At the place I work they’ve got this thing for regonising “wow moments” … it’s one of those idiotic fluffy bullshit things companies do, none of us can ever manage not to make fun of it. Seriously, it gets said like 10x a day, but almost always sarcastically.
This week I had one that went beyond sarcasm. I actually felt like I wasn’t being treated or thought of as a human being. It was fascinating.
Now, from the company stand point, I’ve never felt like I was considered a human being. I understand there are businesses that recognise the humanity of their employees, and I’ve had bosses that did, but I’ve never worked for a place that saw its employees as anything more than a commodity and paid as little as they felt they might be able to get away with — better than minimum wage, because there is a point where even people with business degrees manage to find enough intelligence to realise that no one who’d do this shit for that little would be worth the bother, but the pay sucks and even if you point out it sucks they have idiotic replies. It’s less than the cost of living, and I don’t mean by a matter of change, I mean by multiple dollars an hour.
So company policy isn’t the issue. I’m not actually sure what I’d do if I ever found myself treated like a person by a business anyway.
It was my HR manager.
So I’m transexual, I live in the shithole known as the southern United States, in the particular soul-sucking mire of Hell known as Georgia. Suffice to say I don’t tend to expect a whole lot … or perhaps I should say I expect quite a substantial measure of things, just none of them very good.
An idle question I asked gets turned into an investigation of my right to use the ladies’ at work. Cool. Until that point I’d been specifically asked to use the unisex. Big deal, all 4 bathrooms, 2 gents’ the uni and the ladies’ are all in roughly the same place, just opposite sides of a … space. Shit half the women here seem to go to the unisex too, and some of the guys. No idea why.
So they decide I do have the right to it (no shit, Sherlocks). Well, there’s “concerns” voiced by some unknown number of the other women, among them some outright lies the others just the usual paranoid idiocy that has all the logic of a Republican Party gathering. So things are delayed while they sort these people out “but our stance is …” okay, fuck it whatever. Then they change their mind.
Now that hurts, it pissed me off to no end, but it’s a company and to most companies people are people and they certainly aren’t human and the by no means have any feelings, oughtn’t have rights (and wouldn’t if it weren’t for those busybody liberals and unions), and certainly don’t (or shouldn’t) have lives (at least that don’t revolve around making more money for the company). So whatever, I’m not surprised. I’ll have better expectations when that fucking retard Ayn Rand stops being taught in business school as anything other than “This, children, is an example of how to be an IDIOT” and they start teaching people like Eugene Debs, or John Lennon, or Jesus or Buddha or something like that.
No, it was the way the message was delivered.
HR manager delivered it like she was telling me we’re all going to start wearing ties, or penny loafers, or mood rings starting Monday. No empathy, just this perky sale pitch voice she says everything in. Given that I hadn’t really expected much I wasn’t exactly crushed, just bummed and angry but whatever. But in the course of her spiel she not only mentions that I’m expected to use the unisex, but also “or the mens’ restroom”. The fuck!?
Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but think about it like this: pretend for just a second there might be some legit reason to tell a cisgender employee to use the single occupancy unisex … meh, it’s possible if you really stretch your imagination and try not to look at whatever you come up with all that closely. But, remember, it’s not really out of the way so it’s intellectually assholic and fucked up but in practice it’s irrelevant and can be ignored/got over. But imagine telling one one of the men he ought to use the unisex or the ladies’ or any of the other women to use the gents’ or the unisex!
I was in complete shock. That really fucking hurt. I was in such shock I can’t remember what I said. Mostly I gaped like a drowning fish, I remember that. I also remember finally saying “the only concrete thing going through my head right now is ‘bullshit'” or something on that line. Bullshit was definitely involved, and a simple statement of the fact that it was the only clear thought I was managing right at that moment. At no point did she seem to even register that she’d said anything the slightest bit off-par, or hurtful, or that I was actually impacted in any meaningful way.
Hardly 15 minutes later I was clocked out, and walking to my truck, and didn’t make it all the way to where I parked before I was crying. I’d left voluntarily, and I hadn’t quit, I just told my boss there was no way I was going to be any good for anything for a while. I spent two fucking hours curled up in bed too angry to cry and too hurt to want to do anything more than cry until I was numb or asleep. It balanced out to just lying there something like catatonic drifting in and out of sleep filled with bizarre dreams and chaotic thoughts — all punctuated by a concerned puppy trying to cheer me up.
Eventually I wrote up a reply to this person. Given that the decision was reversed on the grounds of people’s ignorant concerns I decided to voice a few concerns of my own. I didn’t care if they unreversed their position, I said as much, and was just pointing out the ugly mess their absence of logic could lead to. I also pointed out directly to the HR manager how very disrespectful she’d been.
The crying was Wednesday, the email was Thursday, and the reply was yesterday.
The reply was just to thank me for voicing my concerns and to stand by the decision.
Again, no empath, no respect, there was even a sentence that seemed to indicate she didn’t even think of me as an employee, which was funny as I’ve not been fired. Just utterly missed the entire point.
I thought, perhaps, I might have been over-reacting a bit. I forwarded what I’d said and her reply to a few friends, among them people who’ve been managers if not HR specialists, and given that they were more outraged than I was I decided I was under-reacting (something I’m actually pretty good at, I’m laid back unless you press certain buttons … them I’m quite obviously a redhead and of 95+% German ancestry).
So I thought about it further. I ran the whole scenario, and even contemplated some of the more positive interactions up to this and suddenly didn’t feel like I was being considered and treated a human being. Oh the word choice, with the exception of the above crock of shit, was carefully chosen not to be implicitly disrespectful or dehumanising, but it might have been taken as insincere … I don’t know, it’s hard to say, she’s got that kind of tone of voice and way of speaking that too many yuppies do where it’s impossible to know if anything they say is ever sincere and then start to wonder if they’d know sincerity if it bit them on the arse. Certainly the way the past few weeks has played out … no empathy, no sympathy, no apologies, nothing. I might as well been told to please not wear blue trousers after asking if they were against the dress code.
I’m going to talk to my boss next time I see her. Not actually completely sure what it is I’m going to say, nor what I actually expect to come of it, but I think it needs said. I’ve only had anything at all like this conversation once, and it was about a lead (co-worker with enough experience they’ve been given a margin of extra authority and asked to help supervise the other workers in the department … it evolved into something a bit different, but at the time it wasn’t really anything more) who’d got rather a fat head.
I’ve also contacted an anti-discrimination legal group, Transgender Law Center, asking for advice. There’s ‘we respect our employees’ is lip service (if you respect us so damned much, pay us more than peanuts!), and then there’s this. I don’t know that the company itself can be held that much accountable for any of this, not in this backward inbred piece of hellish real estate, but there’s got to be a breaking point and there’s got to be a starting point.
The breaking point is the indignity of this. The starting point is … never mind myself, and never mind the stupid bathroom. It’s things like, for some reason, ADP (who does our payroll, benefits, and other shit like that) has a employee profiles that includes our gender … and mine is wrong. Mine also has the wrong name, but apparently that’s because there’s some uncertainty if that can be changed under common law name change or if it requires a court name change, so whatevs — my bank has the wrong name for a pretty similar reason.
And it sounds stupid, I know, but then … think about it and it’s not really so stupid, if nothing else the principal of the matter. But there’re a lot of reasons it’s wrong, and it needs fixed. I’m not really terribly interested in being the person who pushes for that fix, but someone needs to do it, and I’ve got nothing better to do.
It’s funny, really. I’d been pretty bugged to learn that people who seemed supportive and accepting to my face could be such ignorant, lying prats behind my back. That really depressed me for awhile, and left me kind of … paranoid’s a strong word, but I can’t think of a better, milder one so we’ll stick with that … for awhile around the people I work with. Suspicious! That’s a better word, I was suspicious. But eventually it didn’t really matter. What mattered wasn’t their opinions, stupidity, or lies … what matters is that the company would side with that ignorance and those lies, and the fact that someone in a position of authority is being disrespectful and hurtful, and is being so unapologetic about it. That’s why I’m upset enough to make a fuss about this.