In the late summer of 2010, Tamara Lusardi, whose birth name is Todd, informed a supervisor that she wanted to start transitioning from male to female at work. Tamara Lusardi had been working as a quality assurance specialist for the U.S. Army for six years. She had already legally changed her name from Todd to Tamara, updated her social security card to reflect that name and gender, and received letters from her doctor confirming that she was going to be living as a woman.
Lusardi says she told the supervisor she’d like to start the process of updating her security information and announce the change to her coworkers after Jan. 1, 2011.
The supervisor and management seemed OK with things at first, Lusardi says. “We want to take care of you,” she says they told her. Her security information was updated as planned. But then, though she’d made it clear she didn’t want to announce her transition or start coming to work dressed as a woman for several months, the name on her email account was prematurely switched from Todd to Tamara. She realized this when her coworkers started responding to her emails with “Who is Tamara?”Related A New Legal Challenge Renews Debate: Should Medicaid Cover Transgender Health Care?
Around the same time a male coworker accidentally bumped into Lusardi and noticed the 38C breasts she’d been binding down. Lusardi is an intersex person who began developing female sex characteristics later in life because of a medical condition. After the encounter, she started to hear that people at work were gossiping about her.
Lusardi and her supervisor had no choice but to move up the date for announcing her transition to the rest of the staff. As planned, she sent a letter to her coworkers telling them her new name and pronoun. But being legally female and having changed all her documentation with the Army wasn’t enough to convince Lusardi’s supervisors to let her use the women’s bathroom, even though outside work she used public women's restrooms without a problem.
While she was on the clock, however, she was required to use a single-occupancy restroom at the front of the building because she hadn't had gender-reassignment surgery. Sometimes that bathroom didn’t work, so she used the women’s room. “You’re making people uncomfortable,” Lusardi says the supervisor told her.
Now, on the heels of a recent case and two new lawsuits, people like Lusardi may have increasing legal rights against discrimination.
The shift began in 2012, when veteran police officer and transgender woman Mia Macy sued the Department of Justice for denying her a job with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. She claimed the agency refused to hire her because she'd come out as transgender. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in Macy's favor and found that discriminating against employees because they are transgender, or because they have transitioned or plan to, is sex-based discrimination and violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.