Her evening out with a co-worker was going so well that E.M. felt safe enough to confide in him. E.M. told her co-worker that she was transgender, an intimate detail that she did not share at her job as a federal law enforcement officer.
One month later, in December 2010 E.M. was suddenly pulled from full duty and had her weapon, gun belt and badges removed because of an unspecified issue pertaining to her background. E.M. quickly discovered that the issue had to do with her gender status.
"They hired me as a transgender woman and now years later, and all of a sudden there was a discrepancy in this," E.M. said.
E.M., 31, realized the coworker she confided in tipped off her supervisors who reviewed the paperwork she filled out when she was hired.
"I felt ashamed and I felt embarrassed," she said. "I felt really upset that things can happen like this if you're not careful about who you tell certain things to."
When E.M. was hired two years ago after a successful career at another federal agency, she was forthcoming and told the law enforcement agency she was born a male. When she was transferred to the New Jersey branch of the agency, she did not want her immediate coworkers to know the particulars of her gender identity and avoided saying she was born a male.
E.M.'s supervisors asked her to provide a letter from a doctor disclosing her gender status and whether she is a candidate for sex reassignment surgery. That's when she turned to the ACLU-NJ for help. E.M.'s doctor drafted a letter, and the ACLU-NJ suggested modifications that would answer the agency's questions without compromising E.M.'s privacy.
E.M. handed in the letter modified by her doctor and two weeks later, she was back in her job.
"I think the ACLU is absolutely phenomenal," E.M. said. "I think it's great that in a day and age like today that a transgender individual can seek any kind of help from the ACLU. All of the advice that the ACLU-NJ gave me was phenomenal, and so encouraging."