As some readers may know, my father has been out as transgender for about 2 years now. Before her transition, Dad worked for the State of Indiana Department of Corrections. She started this job the same year my brother was born, 1992, and worked for DOC for over 20 years, working her way up the ranks from a guard until she was a Major, the highest ranking officer in uniform. She worked nights, weekends, even gave extra time as the captain of the riot team.
A few months before coming out, she quit this job. According to her, it was because the new governor (our own Mike Pence) wanted the prisons to be ruled with an iron fist, by instilling fear of higher ranking officers in state employees. My dad is a gentle person (deep down) and wasn’t comfortable with changing leadership styles after 20 years of an open door policy. I’m sure the desire to live her true life was also a part; her treatment by the DOC after her transition only serves to illustrate what a shit show it would have been if she had come out while an employee.
What treatment, you might ask? Well, see, Dad doesn’t have a college degree, and she’s a transgender in a state which won’t even let homosexuals with traditional gender identities get married. Suffice to say, finding a full time job was difficult, even with a decade or more of management experience. So, Dad decides to submit some applications back to the Indiana corrections system and see if she can get hired back on as a guard. No responsibilities of leadership, but the opportunity to return to a familiar work environment where she knew she could excel at her job.
Applications went out by the dozens. Finally, Dad got a call from the facility in Rockville, Indiana, to set up an interview for the following week. Or so she thought, until DOC called 2 days before to cancel the interview. Not because the position had been filled, but because she is trans.
Now wait, Amber, you might be thinking. That’s kind of a serious accusation, do you have any proof to back that up?
Why yes, I do.
See, when DOC called to cancel the interview, Dad asked why they were doing so, and they said they would have to call back. But then they never did, despite repeated contact attempts from Dad. So Dad got mad and called an old colleague of hers who happens to be the current state personnel director. She told this person that if she didn’t receive a call back in 24 hours she would be getting a lawyer.
Of course, that got her a call back, and a trip to IHOP in Anderson, Indiana. That was the meeting place the personnel director chose to meet—somewhere casual, where their bigotry could be revealed over coffee. Dad recorded the entire conversation which transpired between herself and this state employee.
During this meeting it was literally admitted to her that the reason Indiana didn’t want to hire her was because she was trans. Oh, she was a model employee when she was a man. According to the state personnel director, “we thought you walked on water.” But not anymore, just because of a change in name and appearance. Suddenly Dad was an untouchable.
But, the personnel director assured her they would find her a place, even though she was the first trans employee in the state. Then Dad didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, until she was offered a part-time minimum-wage job at the BMV. After 20 years of full time, loyal service, Dad wasn’t willing to settle for that.
So she called the ACLU and filed a lawsuit. Not surprisingly, in less than a week she was offered a job as a guard at DOC, with the stipulation that she drop the lawsuit. Before agreeing to do so, Dad got a verbal promise from the State of Indiana that she would be allowed to wear a skirt and makeup to work and be treated as a woman under the employee policy.
Allow me to tell you, perhaps unsurprisingly—that has not been the case.
They have certainly been quick to limit Dad’s responsibilities and opportunities. Like all women employed by DOC, she’s not allowed to search male offenders—which is fine. But it’s also been made indirectly clear to her that there will be no opportunities for promotion or job advancement (also fine—but discriminatory as fuck). And since she’s been working there for the last few months, she’s not been allowed to order a uniform skirt, or even provide her own.
See, according to the State of Indiana, people are only allowed to wear uniform skirts for religious purposes, like Mennonites, I assume. Apparently no one has ever chosen to take advantage of this policy, and the State of Indiana doesn’t want to let my Dad be the first, especially not for gender reasons.
(Dad, I ask, why don’t you just become a Mennonite? But she’s not willing to LIE. See? See what a good employee you have, DOC?)
Never mind the fact that she’s filed at least 5 incident reports about self-injuries due to being forced to wear pants while tucking. Never mind that the State is in clear violation of Federal EEOC. They don’t give two shits. They just want to punish anyone who isn’t straight, and they aren't even trying to hide it anymore, as Governor Pence's recent ridiculous instruction to disregard the Federal Supreme Court's ruling in favor of gay marriage indicates.
Prudent, my ass. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the governor, and therefore the entire Hoosier State government, is disgustingly anti-LGBT. My dad is just one more person being caught in the storm of their hatred. She’s submitted an official appeal to State HR, which at the first level of bureaucracy was declined. Their reasoning?
She didn’t get fired—so she should shut the fuck up and deal. And let them break the promises they made to avoid getting sued.
Good thing she still knows how to get in touch with some lawyers.