During the summer, walking out her door became a trial for Enza Anderson.
The trans activist, who works at a Bank of Montreal branch in the Village, says she was the subject of frequent harassment from two separate construction crews, first by a crew employed by SkyGrid Construction working on a CentreCourt Developments condominium at 21 Grenville St, then by a crew working on the water mains for the City of Toronto.
It wasn’t an issue until the construction workers reached street level after working in a pit for some weeks. But when they did, Anderson says, it seemed they almost waited for her to leave her home. Each morning as she left, she was subjected to a variety of slurs, including “faggot,” “georgie boy” and “he-legs.” “One guy would say, ‘Don’t touch my boyfriend, leave my boyfriend alone,’” Anderson says.
After several weeks of the harassment, which Anderson says she ignored initially, she contacted Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s office to make them aware of the situation in late August; the office contacted the developer on her behalf. “I was very alarmed to hear of what had happened to Enza,” Wong-Tam says. Anderson also filed a police complaint.
CentreCourt and SkyGrid responded quickly. A letter, provided to Xtra by Anderson, shows that SkyGrid told their contractors that there is a zero-tolerance policy on all projects for violation of the terms of their orientation handbook, which includes a program to prevent workplace violence and harassment. CentreCourt and SkyGrid did not respond to Xtra’s requests for comment on this story.
Shortly after the letter was sent out, the harassment died down. However, another crew, this time contracted by Toronto Water, arrived on the street to work on the water mains and began gawking at Anderson as she walked by.
This was the last straw for Anderson. She again alerted Wong-Tam’s office and they again contacted the company, which, according to emails the company sent Anderson, took disciplinary action. But Anderson also wanted to have her say and asked for a meeting with the relevant parties, including the LGBT liason for the Toronto Police Service. The meeting took place on Oct 6.
“As a citizen of the city, I have the right to live, work and travel where I want and be free and safe,” Anderson read from a prepared statement that she shared with Xtra. “I want to walk out of the front of my home and not be subjected to any form of bullying and harassment.”
Wong-Tam hopes that there is a silver lining to the experience. “Perhaps we could create a training tool for other construction companies and also bring it forward to other developers,” she says, adding that she wants people to feel safe walking across construction sites.
Anderson was pleased with the results of the meeting and since then has not been harassed by construction crews near her home. But, as someone who has spent her life fighting against harassment, she says she hopes that she can have some rest.
“I’ve reached an age in my life I want to start living. I don’t want to start fighting,” Anderson says. “I did all my fighting — but it doesn’t seem that the world is changing.”