Today, I experienced one of the most embarrassing, disgusting displays of management in my history of working. I was recently hired at the New Orleans Daiquiri Bar on Old National Highway in Atlanta Georgia. During my interview process, I was informed that they were an equal opportunity employer and was assured that I would not encounter any discrimination for my sexual orientation or presentation while working at the establishment. This was not true as on my first day on the job as a server, training, I was summoned to the kitchen and informed that my attire was inappropriate. Apparently, I had made one of the customers uncomfortable, and I needed to “cover up”.
Let me be clear, I am an openly homosexual, gender non-binary male who is feminine and presents as such. I made sure I did not wear anything revealing even though I was told I could have my chest out to help get me more tips. Instead, I wore a black knee length, crew neck shirt with the shoulders cut out and black jeans underneath. I was covered from top to bottom. The only things exposed were my face, arms, and shoulders. Countless other employees raised questions asking why my outfit was deemed inappropriate considering I was one of the most covered people in the restaurant. There was even a bartender who wore an off the shoulder blouse that completely exposed her from the chest up and black leggings as pants that displayed all of her bodily curves and panty lines. Not a single word was said to her whatsoever regarding her attire.
The real reason my clothes were deemed inappropriate was that I was a “man” and was not dressed as such. Also, the so-called customer that the owner, Corey, seems to have blamed the complaint on does not exist in my understanding. I believe it was him who had the problem and could not be man enough to address it himself so he sent his manager to do it for him putting her in the line of fire.
To make matters worse, the Wife of the owner, Ms. J, wasted no time finding a random shirt to “cover me up” with. And it was severely oversized. I initially complied because I felt like needed the job and did not want to rock the boat. However, as I continued to wear the shirt, I became more and more hurt at the fact that I felt the need to change and hide myself to make them feel more comfortable.
The manager even reached out to Corey, the owner, but was unable to get a hold of him. Was that by accident? So instead, we got in contact with his wife, the lady that had me cover up, and when asked about her actions she told me that she thought I was working in the kitchen and not on the floor. I believe this was a lie as well considering that they are married and co-owners of the same business for which I was hired to work at. So either she’s trying to save her own ass or there is grave miscommunication between her and her husband as management.
The manager, bless her heart, tried her hardest to find a solution as I’m sure this was her first time encountering a discriminatory situation. She offered to help me stay on at the job as a cook in the back where customers could not see me. Win, win? I think not. I also do not want to work for bigoted people. Some of the staff argued that because they have another openly gay male working at the restaurant that they could not have discriminated against me. But it is the equivalent of someone claiming they are not racist simply because they have a black friend. There are also a few differences between him and me, the main being that he is masculine presenting and I am not. He also only works in the kitchen where he does not interact with customers and which made sense that this was their solution.
Nor was the so-called customer ever asked to respect their new employee whom they’d just hired and had a no tolerance policy in place to protect from such things. I spent many hours after that moment crying, wondering why being true to who I am was enough to have me reprimanded and made to modify for the sake of saving a dollar. Are my dignity and self-respect not worth more than a customer’s side eye of disapproval?
Ultimately, it forced me to face the harsh reality that I still live in a world where same-gender-loving people, Trans people, and gender non conforming people get discriminated against on a regular basis and experiencing it at work is merely the tip of the iceberg. It’s hard to find a job when your name does not look like how you identify and openly yourself and moments like this only add to the plight of my people. Yes, excuses were made for their behavior today at the New Orleans Daiquiri Bar and Grill by the staff because no one wants to believe they work for a bigot. It does not excuse it nor give those people the right to discriminate.
Also, I was not paid for my work day, or training while at the establishment and was not properly trained. I spent my time wrapping forks and on Instagram waiting for the young lady who was tasked with training me to actually find the time to do it. In her defense, she was the only server working at the time but that does not negate the responsibility that should have been headed by a manager or the owner to ensure their staff is properly trained and ready to work.
I will not be returning to this establishment to work or patronize under any circumstances as they do not appreciate human beings. I have never been treated in this way before and it resulted in a ton of tears on my part and of those that love and care for me. Feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, and disrespect rose to the surface for me today. I was even informed that I needed to dress more like a man in order to get a job and not be discriminated against. As if my gender identity affects my ability to work.
For the longest, I have felt like I always need to change myself to make others feel more comfortable about me so they wouldn’t harm me, or deny me a job, or deny me genuine human love and affection and it’s something I continue to struggle with. I love me, a whole hell of a lot, and I know that I am worthy and if those people cannot see beyond their own bigotry to understand how valuable I am then I do not need them in spitting distance of me. I will not trade my dignity for a check.
My mother, the woman who loves me the most in this world tells me constantly that I in order to survive in this world, I may have to “look the part” as in dress as a man. We argue on the regular that I am not willing to cut myself open and bleed for people who’d rather see me dead for their amusement. I am who I am. Period. I know that she only wants to protect me from the cruelties of this world and the last thing she wants is the dreaded 2 AM phone call informing her that I have been bashed or worse because someone was uncomfortable with me being who I am. To my mother, I’d like to say that you’ve raised me to be the best version of me that I can be and that means walking in my skin day in and day out no matter how taxing it may be. I cannot continue to modify myself to make others more comfortable. I’ve been told to do that my whole life and will not tolerate it any longer. I do not want to be one of the people so wrapped up in living their life for other people that I die never having lived my life as me. I simply will not do it.
I feel wronged and disrespected but mostly challenged as a person by this experience. I am writing this so that they know what they did was inexcusable and degrading. And so that you know who you are giving your money too and where you are spending your time. And for those individuals like me, to know what places to avoid when trying to find work so you can live a comfortable life because my silence helps no one.
Shame, shame, shame on Corey and Ms. J (owners and operators of the New Orleans Daiquiri Bar and Grill on Old National Highway in Atlanta Georgia) you must do better. We must do better as a people. Damn, can people just be who they are without fear? Many of my LGBTQ people are scared day in and day out that just walking down the street will get us hurt let alone trying to find a job to survive. Some even turn to less savory work to ensure a roof is over their heads while others find themselves on the street struggling to find a meal. Haven’t we had enough?
Thanks for reading this far. If you know of many LGBTQ companies or organizations hiring please let me know, I’m still looking for a job apparently.
Be who you are and never let anyone define you for you. There are too many people living their lives for other folks already.
Left: Original Outfit- all that is exposed are my shoulders, forearms, and face
Right: Oversized t-shirt that was given to “cover up”