>This is a great story by Christian Boone I saw on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website this morning:
On Halloween 2006, Vandy Beth Glenn, unlike some of her costumed colleagues, came to work dressed in typical business attire. For that, the former editor with the Georgia General Assembly was fired, as her then-boss recently acknowledged in court documents.
Glenn had decided weeks before that she could no longer navigate separate personas, working as Glenn Morrison (her birth name) and living as Vandy Beth. Glenn informed her immediate supervisor, senior editor Beth Yinger, that she had been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, a psychiatric classification for persons in conflict with their biological sex.
Yinger and Glenn agreed she would make her workplace debut as a woman on Halloween. Glenn dressed conservatively, wearing a knee-length black skirt and a red turtleneck sweater.
“I don’t think anything could have turned me back at that point,” said Glenn, who would not give her age. “I reached a point in my life where I said it was time to stop fronting. Besides, I thought it was well understood this was a medical condition.”
Her boss, Georgia Legislative Counsel Sewell Brumby, saw it differently.
“It makes me think about things I don’t like to think about, particularly at work … I think it’s unsettling to think of someone dressed in women’s clothing with male sexual organs inside that clothing,” said Brumby, in a deposition taken May 11th in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. He’s among the defendants in a federal suit filed by Glenn that claims her former employers violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
“It’s always preying on you,” Glenn said of her identity disorder. “It doesn’t go away, like a monkey on your back it keeps eating at you. It’s mentally exhausting carrying that around with you.”
In her deposition, Yinger said she supported Glenn’s decision, though she expected some would have trouble adopting to the change. “But I did think that he should be allowed to stay employed,” said Yinger, who declined to comment for this story.
Brumby, who did not respond to interview requests, disagreed, according to court documents, though he anticipated legal retribution.
“I thought there was a strong likelihood that I would get sued, and I thought there was a strong likelihood that I would be criticized,” he said.
But retaining Glenn “would be extremely harmful to our work operations,” he said in the deposition. Though Glenn worked in a windowless office and had little, if any, contact with legislators, Brumby worried about their reaction.
“I think some members of the legislature would view that taking place in our office as perhaps immoral, perhaps unnatural, and perhaps, if you will, liberal or ultra-liberal,” he said.
Glenn is not suing for damages. She just wants her job back writing and editing state laws.
“I liked it a lot,” she said. “I loved the people. I liked being part of the machinery of government. And work was only four miles from home.”
Glenn mostly freelances now. And the self-described political moderate has become a transgender activist, testifying recently before Congress on behalf of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Hearings resume Thursday. If the legislation had been enacted prior to Halloween 2006, Glenn would likely still have her job.
“The rule in Georgia is you can be fired for any reason,” said Glenn’s attorney, Greg Nevins, “as long as it’s not one prohibited by law.”
The state’s attorney, Richard Sheinis, filed a motion to dismiss last year, arguing that Glenn does not have legal grounds to sue because neither state or federal law mandates transgendered protection. In June, U.S. District Judge Richard Story ruled against the defense.
Regardless of how her case is decided, Glenn has no regrets.
“The most important thing [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people can do is come out,” she said. “The way to solve problems like this is to show people how ordinary we really are.”
I chose to feature this story in today’s blog because I felt this is an issue that has become all too common in the workplace. Too often, transgendered folk in this country and across the world, for the fear of ridicule and shame, are forced to live a life of contradiction. The type of comments Brumby made also disturb me:
“It makes me think about things I don’t like to think about, particularly at work … I think it’s unsettling to think of someone dressed in women’s clothing with male sexual organs inside that clothing.”
Well, Mr. Brumby, would you feel more comfortable thinking those thoughts at home or in the gay clubs you probably frequent on a regular basis? Or are you not comfortable with those thoughts because they remind you of the possible questions you have about your gender identity?
Also, Mr. Brumby, how do you know what members of the legislature would think? Do you really think acceptance of anyone, regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, religion, would be viewed as immoral, unnatural, liberal or, as you put it, ultra-liberal? Have you taken a poll of all employees of the Georgia General Assembly and asked them what they would think?
This is the problem I have with conservatives. Too often, they proclaim how they perceive the reaction of a larger population would be if they encountered anything different or, as Mr. Brumby puts it, “unnatural.” Frequently these self-proclaimed conservative moralists hide behind their patriarchial tendencies to “protect” American from what they view as filth and the influence of the so-called liberal, gay culture on the broader American society.
Sadly, this type of patriarchal, protective nature straight, male, conservative WASPs blocks any sort of progress society needs to make in order for everyone to share the same equal protection of the law. No one, regardless of their religious and political beliefs, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or nationality, should live a life of hypocrisy for the fear of a backlash from straight, male conservative WASPs.