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Friday, April 13, 2007

Transgender Free Library of Philadelphia Worker Quitting

Autumn Sandeen blogs on another story of transgender experience on the job market. The story involves another transgender woman who is leaving her job because of ill treatment. While this is, of course, an individual story, it is emblematic of many stories. It's also interesting because Philadelphia has an ordinance prohibiting gender identity discrimination, as do a number of cities in Pennsylvania, some major corporations have gender identity EEO policies, and the state is considering legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. There is obviously a lot of good-will in Pennsylvania for employment non-discrimination. But it doesn't necessarily penetrate to the ordinary transgender person.

"After 16 years of employment with the Free Library of Philadelphia, transgender woman Bobbie E. Burnett is ready to close this chapter of her work life. It’s not because she doesn’t enjoy the work, she said; it’s some of her coworkers and managers she can no longer bear."
“I want out,” Burnett said this week. “I’m weary and disheartened. I’d like it to be over.”

When she began working as a librarian assistant in June 1991, this self-described “people-person” had no reason to expect the Free Library to be a hostile work environment, she said.
But that’s what it became shortly after she began her two-year transition to the opposite gender in June 2001, she claimed....Staffers have hurled slurs at her, including “freak,” “monster” and “man in woman’s clothing,” she said....In recent years, Burnett, 51, has been transferred to seven different library branches and has encountered challenges at every one, she said.

While gender identity non-discrimination legislation is obviously an important endeavor, it's important to remember the real people who aren't helped by the grand speeches on the floor of Congress.

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