[cw for transmisogyny and misgendering; brief mention of suicide/homicide in that context]
about two weeks ago in my store we caught a customer stealing on the security cameras. normal shit. unless we personally catch them in the act of putting something in their bag/pocket/whatever, we can’t really do anything except watch them closer when they come in next time to try to catch them for real. most of the time people just kind of let it go, because what else can we do?
the person caught stealing was a black transgender woman. my coworkers, including a manager on duty, did not just let it go. for several hours after the incident she and one or two other people made fun of the woman, calling her by the incorrect pronouns, using the t-slur, mocking her voice, calling her “man hands,” etc. i wanted to butt in but couldn’t bring myself to, which i regret and acknowledge as a marker of my own privilege.
so instead, i wrote a note and put it at the break table (where other notes tend to go) that basically said, hey, stealing is definitely shitty, but misgendering and making fun of a transgender person is a form of violence, which is ultimately way shittier than shoplifting some perfume. i added information about how trans people of color (specifically black trans women) have some of the highest suicide and homicide rates in the country, and that the microaggressions and violent speech contribute directly to this. i finished the note by saying that i wasn’t blaming anyone in particular because a lot of people just don’t know! (which is some bullshit but i wanted to be genial.) we need to be considerate and respectful towards all of our guests, including the lgbt ones. make it a safe space, and all that. i left the note anonymous. (considering i was the only one working that night who was not making fun of the woman, i shouldn’t even have bothered.) unsurprisingly, the next time i came into work (2 or 3 days later) the note was gone.
fast forward to today, and i get called into the general manager’s office! (mind you, a different manager than the one previously mentioned.) she asks me if i wrote the note and tells me that i don’t have to admit it if i did, but i want to set things straight if i can, so i say that i did.
and you know what she tells me?
that it was out of line, inappropriate. starting rumors. being rude to my coworkers for not giving them the benefit of the doubt. that i hurt their feelings! that i need to leave my personal feelings behind when i walk into the store. that the note was too emotionally charged. that i should have handled it by going to a manager instead. (when i stressed that a manager was part of the problem, she said i should go to her. it wasn’t for several days after the incident that i even saw her.) that ultimately it shouldn’t even matter, because, after all, the customer *was* stealing.
she ends our “meeting” by telling me to think before i act and what boiled down to “don’t rock the boat”. the whole time i didn’t really have a chance to respond, to tell her that i didn’t think it was out of line at all, etc, but i could hardly speak without completely breaking down or lashing out. i wanted to quit. i wanted to scream at her. but i didn’t. i can’t afford to quit, anyway. it was the end of my shift, so i just… came home for the day.
and that too is such a privilege, to be able to come back to work for my next shift, at a place that clearly does not care about the wellbeing of so many people, so many of my friends and acquaintances and those who become statistics, mugshots, bodies, whose names we hear on the news with the wrong names and wrong pictures and wrong words. this is violence. this is transmisogyny. this is the tyranny of capitalism.
this is unacceptable.