Workplace bullying can come in many different forms. Whether it’s verbal or physical, all are just as important. Many LGBTQ+ members experience discrimination, bullying and judgement for their lifestyle. Luckily for us, there are rules and regulations in place to stop idiots being idiots basically. Our managers can help us and discipline those who are being disrespectful and go through legal procedures if needed.
But, what happens when you can’t turn to your manager and you’re left experiencing discrimination towards your identity? With no one to turn to and no one to help you, what do you do? Jake experienced discrimination at work and reading his story shows the extreme situation he was in.
Experiencing transphobic discrimination at work
Being different is always hard to deal with. Coming out as FTM Transgender was one of the hardest things to do in general let alone being bullied at work because of it. It all started at the very beginning of 2016 when I told my boss and colleagues that I was transgender. My work environment is small so it’s hard to keep things on a personal level, so word spreads around quickly. The “news” got to the head chef who was absolutely totally against me being transgender.
August 2016 was the start of something I could have never imagined would happen to me. Nothing was physical but mentally I was ruined, drained, tired and scared. The head chef wouldn’t have me in the kitchen & her attitude towards me at the start became hostile. She would say: “I will not work with her” “I will not have her in the kitchen, she has to go” “I will not call her another name”.
So I spoke to my manager SEVERAL times after I heard what the head chef was saying about me. But he didn’t seem to care or think that it was a big deal. So, I left it and waited to see if anything would change, maybe the chef would be ok after a while? Maybe she needed time to adjust? But it just got worse.
I remember one day in September 2016 when she literally demanded that I take days off work as I was “not needed” to work. She would do other malicious things, one day I was cleaning the floor and the head chef walked over to the deep fat fryer and flicked out loads of “food” onto the floor which I had just cleaned.
I would be told to serve potatoes in the dining room instead of being allowed in the kitchen with them. I was avoided by a lot of staff members because it was awkward for everyone when the head chef was in. When I would enter a room everyone would stop talking and this tense atmosphere would shadow over the room.
The head chef would sabotage any job that I did to make me look like I wasn’t good enough.
I was isolated, no one was allowed to talk to me without having some form of consequence, I was constantly ignored. Even when I would ask the head chef a question she would just blank me as if I didn’t even exist. She would say “Her poor family, what does her partner think of this”.
I ended up getting extremely anxious and depressed, I pushed everyone away from me. I lost trust for so many people, I became resentful of hearing my dead name and anything to do with being “feminine”. When I was home I would sit on the bathroom floor in pitch black and cry for a bit. I couldn’t sleep so I turned to sleeping tablets and I ended up taking them straight after work so I wouldn’t have to deal with being in pain from being constantly ignored and isolated from everyone because I was transitioning!
I ended up having to take matters into my own hands. I thought if I can change this workplace even a little from being bullied then I am going to make this into a positive. No one liked this chef so I had to do something. I reached out to the CEO of the company and got myself a solicitor.
My next step was an informal mediation which turned into a very ugly situation as I was face to face with the bully and she lied. She said it’s because I’m ignorant so it quickly turned into waiting for medication, which let me tell you the worst part is the waiting. It took from 2016 till 2018 for investigations to happen with witnesses and a plan of action to see what they would do to help my situation.
It’s such a hard and long dragged out process but the end result in my case was something I couldn’t fault. I got that person fired for what she did to me and other workers. Being who you are is something I always stood by and I lost myself for a long period of time. I lost a lot of people in life because this situation consumed my entire mind and energy. The family and friends I do have are amazing and I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without them all!
I am so much better going into work now knowing I am treated like a human being in the kitchen and am allowed to be just another normal worker! I will never forget the feelings from those years but it makes it better knowing I won’t work with her ever again!
I would just like to add if you know anyone who’s being bullied or you feel they cannot for whatever reason stick up for themselves, please do something about it. It can be too late for some souls who have just had enough, there are so many resources and rights that we have in the LGBTQ+ community and I feel it’s about time the world changes for the better!
Trans Activists / Writer
Message from the editor: Jake came to us with the concept of sharing his story to help those also affected by discrimination in the workplace. Often, this subject is brushed under the carpet to protect managers or other employers. But it’s so important that we talk about how we can safeguard employee’s to ensure we’re all treated as equals – Charlotte