Once a month, I go to a FedEx/Kinko's office in my neighborhood to pick up my sleep meds. The employees there know me. Well, yesterday I went in to make copies of the program for my PFLAG chapter's Bullied event that is being held today.
As I entered, a woman I never saw before approached me and asked if I needed help. I said yes and she helped me set up the copy machine and the payment. She introduced herself as Joan and said she was just filling in for someone who was out that day. She was very friendly and was very eager to chat.
As the copies were being made, I joked around and told her that when I used to work, my office-mates liked me because my hands are so small that I could get them into the copy machine if paper got stuck. She asked me where I worked and I said I don't anymore - but that I'm a volunteer. She asked where and I told her I volunteered with PFLAG and then I explained that PFLAG is an organization that supports parents and families of LGBT kids. Then I told her about the Bullied event - about a young gay man who had been bullied and that he was the first person to sue a school district and win.
Much to my surprise, a look of disgust came over her face. She turned, didn't say a single word, and walked away. She just went into the back room and didn't return. It was as if she was afraid she would "catch something" if she stood near me any longer. So I finished what I was doing, took my copies, and left.
Later in the day, I called the manager because their receipt machine was broken and I needed to find out if it was fixed. I then told him what had occurred with this temporary employee. I told him that she had been chatty and friendly, and as soon as she learned what organization I volunteered with, and what our program was about, her behavior suddenly changed. I told him it was as if a light bulb had been on, and then it turned right off.
I never actually shared with him that I volunteer for an organization that fights for LGBT rights, or that our program was about bullying. It didn't really make a difference. But somehow, I think he knew. And he knew this woman was being rude and judgmental. He even told me, "We are not paid to give opinions."
I told him that if this had been the first time I patronized his store, I would definitely not return. He thanked me for letting him know about the incident and that he would talk with the employee. He stressed that he would not want to allow someone like that to work at his site in the future. He really seemed to want me to know that he understood how I felt and that he did not condone her behavior. I have to thank him for that.
What this woman did was not illegal - she didn't deny me service or throw me out of the store - and I know that LGBT people experience this type of treatment and worse. What happened yesterday was nothing in comparison to the constant bullying that LGBT youth suffer on a daily basis, or the frustration of not being able to work or receive proper medical care because you're a transgender person.
But now I know a very little bit of what it must be like to be treated as if what you are and what you do is wrong. The look on that woman's face told me everything. And you know, in a very strange way, maybe what happened yesterday was a good thing because now I am even more determined to fight for LGBT rights.
Gee, thanks Joan.