NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A transgender police officer in Connecticut has filed a complaint with a state agency alleging her supervisors created a hostile work environment because of her gender identity.
Francesca Quaranta said her Middletown colleagues were initially supportive, but she began to face hostility from some over time and the situation became so bad she took paid leave. She filed a complaint in October asking the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to investigate her claims of discrimination and harassment.
"I realized there was no resolution," Quaranta said. "It was not about hair. It's not about nails. It's not about makeup. It's about the fact they don't want me in their building."
Telephone messages left Thursday with Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew and Police Chief William McKenna were not immediately returned.
The 46-year-old Quaranta was born a man and has undergone hormone therapy to change to female. She decided to tell her colleagues last year, texting them a photo of herself dressed as a woman rather than showing up to work dressed that way. She's been a police officer with Middletown since 2004 and was with Rocky Hill for nine years before that.
She said she voluntarily stopped using the men's bathroom and locker room and made gradual changes to try to ease the transition such as arriving to work already in uniform.
But conflicts began to emerge. A lieutenant repeatedly referred to her as "Frank" and "him" after she notified the department she had legally changed her name and questioned whether she was fit for duty, according to her complaint. She said she was ordered to remove her earrings even though female officers had been allowed to wear them. She said she was initially allowed to wear a wig but was later told it was not in compliance with policy and received written discipline.
A sergeant said "who brought the caveman with them" during roll call and was later suspended, Quaranta said. A lieutenant suggested it would be better if she returned to being male, she said.
Quaranta said she also faced more scrutiny of her work performance, with supervisors questioning her response time even to non-emergencies such as an illegally parked car.
Quaranta emphasized that she had colleagues who were supportive, as well. Her attorney, Josephine Smalls Miller, held out hope of a resolution with the help of a neutral third party.