Like nearly every one of us did way back when, 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy applied for a job at McDonald’s. Lots of teens appreciate the free food, the experience, and, most of all, the money that comes with the job. Unfortunately, Zikerria wasn’t hired. That wouldn’t be of much interest were it not for the reason she was turned down — Zikerria is transgendered. And if that weren’t bad enough, one of the managers of the restaurant actually called her and left a voice message saying “We don’t hire faggots.”
I must admit that I am somewhat surprised by this story. When the morning DJs on radio station KRXQ in Sacramento, California made some very hateful remarks regarding transgendered people, including advocating violence towards transgendered kids, McDonald’s was among the companies that quickly pulled their advertising from the station. Furthermore, the chain received a respectable 85 out of a possible 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. Ironically, however, the company lost points for not including gender identity in the non-discrimination policy in the employee handbook.
The company has since stated that McDonald’s does not allow discrimination based on gender identity and that the manager in question has been fired. I suspect that this is a case of employees acting on their own prejudices and, as a company spokesperson explained, “is not reflective of the employment policies in the organization.”
Nonetheless, this underscores the difficulty transgendered teens face in the workplace and in general. “Americans should have the chance to earn a living and provide for their families without being refused a job or fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job,” said Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. “Zikerria should not have been denied a job just because she is transgender. Like everyone else, she deserved to be judged on her ability to do the job and not on who she is.” I couldn’t have said it better.