How do you thrive without basic protection from discrimination?

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Jill worries about being unemployed in the very near future—not because she is an unreliable employee at the electronics distribution company she works for but because she is transgender.

The 54-year-old Ohio native said it all began with a mean-spirited workplace rumor: Coworkers told her supervisor they had seen her using the men’s restroom, and gossip about her began to spread mercilessly.

“It was never clear who started the rumor,” she said. “It was such a blow to me psychologically; it was demoralizing. I had no recollection of walking into the men’s room.”

Company management called a meeting with other employees in light of the rumors, and Jill was asked deeply personal questions about her gender identity. Though the discussion was difficult, she cooperated with superiors and agreed to put the entire ordeal behind her in order to keep her job. “Those are things I don’t discuss, other than with intimate friends,” she said. The meeting did nothing to quell harassment and only escalated resentment from coworkers. They avoided her in the lunchroom and ignored her presence in the workplace.

“They would do and say things that let me know ‘you’re not welcome,’” Jill said.

Jill’s manager began to criticize her job performance at every opportunity, although she had previously been called “outstanding” as a trainee and was often called on to handle work overflow.

“One day they came and got me from my workstation, within earshot of all the other employees, and brought me into human resources with these supposed violations for not working as a team member,” Jill said.

Jill now plays a stressful waiting game each day she arrives for work; she believes she will be dismissed at any moment. Though she brought forth a complaint to HR of what she believes is blatant prejudice against her because of her gender identity, it was promptly dismissed. The company she works for does not have an anti-discrimination policy that covers transgender employees.

Jill recently made a preemptive visit to the unemployment office in preparation for the worst but says her struggle has spurred her on to continue the fight for equality. She has been heavily involved in the LGBT rights movement since she moved to Texas and began blogging and writing for transgender publications online in 2007.

“How terrible it is, for people who have hate at the center of their lives,” Jill said. “The road marks that make up my life are love.”

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