Stories of discrimination from the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey
by Mel Green
We present a selection of comments from the 268 LGBT respondents to the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey: Final Report on employment, housing, and public services/accommodations discrimination in Anchorage.
Opponents of Proposition 5, the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative, continue to claim that there is no evidence of anti-LGBT discrimination in Anchorage, in spite of recent data from the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey: Preliminary Report (released in November 2011) and the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey: Final Report (released last month). If they give the survey results any attention at all, it is generally to assert its complete invalidity with no discussion whatsoever of the exact methodological or other issues which led them to that conclusion. Which is, of course, no argument at all. Note that in the final report I described in detail the methodology used in conducting the survey, and how analysis of its data was conducted. I also discussed its limitations.
The report also includes 23 pages of respondent comments. many of which describe particular instances of violence, harassment, and discrimination experienced in Anchorage by the survey’s 268 LGBT respondents.
As I wrote in the methodology:
Respondents were given an opportunity to comment in three places on the questionnaire: at the end of the “Sexual orientation discrimination” part, at the end of the “Gender identity discrimination” part, and at the very end of the questionnaire.
Not all respondents took the opportunity to make comments, but many did, often commenting about a number of topics in the same comment. We organized comments into topical areas and redacted sensitive information to protect respondent confidentiality.
Survey respondents included both cisgender and transgender respondents:
- Cisgender is refers to non-transgender individuals: persons whose gender identity — that is, their internal sense of being male or female — matches their sex assigned at birth.
- Transgender describes the state of one’s gender identity — that is, one’s self-identification as woman, man, neither or both — not matching one’s “assigned sex” — that is, one’s identification by others (including on original birth certificate) as male, female, or intersex based on usual medical definitions of male or female.
- FTM (female-to-male) describes transgender persons whose birth certificates assigned them the gender of female, but who identify and live, or hope to live, as a male.
- MTF (male to female) describes transgender persons whose birth certificates assigned them the gender of male, but who identify and live, or hope to live, as a female.
Below are a number of comments from survey respondents about experience of discrimination. Additional respondent comments can be found in Appendix A of the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey: Final Report.
Please vote YES on 5.
During a former employment I was verbally harassed daily by my direct supervisor. I came out during that employment and even though I had worked in this department for three years already, when I came out I no longer received good evaluations and my supervisor threatened to fire me due to my sexual orientation almost daily. I was forbidden to receive or make personal calls even to my children and I was forbidden to speak to anyone regarding my personal life. It was an atmosphere of hatred. When my car was defaced with gay slurs my boss said it was deserved. I worked there for three more years due to limited job opportunities in that area. — Cisgender lesbian respondent
I was dancing at a local restaurant/bar with a male friend of mine and one of my previous
employers spotted me. The very next morning he told my manager to fire me. — Cisgender gay male respondent
I have been denied/terminated from jobs, had coworkers go to HR behind my back to force
me out of my job [on the basis of my gender identity as a transwoman.] — Transgender MTF bisexual respondent
I had one situation while employed where the primary referral to our services was very anti-gay and had significant problems working with me and referring clients for services. This created a significant difficulty in the workplace at times although there was no overt discrimination from my employer. — Cisgender bisexual female respondent
I’ve had to receive a blessing/recommendation from a local minister before I would be formally offered a job by someone in political office because future employer concerned about fallout from my being gay. — Cisgender gay male respondent
Transpeople, especially transwomen, commit suicide at a rate of 1 in 2, not because we are unstable, but because of how society is allowed to treat us. I am a Marine Corps veteran, received awards from the PTA several times for my service…. I also…am about to complete my [graduate degree], but can only find work as a cab driver — good luck paying the nearly 150k in student loans I have amassed. I can’t even find a way to get my rotting teeth fixed. — Transgender MTF bisexual respondent
I was fired from my last job at [company name], the reasons for the termination were due to my dress code, which was normally button up collared shirt and slacks, I wore corduroy pants, which apparently wasn’t in the code, and due to use of my personal e-mail. None of the times was I ever told or asked to wear more professional attire or to not use personal e-mail. Though my manager who fired we wore jeans when she fired me and told me they had a hard time hiring me due to the fact that it was a front desk position and I was a homosexual. She told me she fought to get me hired and that a lot of the [other employees] thought it was a bad choice with me being the first person a customer talks to, they saw it unprofessional. So I feel that it was a conservative company and I feel like they fired me and for the first time in my life I did really and truly feel discriminated against which
is sad because there isn’t anything in the discrimination law in Alaska that defends sexual orientation discrimination in the work place. — Cisgender bisexual male respondent
The threat of “exposure” to politically sensitive management has been used a number of time to try to keep me from doing my job or voicing an opinion that my supervisor did not like but was totally within my scope of work. The statement “you can’t do anything about it” was actually used! — Cisgender lesbian respondent
For the most part I have been very fortunate with respect to my career and lack of discrimination against because I am gay, although there was one fairly public matter related to a job to which I was appointed that took a few days to work out because the person whose job I was be appointed to called a special meeting to inform the governing board that I was gay and did they know that and what actions did they want to take, as a result of this information. I was told about this after the meeting by a member of the board present and I confronted the individual the next, informed the appointing authorities of the event, and the transition was speeded up and the person whose position I was taking was moved out sooner. It all worked out, but all of this was fairly public and the staff of the agency I was taking over were all well aware of these events by the time I actually started working. It was very embarrassing (although strangely personally empowering in the final analysis), potentially could have cost me the job, and left me at a significant disadvantage with some portion of the staff starting out. — Cisgender gay male respondent
Since I have become politically active and identified myself as trans, I have experienced the issues listed above, including my rent on a 2 BR 1 BA apartment jumping from $900 to $1575 the following month after testifying to the assembly about discrimination and being trans. — Transgender MTF bisexual respondent
As an adult, I was turned down for housing during a very difficult time. The property manager told us, after fulfilling every other requisite, upon meeting my partner and I we were told they didn’t want a “roommate situation.” The housing we did end up getting was smaller and more expensive, and we endured comments from other tenants. We had to move again when our rent increased (it was not worth the harassment). Eventually I took an opportunity to move to [another Alaska city]. — Cisgender gay male respondent
My landlords have told me “I would never rent to an unmarried woman just like I would never rent to a gay person.” The only person I am in the closet to is my landlord. I honestly fear being evicted. — Cisgender gay male respondent
I was once completely humiliated in the ER. I was very sick, but what the doctor wanted to talk about was “how did I get four children if I was a lesbian”? I would have argued had I not been so sick. — Cisgender lesbian respondent
Medical doctor asked if I was sexually active. I said I was. Then he asked what birth control I used. I said, “None.” He answered, “Are you playing roulette?” I said that I was lesbian, to which he replied, “What a waste!” He followed this by verbal abuse and painful, overzealous use of the speculum to get a simple culture for a yeast infection. It was akin to rape. — Cisgender lesbian respondent
There are times that body language speaks louder than words. I have experienced prejudice communicated in the lack of service and availability for assistance which is an example of the reference to body language. The experience of being denied service in a restaurant is a specific example demonstrated by the owner and mirrored in the service personnel who then openly conversed in a volume that all patrons could hear. We chose to leave rather than confront the situation. — Cisgender gay male respondent
I have been discriminated against by businesses. One company refused to make my [lesbian-related] organization’s t-shirts. They did not outwardly deny us service at first. Instead they delayed and delayed production until we were forced to go to another vendor at the last minute when they finally admitted they weren’t going to do it. — Cisgender lesbian respondent
Police and government services
In [the late 1980s], shortly after I moved in with my partner, we were the victims of an armed robbery in our home and my partner was shot. Since he was taken to ICU and was unconscious for several days, APD had found a rifle that belonged to my partner in the back of a closet and was convinced that I had shot him in in a “lover’s quarrel.” I was taken in for questioning and held for over 12 hours, not knowing whether my partner was dead or alive. When released, I came home to find the mess they had made from taking finger prints and several weeks later was informed by them that they had no leads in the case but I was no longer a suspect and that I could come and pay a fee to have the rifle returned to me. During the time I was held, I was not allowed to call any friend or family member, yet I was never read Miranda rights or actually arrested. — Cisgender gay male respondent
While I have not personally been the target of these things based on gender identity, as [an employee of a local gay bar] for 5 years I witnessed it too often. We would have a transgender individual who was intoxicated and refusing to leave premises but otherwise not a problem. When APD would show up some officers (let me stress not all just a few “repeat offenders”) would refuse to address the person by their chosen name or refer to them by their gender instead insisting on referring to the person by sex on a driver’s license even if they could see that it upset or escalated the negative behaviors from the person. It was very discouraging to have to give sensitivity training on the spot and seriously upsetting that they would purposely poke at the most sensitive topic at hand. — Cisgender lesbian respondent.[caption id="attachment_5843" align="alignright" width="620" caption="Click through for larger version. Additional figures and tables are found in the preliminary and final reports to the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey."][/caption] Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey, discrimination, Proposition 5 Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative (2011-2012)