Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So That's How It Is

Back in July, I wrote that I had had "the discussion" with my boss about being transgendered. I did not have high hopes, but at least I had all of my issues on the table, and I felt like she (my manager) had my back. This morning I discovered that this is no longer the case.

Last night, I got a message from the woman I relieved that the GM wanted to meet with me about something. The message said that she needed to talk to me about something, and I was not to leave before we talked. I could not imagine what she wanted from me, so naturally I began to fear the worst. There have been a lot of terminations lately. I wrote about my write-up of a few weeks ago, and I thought that perhaps the pendulum had swung in my direction. Whatever it was, there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I took a deep breath and resolved to get through my shift. I did everything by the book last night, so they couldn't say that I wasn't doing my job.

At the end of shift, my manager was fifteen minutes early. This is notable, because her message to me said that she would be running late. She gave me no inkling of what she wanted to talk about. When my relief arrived, I went back to her office, and this is what I learned.

The hotel received what she said was a very serious complaint against me. A guest wrote in to complain that she was put into the awkward position of trying to explain to her seven year-old daughter why a man was wearing "pink" nail polish and stud earrings. She asked me if I was wearing pink nail polish. I held up my hand, back out, so she could see my manicure. The color I chose last week is sort of an iridescent clear, with a slight pink tone. I have worn it before. I have worn other sheer colors many times. I always get compliments, usually from women, about the appearance of my nails. Never has anyone said anything negative.

The GM held up a copy of the latest employee handbook, and told me the incident was being written up as a dress code violation. She told me that I can no longer wear nail polish to work, nor my earrings. I've only ever worn neutral, usually sheer colors, and she said that did not exempt me. She went on to say that she remembered our discussion, but as long as my identification says I am male, that is the "unambiguous" image I must present. The incident was written up as a "final warning", because I was advised of the new policy at a staff meeting six weeks or so ago. That final warning means that if the issue arises again, I can be terminated "for cause". Due to Virginia's employment laws, if that happens, I can't file for unemployment. If I end up out of work, if I can't immediately find other employment, I'll be up the creek.

I'm sitting here in front of the computer with a bottle of polish remover and a pack of cotton pads. I've got to remove this polish now, while I'm thinking about it, or else I might forget. Remember how happy I was that I got to go to the salon last week and get a manicure at last? I'm sitting here, not crying, but that's how I feel. I wish I could afford to not go back to work. In the space of that five-minute meeting, my work environment turned hostile. I love the work, but I don't know how much longer I can work there, or that I want to. What can I do?