Saturday, October 10th 2015

Young and Transgender in Florida

This summer, 17 year-old Zikkeria Bellamy applied online to a Florida McDonald’s and was granted an interview. Initially, she chose not to disclose her gender – the box was optional.  When the hiring manager asked her to fill it out, she checked male.  At that point, he told her to leave.  Bellamy soon received a particularly nasty phone call from the manager in which he explained to her why she would not be hired.  Now, the manager has been fired and McDonald’s has been served with a formal discrimination complaint.  What’s going on here?



Zikkeria Bellamy was born male.  Anatomically, she is technically a he.  Something in her told her otherwise, and at age 11 she began to live as a female.  This puts her in a kind of tricky position when it comes to gender.  Sexually, Zikkeria is still a male, which means she still has to check “Male” when required – hypothetically, this would only happen if the box is labeled “Sex” and not “Gender”.

Workplace discrimination by sex has been illegal for some time, but gender is another issue.  Whereas sexuality establishes “what” you are, gender clarifies “who” you are.  To date, there is no federal law making it a crime for workplaces to discriminate against a person based on the latter.  Courts, however, have ruled in favor of transgender people in cases involving workplace discrimination – one notable case in Washington, D.C. last year ruled that transgendered people are protected by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Currently, Florida is one of 38 states which have no law specifically addressing the rights of transgender people in the workplace.  Bellamy’s advocate, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, argues she is protected under Florida’s Human Rights Act’s prohibition on sex and disability discrimination.

There are a couple of laws pending that would provide future protection.  The Florida legislature is currently discussing the Competitive Workforce Bill, which came into being on November 20 of this year.  It specifically prohibits discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or expression.  The Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was also introduced by the legislature earlier this year, does essentially the same thing.

Unfortunately, Bellamy is still not guaranteed the position she applied for – the case has not yet come to trial.  She might yet prove herself a kind of martyr for transgender rights, given the attention her complaint has drawn and its proximity to the pending legislation.

What do you think?  Should there be a federal law which distinctly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity?

Posted by Tyler on December 14, 2009 at 2:25 pm.

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