Randa: “Because I am a transgender, I was fired and kicked out of the back door without getting my salary or any kind of compensation.”
I will be retiring in about 10 years. Well, in fact, I will not retire since I do not work. In a word, I am literally unemployed. I have always been denied a job because I am a transgender woman.
Ever since my parents discovered my orientation, I have been rejected, ignored, and stigmatized. It is nothing new. I thus became something weird and ugly they constantly wished death upon. Imagine an innocent baby turning out to be a curse on the family and not a blessing, a baby whose death would grant them mercy. Is this possible?
I have never known the reasons behind my parents’ constant fights. However, being an unwanted child, I always felt it was my fault. I might be mistaken, but I did not find any other reason. Whenever the fights intensified between them, I always heard the word divorce, and that’s what ultimately happened. Despite the many differences between my mother and father, they agreed on one thing which is refusing to have me. Again, I was the reason their life was miserable. When they got divorced, they did not dare throw me on the street, nor did they take me to an orphanage, so I started moving from one house to the other until they determined my fate.
When I got a job, I was the happiest person on the planet. I was walking as if I was floating on air. I felt so light I was unaware of the burdens and worries weighing on my shoulders. I started working in the kitchen of a restaurant, preparing dishes and learning skills that would open new doors for me like other people. I knew what I was going to face at the workplace though. Wherever I was, I was rejected and ridiculed. However, I overcame my fears and did not let this get to me.
The first question I was asked on the first day of work was “What are you? How do we address you, as a man or as a woman?” I replied, “I am just an employee who is here to work like everyone else.”
Of course, my response did not appeal to them. Thus, I was bullied every day from the minute I started work to the minute I left. I went back home exhausted, but I tried my best to stand my ground. Every day the same scenario repeated itself. However, I was able to overcome all of these obstacles. I avoided my colleagues as much as I could, and I only interacted with them when necessary to keep the work flowing, but they did not like that. They kept staring at me, whispering around me and gossiping, and whenever I was mistreated, I worked even harder in order not to lose my temper and do something that would result in getting myself fired.
I tried. I really tried, but I failed. They started provoking my supervisor and inventing stories about my “perverted behavior” which were not true at all. Some of them were even ready to resign so they would not be “stigmatized” because they are working with a transgender. Obviously, no one defended me or stood beside me. Problems intensified and bullying never ceased until one day I lost my temper, and I got into a fight with the supervisor. The owner then got out of his office and started yelling at me without asking me about the reason of the disagreement. I tried explaining that it was not my fault, I could not give up my job, I wanted to work in peace, and everyone should see how good I was at my job, and should stop mistreating me. I tried explaining that I did not choose my gender identity and I only wanted people to accept me the way I am because I am not contagious, and working for him is not going to affect anyone. Rather, it will provide me with a salary that will help me lead a decent life and protect me from homelessness.
Unfortunately, he did not hear a word I said. Instead, he kept on yelling at me and using offensive slurs. He even asked me to leave work. I refused and told him I did nothing wrong. He then started pushing me until he kicked me out of the back door and closed it behind him.
It was the end of the month, and in normal times, I should get paid, so I went back inside and asked him for my salary. He refused and told me, “I owe you nothing.” He kicked me out once again. I could not sue him because I did not have any proof that I worked for him. Hence, I succumbed to reality.
On my way home, my body felt heavy and my shoulders laden with worries because I was abused and treated unfairly. All the bad memories flashed through my mind replacing the happy thoughts. Again, I was frightened.
We were born like this. Why doesn’t anyone understand? We are endowed with all the characteristics of human beings. We can work and excel at what we are doing. We have the right to live like everyone else. We are citizens who have rights and obligations; we are equal to everyone and thus must not be discriminated. No one has the right to violate our dignity, determine our destiny or prevent us from making a living just because our gender identity is different.
Belonging to the LGBTI community does not mean we have to continuously face arbitrary expulsion, offensive slurs, physical, verbal, and psychological abuse and violence at the workplace. We want to be protected against all this injustice. We do not want to be discriminated or marginalized any longer.
Well! I am hopeful! Maybe one day, we will get what we deserve.
This story was documented as part of the “Enhancing the Inclusivity of the LGBTI community in Workplaces in Lebanon” project funded by the European Union and executed by SIDC in partnership with ACTED.