Manager refuses to allow male employee to wear skirts or dresses at work: 'I am a man, but I like frilly things'

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My mother worked for a large retail department store. One of her coworkers was a young man who enjoyed wearing skirts and dresses to work.

I'm not misgendering him; he preferred he/him pronouns and identified as male, even though he wore clothes that would traditionally be called "women's clothes." As he told my mother, "I am a man, but I like frilly things. I don't feel comfortable wearing men's clothes. That's why I like to wear my dresses, skirts, and blouses."

My mother's coworker was a handsome man who could rock a pair of high heels. His coworkers all adored him because of his winning personality and willingness to help anyone.

He was very hardworking and had no problem finding work, but he could never find a job that allowed him to dress the way he wanted. He always felt like he had to hide his true self when he went to work, but he was hoping this time would be different.

There was only one problem. The store manager didn't want him to wear skirts, blouses, and dresses. He wanted the young man to "dress the way you dressed when I hired you."

The young man was headstrong and continued wearing his preferred attire to work, high heels and all. He grew his hair out and had his nails done. "I dress better than half the management team in this store," he protested when confronted.

This didn't sit well with the manager, who wanted him to wear khakis and a polo shirt. The manager put his foot down, several times in fact, and refused to allow the employee to wear what he wanted to wear.

Finally, the manager said he either had to dress "appropriately" (i.e. dress pants and a collared shirt), or he would be sent home without pay. The next time the employee showed up for work without dress pants and a collared shirt, the manager sent him home, and the time after that.

The young man was at his wits' end. He loved his job, but he couldn't bear the thought of having to wear clothes that didn't make him feel comfortable.

My mother suggested he talk to human resources (HR) about the situation. The young man did, and HR policy was on his side as long as he wasn't wearing anything that might be unsafe for himself or others, he could dress however he wanted.

The young man went back to the manager and presented HR's policy. The manager read it, then said, "Fine. You can dress however you want. But if you think you're going to get away with wearing a skirt or dress to this job, you're sorely mistaken."

He was back to square one. The employee fought back, but he eventually gave up and found a new job.

This story highlights the discrimination that LGBTQIA+ people face in the workplace. This man was treated unfairly because he did not conform to traditional gender norms. He was told to dress a certain way, and when he didn't comply, he was punished.

What do you think? Is this man's story a victory or a defeat? How do you think the story would have ended differently if it had happened to a woman?

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