Threats against transgender woman came from inside Detroit city hall

DPD opens probe months after woman files report

DETROIT (WXYZ) - To report an incident of LGBTQ workplace harassment or to request training in how to respond to or prevent  harassment, click here to contact Equality Michigan's Department of Victim Services or call (313) 537-7000, ext. 102.

A transgender manager in the City of Detroit finance department says she endured months of harassment and threats that her employer and police were slow to address.

"I love the city, I’m from the city," she told 7 Action News. "But now it’s not about the work for me anymore.  When I come to work, it’s about keeping myself safe."

The woman asked that we not show her face or disclose her name because of the harassment she received after colleagues learned she transitioned from a man to a woman last year. For this report, we are identifying her as Gloria.

The abuse began last December after Gloria's transition was complete. It was a decision she says was supported by her city bosses, all the way up to Mayor Mike Duggan.

"To have a mayor who supported the LGBT community and who supported me personally during my transition was awesome," she said.

But as she would learn, not everyone was onboard.  After returning to work following her surgery, Gloria found the nameplate outside her office door defaced: “Mr.” was scrolled over her name.

She ignored it, but days later just before the holidays, the harassment escalated when she found what she thought was an early Christmas gift sitting on her desk.

"I was kind of excited," she said. "(I) open the bag and in the bag is a sex toy and a note that had a bible scripture written on it."

The scripture said that a man who dresses like a woman is an abomination. But it didn’t end there.

“You were born a man, no make-up or weave will change that," the handwritten note it read. "Even getting rid of your penis won’t.  Stop shaming yourself. We don’t want people like you working here."

After the December incident, Gloria asked the city to put a lock on her office door and that cameras be installed in the hallways just outside of it.  She says they declined, but did launch an internal investigation that never determined who was behind the abuse.

It didn't stop.  On a day this spring, while checking her office mailbox, Gloria found another note addressed to her, quoting another bible verse. Again, she as addressed as "Mr."

“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable," the note read. "They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

Gloria notified human resources and says she once again asked her supervisors for a lock on her door and cameras outside her office.  Again, she says she was denied.

She also filed a report with Detroit Police, who just last month announced efforts to be more responsive to gay and transgender safety issues.

"We’re working to build trust and respect within our ranks that the LGBTQ community knows that its concerns will always be addressed," Chief Craig said during a rally at Hart Plaza.

But when Gloria filed a report with DPD,officers didn’t open an investigation, deciding it wasn't a threat.  Instead, they deemed it was something better for the city's human resources department to address.

Carol Laughbaum, Gloria's attorney, was shocked by DPD's decision.

"They sound like death threats to me," Laughbaum said. "It sounds like a criminal issue to me."

She faults the city's and police department's slow response to her client's complaints.

"There could have been fingerprinting done on the nasty items that were left," she said. " I think there were a number of avenues available to the city to find out who the harasser was, if they were earnest in trying to do that."

But with the perpetrator still not caught, Gloria found another note left on her desk.

“You were warned, now I will show you better than I can tell you," it read. "God have mercy on your soul.”

Finally, the city did what Gloria had been asking for since December. They installed a lock on her door, and cameras in the hallway.

The City of Detroit declined an on-camera interview. Instead, Corporation Counsel Butch Hollowell released a statement saying in part: "We believe the steps we have taken, particularly the installation of surveillance cameras, are appropriate to address this matter.  We take allegations like this very seriously and will take further action if necessary." 

Gloria says her concerns should have been taken more seriously. 

"I went to the police, I went to HR. I went to human rights and everybody just didn’t give me the response to try to make me safe," Gloria said. 

"I don’t want to be the next breaking story on the news where someone gets hurt because someone was attacked."

Days after 7 Action News reached out to Detroit Police about this case, a spokesman said the department was opening a criminal investigation in the workplace harassment. They said they weren’t aware of all the evidence before, but now they are.

Just yesterday, three DPD officers met with Gloria for 90 minutes---a full two months after she first went to them for help.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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