My Boss Fired Me From My Funeral Home Job for Being Transgender

I was in funeral services for nearly three decades before I was fired in 2013 for being transgender. In March, a federal appeals court agreed that it was wrong to fire me just because of who I am. Now, the Supreme Court will consider whether to review that court ruling.

While studying to be a pastor in college, I needed a job, and I found one in a funeral home. There are a lot of different ministries people can pursue, and I realized comforting people during one of the most vulnerable points in their lives was my ministry. Some of my coworkers became my closest friends. It meant a lot to me that one co-worker once trusted me to handle the funeral arrangements for a family member.

My performance reviews were always positive. For the nearly seven years I worked specifically at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, I received regular raises, including one just a few months before I was fired.

Deciding to share my identity with my employer followed a lifelong journey to understand my gender. I knew, from around five years old, that I was different, even though there was no internet to help make sense of what was going on with me. As a child, I would swipe some of mom’s clothes as she was discarding them. It was nice to wear them and feel like the real version of myself, even for a just a few minutes.

My whole life, I tried to live as a man. Eventually, I told my wife Donna the truth: I am a woman. She encouraged me to see a therapist, who I expected to tell me something was wrong with me. But after a few sessions, she told me there was nothing wrong with me. In fact, she helped me think through the steps I could take to become more comfortable expressing myself.

It started with going grocery shopping dressed as a woman, and then going out to eat with Donna. I remember when we first walked into a restaurant. Everybody naturally looked up to see who was coming in. There were no comments from anyone, and I felt relief. The more time I spent being me, the more I finally started feeling right.

mytubethumbplay
%3Ciframe%20allow%3D%22autoplay%3B%20encrypted-media%22%20allowfullscreen%3D%22%22%20frameborder%3D%220%22%20height%3D%22315%22%20scrolling%3D%22no%22%20src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fembed%2FlIISUGE_7ZA%3Fautoplay%3D1%26version%3D3%22%20width%3D%22530%22%3E%3C%2Fiframe%3E
Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from youtube.com.

There were rough patches — like being shunned from our church. I was worried about family members and how they would take the information about my identity. So was Donna. But both our families have been more understanding than either of us could have expected.

It took longer to talk to my coworkers. One day, in November 2012, I felt that I couldn’t go any further. I couldn’t come out at work — I had overheard coworkers make derogatory remarks at times and I didn’t feel I could face them. But I also couldn’t keep living two lives. I felt ready to kill myself, because I couldn’t think of a way out.

After a long hour, I realized I had too much to live for. I put down the gun that had been in my hand and picked up a pen. I started writing a letter to my co-workers, a letter that I would eventually hand to my boss.

The first coworkers I told were ready to support me, which made me feel so much better. A few months later, I handed my boss the letter while sitting in the chapel of the funeral home. It said that after an upcoming vacation, I would start using the name Aimee and following the home’s dress code requirements for women. My boss didn’t say anything at the time

A couple weeks later, he came up to me and said, “This isn’t going to work.” He handed me a letter with a severance package.

Aimee Stephens Was Fired Because She Is Transgender. That’s Sex Discrimination.

I had given almost seven years of my life to the funeral home, offering countless families comfort when they needed it most. Being discarded so coldly was hard to understand. With the help of the ACLU, I sued my former employer for discrimination.

My case made its way up, and when the federal appeals court said this past March that what happened to me was both wrong and illegal, I started to see that not only did I have the support of my wife Donna and many of our family and friends, something not all transgender people have — but I had the support of the law.

I brought this lawsuit in part to extend that support to all transgender people. No one should be fired because of who they are. I hope the Supreme Court sees the same.

View comments (15)
Read the Terms of Use

Dr. Timothy Leary

The truth is that Aimee was fired for stealing body parts which he/she used in her transgenderism.

Anonymous

That's fake news. Shame on you "Dr. Leary."

Dr. Timothy Leary

"... fake news..." you must be a Trumpnik.

Anonymous

Not a trump supporter but fake news dr troll, Aimee wasnt fired for stealing bodyparts etc...

Dr. Frankenstein

Yes he/she was stealing body parts. I know because I was buying them from her.

Anonymous

So unfair! If I live to be 1000, I will never understand why anyone else would care about how a person, who is not harming anyone, wants to live. Everyone should be able to live to be the person they are without facing non-merit-based judgments, especially at work.

Anonymous

You are a privileged, white, man regardless of how many female stereotypes you conform to. Allowing men to force their way into the female gender hurts women by reinforcing gender stereotypes and making a mockery of civil rights laws designed to protect women. Besides, what gives you the right to force your way into the female gender and force your views on what a woman is on to real women?

Anonymous

"Force" your way into the female gender? "Privileged white male?" Sweetie, when a person transitions from male to female, they GIVE UP their "male privilege." When people see you as female, you get TREATED as a female, and that includes discrimination against you because people perceive you as female!! And civil rights laws protect more than just women. What laws exactly are they making a mockery of? The law says that sex discrimination is illegal. That doesn't matter if you're male, female, gay or transgender. If an employer discriminates against you because you don't conform to their expectations of what "male" or "female" is, then that's discrimination based on sex.

BonnieRaymond

A trans woman is not “a privileged man.” You haven’t got a clue what she has been through.

Mahilena

Wrong, When you transition male or female the identity you adopt identifies you, you have the right to define yourself and those surrounding you, yes, they are forced to adapt, what you believe you are takes precedence over others opinions or the opinion of the government
Transgenders don’t violate or demean natural males or females those that feel demeaned are the ones with a problem, natural men or women will have to accept and adapt
Chromosomes don’t define gender, while they cannot be changed (at this time), they can be rendered irrelevant by mastering a physical and behavioral transformation, once you remove the genitalia you are born with and acquire a new set, the original chromosomes are rendered dysfunctional, like if they were dead, they become irrelevant
In a bathroom, locker room etc if natural women are naked as well as a transsexual woman, there is no way to tell the difference
So, those natural men and women better learn to handle the fact that the person next to them can be a transsexual withou they ever finding out, in fact you may have slept with a transsexual without you ever knowing it

Pages

Stay Informed