Transgender Man in Keene’s Story of Discrimination is an Important Reminder of the Need for Protections February 28, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Liam gave approval for a quote using his birth name.

Every day, the alarm would ring, and every day, Liam Magan would wake up, put on his uniform, and go to work at his local Five Guys, the famous national chain known for their freshly-made burgers and fries. In his role, Liam would help customers place their order, as well as help the kitchen staff prepare food. While he was satisfied with his work, Liam was also going through a major life change: he had begun his transition as a transgender male.

“Before coming out, the confusion and uncertainty I felt about accepting my own gender identity caused a lot of anxiety,” he says. “But the support I received from many people after coming out to them gave me confidence, and helped me to start living honestly.”

One of the people Liam received support from was his assistant manager at Five Guys. She encouraged him to be open and talk to the general manager about what he was going through. Unfortunately, Liam says, it was after doing so that he began to face discrimination and cruelty at work.

“I was harassed almost daily,” Liam explains. “Many of my coworkers respected my identity—by calling me by my name, Liam, and addressing me as he, him and his—but senior management did not. They refused to change my name in the computer, so every time I took an order or punched the time clock, my birth name would show up, immediately outing me to anyone who wasn’t aware of my gender identity.”

While this was occurring, Liam decided to do some research to see if there were any laws concerning discrimination that he could use to stop it. Unfortunately, there weren’t.

“I found out there were no protections — nothing I could have done legally in that experience.”

Liam further goes on to describe what he believed to be intentional acts of discrimination and harassment.

“I was harassed almost daily [at work] … They refused to change my name in the computer, so every time I took an order or punched the time clock, my birth name would show up, immediately outing me to anyone who wasn’t aware of my gender identity. I found out there were no protections — nothing I could have done legally in that experience.”

“Management said they would handle it, but never did. They said they [co-workers] were talked to, but it wasn’t true. One coworker intentionally treated me as a woman because he did not accept who I was. Despite asking management not to work with him, most of my shifts were scheduled with him anyway. In fact, I was constantly being scheduled with the people who were harassers, and never with people who I knew were supportive, so it felt intentional.”

Things came to a breaking point when the store’s district manager was in attendance one day to assist in the store’s operations. Liam says that it was after this particular encounter, he began looking for a new job immediately.

“He claimed that he was confused because he only knew me from my paperwork that listed my birth name. After a busy lunch rush, during which my coworkers were treating me as the wrong gender consistently, I was at a breaking point. I went to the back of the kitchen for a cup of water when he [the district manager] scolded me for not using a straw. I turned to him and said, “Is there anything else I’m doing wrong today? I can’t catch a break.” He replied while laughing, “I guess we’ll just have to call you Kayla until you stop messing everything up.”

After his horrific experience at Five Guys, Liam found work at a local pizza place, where he says the staff were supportive and understanding from day one.

“They hired me and knew up front who I was. There was no pushback. I was in the system as Liam, and they treated me equally.”

Eventually, Liam fell into his current position as an apprentice septic system evaluator, and is working toward being certified by the state. While he is happy in his employment, and feels safe from discrimination as a friend is his employer, Liam is still shaken by his encounter with harassment.

“The discrimination was so harmful to my mental health — I had feelings of depression and was anxious to go to work every day — that I had to leave in order to feel safe.”

“The discrimination was so harmful to my mental health — I had feelings of depression and was anxious to go to work every day — that I had to leave in order to feel safe.”

Not lost on Liam in the slightest is that in New Hampshire, it is still legal to discriminate against a transgender person not only in employment, but in housing and public accommodations as well. This is why he has become a staunch public supporter of HB 1319, a bill that would add transgender people to the Granite State’s current non-discrimination law, thereby ensuring fair and equal treatment for all.

“I’ve done a few public ‘Ask a Trans Person’ panels, four so far. It’s a great place for the public to come ask questions and learn more about transgender people and how to be better allies, it’s an open forum conversation and a way to raise awareness about the bill.”

Liam was also one of several dozen people who testified before the House Judiciary Committee, which decided on February 27th that HB 1319 would advance to the full House with a positive recommendation. Among those speaking were educators, faith leaders, parents of transgender children, and many transgender Granite Staters themselves.

His motivation in testifying, and his ultimate goal, is to help legislators understand the concerns that the transgender community has regarding discrimination, and to make comprehensive protections a reality.

“I want them to put themselves in our shoes as a person who doesn’t have protections, or what it would be like to have a family member go through something like that. If you can put a face to the issue, it’s easier to understand and get behind.”