There’s a reason, or at least a rationale, only male TSA agents can grope male passengers: That by keeping these types of intimate encounters between members of the same-sex, any risk of the activity becoming sexual is mitigated. It’s that same line of thinking that Urban Treatment Associates in Camden, New Jersey, uses in only allowing male staffers to work as urine monitors, where they watch recovering drug addicts pee into a cup and ensure they don’t use somebody else’s urine. Apparently that policy became all too complicated after the hiring of El’Jai Devoureau, who was born biologically female but lives as a man. The second day on the job, Devoureau was fired — only after, his discrimination lawsuit claims, his supervisor asked him if he is trans after hearing rumors.
Mr. Devoureau, 39, says he has identified himself as a man all his life. In 2006, after he began taking male hormones and had sex-change surgery, he adopted the name El’Jai (pronounced like L. J.). A new birth certificate issued by the State of Georgia identifies him as male, as does his New Jersey driver’s license, and the Social Security Administration made the change in its records. “As long as I’ve been a person, I’ve lived as a man,” he said in an interview. “At age 5, I did everything a boy did: I climbed trees, I played football, I played with trucks. Most of the people in my life, all they know is I’m male.”
Last June, Urban Treatment Associates in Camden hired Mr. Devoureau as a part-time urine monitor; his job was to make sure that people recovering from addiction did not substitute someone else’s urine for their own during regular drug testing. On his second day, he said, his boss said she had heard he was transgender. “I said I was male, and she asked if I had any surgeries,” he said. “I said that was private and I didn’t have to answer, and I was fired.” Calls to Urban Treatment were not returned. But after Mr. Devoureau made a complaint to the state’s Division on Civil Rights, the treatment center filed a response in January saying that Mr. Devoureau’s dismissal “was not motivated by, nor related in any way to, any discriminatory intention.”
Civil rights laws and court decisions allow limited cases of favoring one group over another, like giving preference to women for jobs as nurses in maternity wards. In its January filing, Urban Treatment said that firing Mr. Devoureau was legitimate, “since the sex of the employee engaged in that particular job position is a bona fide occupational qualification” — implying that Mr. Devoureau was not really a man.
In 2006, New Jersey added sexual orientation and gender identity to its list of protected classes of workers, though there is leniency given for just the type of jobs Devoureau held, where one’s gender can be a factor. But this is all so silly: Devoureau (whose first name is pronounced “El-Jay”) is a man. Sure, he had hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery (the details of which he’s not revealing as yet), but the most crucial aspect of all of this is that he identifies and lives as a man. He has felt this way since he was a child. He is not, as some jerks might argue, some sexual pervert claiming to be another sex just to get a chance to look at penises during the workday. (We have no idea whether Devoureau is straight or gay, as if that matters.) He is just a guy trying to do his job, but was told he could not.