49% of the LGBT people who told CareerBuilder they were harassed say that like Booth, they’ve faced different standards and policies at work when compared to their colleagues. More than six in 10 say they’ve been falsely accused of making mistakes and half say they’ve felt dismissed or ignored when they speak up.
The CareerBuilder report was released in tandem with GLAAD’s Spirit Day, for which many Americans are wearing purple in solidarity with LGBTQ children who may have been bullied. Both highlight the importance of “To My Trans Sisters,” a collection of letters written by transgender women to their counterparts who may still be in the closet or just beginning to transition. Among those who contributed to the anthology are “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Isis King, punk musician Laura Jane Grace and “Nashville” actress Jen Richards.
The book was the brainchild of Charlie Craggs, a 25-year-old British trans activist who found herself constantly in need of advice when she publicly transitioned. “I didn’t have a big sister figure in my life to do what a big sister is supposed to do; help me with my make-up, give me dating advice, teach me how be a strong woman,” she tells Moneyish. “Transition is hard enough, but it’s harder when you have go through it alone.”
She hopes the anthology will be helpful to people like Juniper, a 19-year-old grocery store clerk in Salt Lake City who came out as transgender this past summer. While Juniper tells Moneyish that most of her colleagues have been kind, she too has faced the problems that many LGBT workers report, such as customers referring to her with male pronouns or refusing to use her name. “He repeatedly questioned me and at the end said, ‘Thanks Juniper—assuming that’s your real name,’” she says of one till encounter.
One particular blow came when she heard her supervisor, who was otherwise supportive, refer to her with male pronouns and then blow off her concerns when she raised them. “I live in a very red state and whenever I leave the very liberal city I’m in to work, I get a lot more backlash from customers,” she says. “I was kind of done with that day.”
As for survivors like Juniper, Booth recommends counting her blessings (“A lot of transgender people aren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom inside the workplace. They have to go to a gas station down the road. You’re lucky.”) and reacting with humor.
If ever tarred with carrying around a mask, maybe make a countdown until you have the surgery that no longer made it necessary for her to tout it about. “Remind people of how many days you’re going to keep using this idiotic sign before you’re anatomically correct. And you will be,” Booth writes.
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