Coming out as trans, gay, lesbian or however else you identify isn’t always easy. From the day we’re born we’re conditioned to act in a certain way. With the ever increasing number of people identifying away from societies norms the hate from others increases.
The harshest abuse I’ve suffered is from within my place of work. Here’s my story.
In early December 2014 I came out and declared myself genderless, started to repackage my masculinity and embraced a very feminine side. I also made it no secret that I wanted to transition which would eventually lead to full surgery.
It’s what I am and how I strive to live. I didn’t want to embrace what the vast majority of trans women do and that’s embrace how patriarchy conditions women to be. I just wanted to be me.
Bessie an Australian feminist and friend got it straight away! She acknowledged I sit right in the centre of the gender binary scale and that’s where everyone should be heading.
Roll on January 2015 I had the photo taken of how I now identified and made it a feminist issue holding a No More Page 3 campaign poster.
I got some comments at work but on most part most work colleagues like myself kept their opinions left their opinions at the factory gate. I know what factory culture is like so just took it as fun and gave as I got.
In February 2015 I did a couple of photo shoots mocking the Sun and their infamous page 3 page. If you go into the archive of this blog you’ll find the two shoots I’m on about. Anyway I did the shoots in Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton not far from where I lived.
Within days of both blogs being published it seemed like everyone in my work place had seen the photos via the company facebook page that had been set up, via company emails and peoples mobile phones. Lots of comments were made as well as abuse thrown. That even came from the supervisors and lower management too!
It seemed no one had even bothered to read the words within the two blogs and were merely interested in the photos as they were seen to be very feminine. Not that there is anything wrong with being feminine but in a cis man’s world it’s a huge issue. And a big issue it became.
It carried on like that for what seemed forever. Even new starters in our growing company were shown the images but at that point I was working weekend nights and only ever saw around 18 colleagues all of whom were fine how I identified.
It started to get a bit more serious when some of my family were contacted via facebook and in real life to know whether they knew I was trans and how did they feel about it! My colleagues who I worked with at weekends thought that was well out of order.
August 2015 I legally changed my birth name from Stephen to Hope and then problems at work really began. Because I no longer identified as a cis man I no longer had an opinion and it seemed I no longer knew how to do my job. In the end I put in two informal complaints that were not taken seriously. It was made out that maybe I was finding it troublesome to transition! That was to protect a new supervisor for sure!
From then I would get comments made to me when a new shift came on to the shop floor. I would also get whistled at amongst other things. Some of these people emplyed at my place of work I didn’t even know! It wasn’t as if I was dressing in a feminine way for work. I wear work boots, grey trousers and a black top like everyone else both male and female. The only thing that changed was my hair and I would wear eyeliner and lip stick.
Come November 2015 an explosive situation happened at work where I was told by an assistant manager that I was ‘A fucking idiot’ and he rambled on. My crime? I followed the paperwork as instructed to do so by the works manager and quality manager!
After 4 months of getting grief in my quality roll I asked to be taken off the job as it sent my stress levels and blood pressure up. I didn’t want to worsen my health. What happened? My supervisor wanted me dismissed. My HR manager knew the company were in a very dodgy position legally. What happened was I was taken off the quality roll and no further action was to be taken!
From that moment on the supervisor in question never spoke to me again for the rest of my weekend. Come the following week he refused to speak to me again. On the last evening of my weekend shift I was taken in the office and suspended from work!
I made a statement and emailed it into my HR manager who lifted the suspension on his arrival to work on the Monday morning. I was told I was being taken off the weekend shift and put back onto double days working 5 days a week. Maybe words were said to the supervisor but I was nothing. The situation had been written off as nonsense by HR.
Things seemed to go alright when I went back to working week days. It wasn’t to last long though!
On arrival back to work in January 2016 after our Christmas shut down I’d be subjected to comments about my identity. I just laughed it off as works banter and gave it some back. However more recent photos of me started to appear on the works computers. Images like this.
There were many instances of colleagues running off making comments to the management etc.
One day in mid-January there were four of us having a laugh and it started off about me being a trans woman etc. I through a great one liner back one lad and apparently he got offended! To my face he was fine but behind my back he was planning to get me dismissed.
Three working weeks later I was called into the office and suspended on the grounds of what I said to the lad. I explained the whole event leading up to what I said but the manager in question wasn’t interested. He implied that people had every right to mock me for being a trans woman. In the meeting I made clear this was going to court.
So off I went home and made a full statement about the recent and past events. I named a few people. I just had enough and again wanted this taken to court. My GP signed me off due to works related stress. I was standing at the edge of the cliff at that point.
I came very close to jumping off that cliff. I had enough but I’m one of those who appreciates life and stood my ground. And stand my ground I did! After a month off work on full pay the Senior HR person investigating the events came to the conclusion I had nothing to answer for. In fact during our meeting she asked me if I wanted to file grievances against others.
It wasn’t easy fighting back. At times I thought I was alone. I guess I can identify with the cornered rat. You just have to come out fighting. It’s what I did. Lawyers were lined up, witness statements gathered. In fact I even had two major newspapers lined up to run the story. I stood up, fought my position and some one independent within the company identified the problem wasn’t my making.
What did I gain from this?
Well for starters I know it’s important to join a Trade Union. Your company may not accept them but at least your legal fees and other costs will be covered. I also learnt not to just accept abuse as works banter and that I need to report those issues in the future so it does become a safer environment to work in I also realised that the work place would never be a safe environment for others to come out if I remained silent.
This experience has made me speak evenly more openly about being trans and pansexual.If I don’t speak out others will never learn understand about other identities. Others have taken their lives over what I have experienced. The tide needs to turn and the general public needs to wise up!
Never Stay Silent – Speak Up!