A paramedic and a firefighter from a small town in Alberta, Canada said that they felt as though they were forced out of their jobs because they were behaving “too gay.”
According to CBC news:
Sheri and Alyssa Monk say they were discriminated against and expected to follow different rules than their heterosexual colleagues, saying they were told not to talk about their personal lives at work and that the word “wife” was off limits.
The women have filed a complaint with Alberta’s Human Rights Commission about how they were treated while working in the emergency services detachment in Pincher Creek, a town of 3,700 people about two hours south of Calgary.
A supervisor, who has since retired, told one of the women that:
“The conversation started with, ‘This isn’t because you’re gay, but there are some people that will never accept same-sex marriage and are offended by the use of the word wife,” according to Sheri.
So it’s not because they’re gay, but it’s totally because they’re gay. Makes sense unless you think about it.
What makes this stand out for me is that it’s not just based on their perception of the situation – they have actual recordings with a supervisor.
“You’ve been very open in sharing your relationship and coming out,” EMS Capt. Jennifer Fisher-Sundberg can be heard saying on a recording. “So, um, and I think public displays of affection, whether it’s physical or verbal stand out more — because you’re both women — than it does in the heterosexual population.”
A male and a female kiss and nobody bats an eye. But two women kiss, and everyone in this small town loses their mind.
In a candid moment like this, it’s completely fair to make the point that she made, because she’s correct. It shows an understanding of the issue the couple has been facing.
What kills me here is that the supervisor is so close to getting the right answer, but they still screw it up. It seems as though they understand that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being attracted to a member of the same sex, but that it’s more noticeable when same-sex partners show affection. The right thing to do here would have been to show support for the couple and make them feel just like any other couple – heterosexual or otherwise – and move on.
Religion is involved
BECAUSE OF COURSE IT IS.
“Their being a lesbian couple became the centre of conversation more often … them being in the workplace and other people’s religious sentiments being offended by their presence became more of a source of conflict.”
I have yet to hear anyone who is anti-LGBTQ offer any valid or logical defenses for their position that don’t involve religion. It just doesn’t exist. It’s almost as if people are using their magical sky lord to justify their own personal feelings. Weird.
While they weren’t fired by their employers, they felt the need to leave their jobs because of the climate in their workplaces.
Both women quit their jobs on July 1, 2017. They weren’t fired and didn’t face disciplinary action.
“We were working at a place where we weren’t allowed to acknowledge our marriage, our personal lives or our family lives and we were the only ones that had to live and work that way,” Sheri said.
Krause says it’s not uncommon for people in Sheri and Alyssa’s situation to feel they have no choice but to leave their jobs.
“The problem is how long can you go on, fight, or just feel excluded … eventually you’re just gonna leave and that to me is the saddest part,” said Krause, whose organization is hired by companies to do diversity training.
“We don’t want to ever interrupt people’s religious values or whatever the values that drive belief, but you actually can’t openly discriminate against LGBTQ people in Canada.”
A member of the couple’s family reached out to me yesterday, and Sherri shared these thoughts on the CBC article and the response:
Because after telling us we can’t talk about our family or marriage, I shut down somewhat at work, and did what they said, and was then sent home due to that being perceived as a bad attitude. And I couldn’t just fake being chipper when they had already hurt us so much, so we were boxed in.
I think that’s completely reasonable.
Think about it this way: if you were told to hide who you truly are at work while others are freely able to express themselves, wouldn’t you feel like an outcast? It’d be one thing if they banned any discussions about personal lives or spouses for everyone, but according to this report, they had a different set of expectations compared to heterosexual people in their workplace. That is the definition of discrimination.
I just want people to know that we were never inappropriately physically affectionate, and never was there a single example of such an instance provided to us – despite us begging for examples – or to the human rights commission in their defense statement. We were disciplined for using the word wife, the word “babe” on one occasion, and for talking about our family life. We would also like people to know that human rights cases rarely result in more than a few thousand dollars in awards. It is about preventing future discrimination, and restoring people to the positions they had before the discrimination happened.
I couldn’t agree more. This fight isn’t as much about the money they receive, it’s about recognizing that two members of the same sex can love one another and helping to normalize it.
Special thanks to Sherri’s sister Kendra for reaching out to me with this story. If you have a story that you think would be a good fit for aSE, please reach out to us at tips@aScienceEnthusiast.com.
Cover image via CBC