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My cousin Joanne is 46-year-old.  Her background is Native American and Scottish Irish.  She was born in Colorado Springs and has remained there since.  Throughout her life, Joanne has spent her time working at community centers and helping other people.  Her true passion in life is making music.  In 2015, Joanne was working at Turks Bar/Restaurant. When Joanne was first offered the job, the owner specifically told Joanne that her transgender status would not be an issue. Although this seemed true initially, once new employees started, things changed.  One manager in particular began targeting Joanne.  She would verbally harass Joanne, using her religious beliefs to justify the mistreatment.

One day, Joanne was using the women’s restroom and a patron complained to the management.  Julie, the manager, then started asking Joanne to use the men’s restroom, which she did not feel comfortable doing.  Joanne explained to her manager that Colorado law allows her to decide which bathroom to use.  She also pointed out that the employee rights were not posted on the wall as required.  Her manager told her that she did not believe it was necessary to post these laws.

After that, Joanne’s work life became a series of violent, hateful incidents.  In one situation, Joanne was trying to take care of a water leak in the office of the restaurant. One of the employees, who previously used his religious beliefs as an excuse for harassing Joanne, was also in the same space.  He began obstructing her work to fix the water leak.  He became aggressive and started physically attacking and punching her. Joanne called for help, and the employee ran away.  Joanne contacted the police, who stated they could not provide her with any assistance because they did not know how to assist transgender individuals.

As Joanne’s work environment became more hostile, it simultaneously became more overtly religious.  Joanne started to hear more aggressive religious arguments against her presence, with some people not allowing her to interact with children and making false claims that she was a pedophile.  At that point, Joanne suffered another physical attack, this time in the kitchen.  After the attack, Joanne reported it, but the management denied the event ever occurred.  Joanne wanted to quit for her safety, but she also needed a job.  She sought therapy as a way to deal with the harm the job was causing, but this sometimes coincided with her work hours.  In one instance, Joanne told management weeks in advance that she would be late due to therapy, however she was still yelled at when she arrived. Her manager denied that Joanne had given such advanced notice. Ultimately, they fired Joanne.

After experiencing this mistreatment, Joanne felt broken. She felt betrayed by the establishment and her co-workers. Her depression became worse and she started to experience severe self-esteem issues.  Joanne now fears being around people and has secluded herself, choosing to live on a friend’s farm.  She would like to engage with her community, but her trauma and fear prohibit her from being able to do so without experiencing severe anxiety.

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