Tristan Broussard: My name is Tristan Broussard. I’m from Hathaway, Louisiana. That’s where I’m originally from. We have the crawfish fields and one caution light.
I came out as gay in the eighth grade because that was really all I could do at the time. All my life, I’ve always dressed like a boy, never wore a shirt, always had short hair, cried whenever my mom even tried to put me in a dress or tell me to dress like a girl. I’ve been on my own almost since I was 18. The day I turned 18 is when I could legally do it myself.
I graduated high school in 2011, moved out, got a job. Then eventually I ended up working my way up – starting at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for eight bucks an hour. Eventually I got the job at Tower Loans at 15 bucks an hour, so I was pretty excited about it.
Ms. Leah, we sat in a little cubicle, and she was like, “I really like you. I’ll give you a call and let you know how it goes.”
I said, “Alright.” And she said in the next few days. As soon as I left and got on the road – I was maybe five minutes down the road – she called me saying, “You know what? You got the job.” At one point she had told me that, “You’re very hands on. You know, just for two days here, you’re doing a lot for how long you’ve been here.”
The manager ends up tapping me on the shoulder. Like I said, I was expecting him to come; we all were. He tapped me on the shoulder, asked me to go to the back with him and the other manager was there. We go to the back and the first thing he does is slides me a little stack of papers.
I’m looking at them, “What’s this?” and it’s a guideline, obviously, dress code. And the paper said female on it. I’m reading it and he’s like, “You know, I had a talk with the corporate and basically we had to draw a line here, so…”
He said, “If you can comply that you’re female and you choose to dress like a female, then you can continue for Tower Loans. And if not, gonna have to ask you to give us your key back and clean up your desk.”
I looked up at him and said, “I’m sorry. I can’t.” I don’t know if that’s the hard-headed part of me or just the fact that I know who I am and I don’t need someone to hand me a rule of how to dress. I know how to dress professional and I was doing that from day one.
He was like, “I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve been through something like this.”
Honestly, that wasn’t very comforting because just because you have the idea that I’ve been through something like that doesn’t mean you put me through it a second time.
Even growing up as Catholic, my senior year we had a confirmation. Basically, it’s like graduating for Catholics. And I had the exact same problem happen. Dad literally called me out of my room, sat me down in the kitchen with my mom next to me, slid me a paper and said, “How are you gonna dress for confirmation?”
Because there was a guideline of how you’re supposed to dress and females could only dresses and that was it. A white dress; that was it. I looked at him – my dad actually highlighted where it said female and said, “Can you do that?”
I was like, “I can’t.” Just because I’ve been this way for so long. My family knows that, too. It just hurt that they always expect something else from me when I’m your child. You should love me for who I am. I’m not going to go into detail about what happened next but it wasn’t fun.
I had that flashback every time I was sat down again. It was kind of crazy that he brought it up to me. “I’m sure you’ve been through stuff like this.” It’s one thing to go through something from your family and then you try to have a work life and they do the same thing to you.
Ms. Leah hired me not because of how I was dressed but because of how I presented myself. That’s the point of a job and an interview and the whole process of me changing is because I’m trying to be who I am. To have that taken away… nobody should have that taken away from them.
Text: We’re suing Tower Loans for violating Tristan’s civil rights.
We hope to win justice for him and help ensure that more transgender people are not subjected to discrimination.
NCLR – National Center for Lesbian Rights
SPLC – Southern Poverty Law Center