Police detective Mia Macy interviewed for a job with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms last year, while still living as a man, according to her complaint to the EEOC. In March 2011, she told her prospective employers that she was transitioning to female. Just a few days later, she was told the job had been eliminated due to budget cuts. But then she found out the Bureau had actually hired someone else. So she filed a complaint, which prompted the commission to rule that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination, and thus prohibited by federal discrimination law Title VII. The EEOC still has to decide on Macy's particular case and whether she's entitled to compensation, but this ruling means that federal sex discrimination law now explicitly protects transgender people, in a way it never did before. Macy discussed her complaint, her next steps, and what it's like to be a transgender woman in law enforcement.
Do you think it's harder for transgender people to work in law enforcement than in other professions?
I think it is harder. Any time you're in a male-dominated profession and one of your buddies bcomes a woman, some people are going to act strangely. Talking to someone one-on-one is usually okay, but groups can be kind of scary and have a mob attitude.
How do you feel about the EEOC's ruling?
I'm happy that we're seeing this move in a positive direction, but it's kind of bittersweet because this took a lot of work. We went through a really rough time. It's been a rollercoaster. I'm happy that it's going to affect so many other transgender cases in the country, but it's still unsettling because I shouldn't even need to be doing this.
How did you decide to file your complaint in the first place?
As as a detective you have this spidey sense, this spidey tingle, where you know something's not right. I've never been looking for a win or to beat someone, I just wanted to know what happened. You just get an email back and your job's gone — we wanted to know the truth.
How did people in your work and personal life respond to the complaint?
I've had people that are wonderful, like my wife of twenty years, and other friends for life. But I've had negative responses to my transition — some officers didn't handle it as well as others. I haven't talked to anyone but my wife and my lawyer about the complaint specifically until the last few days, though.
What do you want people who may not be familiar with transgender rights to learn from your story?
Here's something my wife says about my transition: "it's just skin." I still love the Yankees, I still love Star Wars, I'm still me. The thing I'd like people to take away is that we are married, we're soldiers, cops, and nurses, we pay taxes, we're normal people, we want what everyone else wants. We're nothing different. This isn't some freaky sideshow — we're your neighbors.