What It’s Like to Be Trans in the Restaurant Industry
With threats of customer harassment and misogynist kitchen culture, hospitality can be tough on its trans and non-binary employees.
Image by Liz Seabrook
This month, the UK has a historic opportunity to improve trans rights. The Government is currently consulting the public on whether it should make it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised through the Gender Recognition Act.
When Jade Jones started wearing fake nails and hair extensions to her supermarket job, her manager was not supportive.
“My boss was so strict about it,” she remembers. “I wasn't allowed to wear nails, even though all the other girls were wearing them. When I worked in [a different branch] before I moved to London, I was victimised for wearing makeup – even though I wore the bare minimum.”
Being visibly trans in the workplace isn’t easy. According to a report from Stonewall last year, half of trans people in the UK hide their identity at work – and no wonder, when 12 percent of trans people have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers in the last year, and 21 percent don’t feel safe enough to report such abuse.
And as Jones discovered, trans people who work in food – an industry built on customer interaction – face even greater challenges.
It is now illegal to place trans people in less public roles because of how they identify, thanks to the Equality Act 2010, meaning more trans people than ever are working in restaurant, bar, and food retail jobs. As trans visibility increases – propelled by the current Government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act – trans issues are pushed further into the spotlight. In many ways, this can be a force for good, putting the legal rights of trans people at the forefront of the national conversation. In others, it exposes trans people to cruel and unnecessary harassment.
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