A transgender teen’s first job after high school has become the learning experience they didn’t want, after they were the target of slurs from co-workers and the employer did nothing about it.
Trinity Wolf, 19, was pumping fuel at a local Co-op service station bar, taking a year off to raise money for post-secondary education, when two co-workers began hurling the slurs at the teen last month, culminating with: "All trans people should be burned alive."
"I wasn’t scared — I was more just in shock," Trinity (who uses they/them pronouns) said in an interview. "You hear stories a lot about this and in movies, but you never think it would happen to me personally."
After talking to their parents, Trinity went back to the co-workers to tell them how they felt. The meeting didn’t go well. "They just brushed it off," Trinity said. "They didn’t care at all. I was hoping for a little bit of something, like an apology of some kind."
Trinity said it didn’t go any better when they talked to the manager of the service station. Not only was no action taken against the co-workers, Trinity had their hours cut from 28 hours a week to 10 after saying they didn’t want to work shifts with the pair.
Trinity’s mother, Michelle, decided to call Red River Co-op’s head office herself to complain.
"People at work don’t have to like you, but you can’t be spouting off with these things," she told the Free Press.
"My husband and I had been trying to help Trinity deal with this in an adult way as a learning experience. When I got hold of someone at the head office, it went nowhere. I had hoped the manager would say this is unacceptable. The head office said (the manager) was very apologetic, but Trinity heard nothing," she said.
"At the end of it, I support Trinity. I said, you just have to leave the job because we’ve exhausted all of the adult (avenues)."
Kelly Romas, director of marketing for Red River Cooperative Ltd., said in a statement: "We are reviewing this incident with our lease operator. We strive to be an inclusive employer and do not condone discrimination or harassment at Red River Co-op corporate and agency operated locations."
Romas said out of Red River Co-op’s 35 gas bars, only six are owned by the corporation with the rest leased to operators.
Bryce Byron, Rainbow Resource Centre information and intake co-ordinator, has sympathy for Trinity but is not surprised.
"This sort of harassment… happens in workplaces and society, despite the fact it is blatantly illegal and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Byron said.
"It is usually hit and miss in employment but, unfortunately, there is a lot of employment situations that go unreported. We have pretty words in the charter… and it is discrimination, but that doesn’t reflect what happens on the ground," Byron said.
"It really makes the problem of homophobia and harassment in the workplace so hard to touch… It’s a really unfortunate situation, because you see employers working to change the culture, but there are plenty that don’t," Byron said.
"I encourage anyone facing discrimination at work to reach out to us… And talk to your MLAs and MPs. They need to know."
As for Trinity, they decided to quit and has a new job as a dishwasher in a pizza restaurant.
"They just don’t think they made a mistake," Trinity said. "They just think this is a load off of their shoulders.
"No one else should have this happen to them."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.