July 31, 2013
Here’s a piece I wrote for my company’s LGBT newsletter. They wanted something outlining some of the struggles trans people deal with at work. Here’s what I came up with:
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 97% of transgender workers in the US report feeling harassed or discriminated against on the job. 26% of these workers have, at one point in their life, been fired because of their gender identity. As a result of this, transgender individuals face a poverty level more than twice that of the US population as a whole, with 19% of trans people having been homeless in their lifetime (more than 4x the rate of the general population).
Like a row of dominoes, one event leads to another. Harassment in the workplace leads to poverty; poverty leads to homelessness; homelessness leads to being relegated to work within the “underground economy” (such as doing sex work or selling drugs; which 16% of transgender individuals have taken part in).
Why is it that transgender men and women find themselves in this unenviable position? Simply put, it’s because there’s nothing preventing employers from mistreating or firing an employee on the basis of their gender identity. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, has been proposed in every session of Congress since 1994. Until 2009, versions of ENDA proposed did not include protections on the basis of gender identity. ENDA remains stalled in Congress, and it remains legal to fire trans employees at a federal level.
33 states, including New York, don’t even have protections at the state level for transgender employees. This gives individual businesses a choice as to whether or not they, as an organization, choose to employ transgender people. From a business perspective, trans people only make up roughly 1% of the population, so even in the event of boycott on the part of trans people nation wide, there’s no compelling business case for being inclusive.
Unlike one’s sexual orientation, one’s gender presentation is not something that can be easily hidden. The old argument of “why can’t you just keep your personal life personal,” while discriminatory in its own way, doesn’t apply to transgender people. There is no way to keep one’s transition to themself. Recently out NBA player Jason Collins chose to remain closeted for the first 12 years of his playing career, collecting salaries totaling $34.2 million. He was only able to do this through his choice to keep his sexual orientation hidden. Is it right that he felt he had to in order to launch and sustain a career? Of course not, but at least he had a choice. Transgender athletes and employees aren’t afforded the luxury of a choice. When we transition, people around us take notice and we suffer the consequences.
As an organization, we have the opportunity to change this. After all, true societal perception change needs to begin somewhere, and as stated above, at 1%, transgender individuals alone cannot make this happen. We need allies to help make this happen. Within the organization, policies are in place that allow transgender individuals to work without fear of discrimination. Even so, there are some things you still shouldn’t do:
- My gender identity is no one’s business. If someone in the office isn’t aware that I’m transgender, it is in no way appropriate for you to tell them. One wouldn’t say, “…oh, that’s Mary, she used to have cancer;” or “…that’s Bob, he has a prosthetic leg;” or “…that’s Jim, he has cirrhosis of the liver from too much drinking.” Why? Because it is not appropriate to discuss the medical history of others. Saying, “that’s Parker, she used to be named…” is not relevant to anyone’s job. Don’t do it. As the saying goes, if you’re not my doctor or my lover, my trans status is none of your business.
- Treat me like you’d treat any other woman you work with. If there’s an event that all the women in a department are going to, invite me. Why? Because I’m a woman. Would you ask other women in the office about their genitals? Then don’t ask about mine.
- Don’t hide me. One of the most common excuses for allowing transgender discrimination to continue is the, “if you walked into a store and some ‘man in a dress’ was at the counter, you wouldn’t want to go to that store,” attitude. This is the business argument for discrimination. In reality, most trans women don’t look like “men in dresses,” and even if they did, women come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t remove me from invitations to client or vendor meetings. If you do that, you’re really no better than the store owner who refuses to hire a trans person for fear of losing business.
Allies and colleagues, please help me. The next time you hear someone say something transphobic (anything about a “man in a dress,” someone intentionally using incorrect names or pronouns, or worst of all, someone using slurs like “tranny” in any way, shape or form), let them know that it’s not okay. Reinforce the culture of acceptance we have here. Most importantly, treat trans people with the same respect you’d treat anyone else. We’re not freaks to be gawked at, we’re just people.
July 30, 2013
“I’m me. I’m the same person you always knew. Nothing about that is changing.”
Around the time I came out to myself, my partner, my family and friends as being transgender; I remember repeating those words over and over. Not only did I need to convince then, but I had to convince myself, as well. Would I still be “me?” I honestly didn’t have a clue what transition would bring me and how it would impact my interpersonal relationships. At that time, I wasn’t even sure that I was going to transition.
Ignoring my true gender identity had taken its toll on me, driving me into a deep depression, leaving me both mentally and physically drained. Life didn’t feel like life anymore. As time went on, I felt myself more and more unable to find anything to look forward to. My existence was simply day to day, surviving more than living.
Despite this internal flailing, I had wonderful relationships with those around me. The fear of transition driving them away consumed me and likely postponed any action on my part by years. How would they react if I were to transition? How would our relationships change as a result of my transition? If I did this, would these people still be in my life?
I had to keep telling myself that I’d come out of this stronger than I went in. I had to keep faith in the belief that I wasn’t destroying what existed, but rather that I was improving on what was already there. I wasn’t replacing, I was upgrading.
A car with a defective part may drive fine for the first few months of existence. Eventually, though, that defective part will cause a break down. With a broken down car, you can scrap it or you can repair it with new parts. Once fixed, while the car may run differently or perform differently, at its core, it’s still the same car. I am that car. I wasn’t ready to be scrapped.
I am still same person, I just run differently.
There are a lot of stories of relationships tearing apart relationships. There are a lot of stories of families abandoning their trans brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Mine isn’t one of them, and I am very lucky for that.
I give my partner, my family, my friends and my co-workers a lot of credit. The vast majority of them had not known a trans person before, let alone know how to interact with one. They could have run from the unknown. They could have refused to acknowledge my existence. They could have lashed out at me.
They didn’t do that, though. Generally speaking, everyone I came out to took the news of my impending transition in stride.
The vast majority of my existing interpersonal relationships have actually strengthened as I’ve become truer to myself. No longer was I hiding away, building walls around myself. No longer was I irrationally projecting the anger I had with myself on those around me, driving them further away. Instead, rather, I saw myself becoming a more caring person, interested in the lives of the people I loved, able to genuinely enjoy the company of those around me.
They weren’t getting to know someone new, but rather, they were getting to know the same person they knew years earlier.
Learning new names, new pronouns, a new gender and physical appearance might have seemed like a gut rehab of the person they knew. I needed to be patient as they took it in. I needed to find strength in my most vulnerable time. I needed to nurture these relationships in what is, nearly by definition, an unbelievably self-centered time in the life of a trans person.
Relationships are what you make of them. People are dynamic, people are malleable. Friends may acquire new interests, change habits, relocate or change professions. Each experience in our life changes us, and healthy relationships adapt. Yes, I’ve changed, but so has everyone else. Our actions, interests and life experiences result in growth, not replacement. I’m still me, and you’re still you, changing every day.
I get my hormones filled at one pharmacy, my other medications (antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills) filled at another. The pharmacy where I get my anxiety and depression related meds (CVS) is substantially closer to home. The one with the hormones is quite a distance. I’ve kept these split between the two pharmacies for a couple reasons, but mostly it was due to my hormones being much cheaper at Walgreens (before I had insurance through work).
Now, with actual health insurance, even though price-wise, I could consolidate these, yet I don’t. I suppose I just haven’t gotten around to it.
My name was legally changed in April 2013. Even still, my prescriptions haven’t gotten the updated name on them just yet. For a while, I was waiting for my insurance card to update. After that, I hadn’t been in to see the doctor since that time to get any changes made.
I went to Walgreens to pick up my hormone refill. This isn’t just any Walgreens, but rather it’s the one inside the Howard Brown Health Center (our local LGBT medical care facility). I went in just to find that my spironolactone (testosterone blocker) wasn’t ready. I explained that I was completely out and needed a refill.
Pharmacist #1: He needs a refill on his spironolactone. Can we get that for him?
Pharmacist #2: Get him a 3 day supply until we can get that filled.
Thinking, yes, okay, that’s probably just how I have to be in the system, I guess (but still wondering why they’d call me “he” when I was obviously presenting female, trying to refill my hormones, of all things). I asked, “hey, so, my name has been legally changed. Can I update that now?” They insisted that I just wait until my prescriptions were all written out to that name. *sigh* Okay.
When I was leaving, I stopped by the front desk at Howard Brown to set up my next appointment. They asked me my last name and date of birth. They loudly then said my birth name (as others were around). *sigh* Yes, that was me, sure.
The appointment was scheduled, but still under the old name in the system. I mentioned that my name had legally changed, but much like the pharmacy, I was told that I should just wait until I see the doctor to update any of that information
So, my name is not, in a legal sense, that old name. Why is it that these organizations, these LGBT-friendly organizations, make me jump through a series of hoops just to get that fixed to reflect my actual, legal name?
It all just bummed me out.
July 10, 2013
I am not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t have any friends growing up.
The vast majority of my grade school classmates lived in one of a few subdivisions in town, close enough for them all to walk to and from each others’ houses. I, however, lived 7 miles outside of town, which meant that any hanging out involved getting one of my parents to drive me. Most of the other kids didn’t seem to think I was worth the bother of inviting along, knowing that I would take a long while to get wherever they were playing.
Additionally, I was, for lack of a better term: a weird kid. I hated wearing jeans, as I thought that the denim flap around the zipper, when sitting, looked too much like a penis (as the denim folded – seriously, wear jeans and sit down – that tiny bump in the fabric? Yeah, it used to drive me nuts). I’d wear sweat pants or any other zipper-less pants whenever possible. My early education fashion sense didn’t do me any favors in winning over any friends.
Eventually, my classmates who played together in first and second grade began to solidify childhood friendships with those closest to them. As I hadn’t been involved with those early-year play dates, there wasn’t anyone there to build a friendship with. No matter, though, high school is sure to level things out.
This wasn’t the case. High school left me every bit the social pariah that I was in grade school & junior high, as my “weird kid” reputation followed me. Had there been empty tables, I’m sure I would have eaten alone during lunch hour. Instead, on a daily basis, I had to look for any single open spot in the cafeteria, asking to sit there. “*sigh* fine,” someone would say. “Um, no, I’m saving that spot,” others would answer (though, after looking back at some of those saved spots, it was remarkable how many of them remained empty throughout the lunch hour). Generally, it would take me at least 4-5 minutes to find a spot to eat, where I’d be forced to sit in silence.
Following lunch, rather than being in study hall, I’d spend that period alone behind the stage in the auditorium, practicing classical guitar. This was the one time in the day where I didn’t feel self-conscious and afraid. This was the one time in the day where I didn’t have to worry about a teacher asking the class to get into groups of 2’s or 4’s, etc.; as that was a dreadful experience (generally, I’d ask around until there was only one group/pairing left, and the group was forced to take me). This was the one time I didn’t have to worry about trying to be “normal” in order to keep negative gossip about me to a minimum.
The closest thing to friends I had in high school were my teachers. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, a wonderful husband and wife teaching duo in our music department, were just genuinely nice to me; and in all honesty, their friendliness with me may have saved my life, as there were some very dark days in high school. Same with Mr. Nedzel, who unfortunately, passed away a few years ago. His friendliness helped, too.
Students, though? Not so much. Shoved into lockers, laughed at, ostracized; that was me. I played soccer during high school, and while I didn’t make any friends, I did learn how to blend in and just pretend to be okay. I learned how to float in a more socially palatable persona, just being nothing but background noise to their company. This still didn’t protect me from bullying from others. The football players would should things like “field fairy!” and “field faggot!” at me.
Over time, I built up my defenses. I learned how to pretend to be okay. I learned how to drown out emotion to avoid harm from bullying.
I didn’t learn how to be a friend. And that’s my current problem. The years of learning how to have a social relationship with someone, interacting with others, developing as a healthy member of society; I missed those years. I spent those years just learning to drown out the bad, learning to fake it.
Now that I don’t have to fake who I am anymore, I honestly do not know how to make friends or develop and sustain friendships. As a result, I feel like I’ve inadvertently pushed people away or annoyed them to the point of repulsion.
July 9, 2013
I traveled to Michigan this past weekend with my girlfriend and one of our other friends. We stayed at our friend’s family’s lakeside cottage. We had a lot of fun. I wore a bathing suit (top) in public for the first time ever. That was… that was an intense feeling. There were certain very familiar events during this vacation: Driving 8 hours both ways, spending days on the lake, watching fireworks, window shopping in tourist-filled towns; it all began to remind me of my own childhood vacations.
This bit of nostalgia, mixed with my usual bouts of anxiety, drove my mind and my mood into a negative space. This led to me becoming a little distant from my group in the final few days of vacation.
In the days since I’ve returned home, I’ve been giving more thought to what exactly was driving my mood and anxiety during the trip. The more I think about it, the more I come to this conclusion: So badly, I want to be a mother. So badly, I want to be able to give birth (though, I know this is impossible, given my lack of a uterus and whatnot). I want to take a son or daughter on vacations like that. When it comes down to it, I will never truly be a mother. I may someday be a parent, but would I ever have a kid that recognized me as their mother? I just… I just don’t think so.
I know for a fact that I could never be a father to a child, in the “doing father-type stuff” kind of way. If I have a kid, I want to be the best and most loving mother I could be. I want to shower my child with motherly love. I’m afraid that, even if I ended up parenting a child, I wouldn’t be treated as anything but a father or just awkward 2nd parent, and not truly a mother.
This worry is the same worry I have in regards to marriage. I cannot be a husband. I worry that, in the event that I get married, all the outdated wedding rituals (like “the man is supposed to propose“) and splits on who pays for what would default to me being “the husband.” Thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach.
These things just worry me. I’m just afraid that in some of the most intimate and important aspects of my life, I’ll never be viewed as a woman, but rather just a super-feminine man. That’s just… that’s not me. I’m not a super-feminine man. I’m a woman. I’m just as much of a woman as anyone else.
These thoughts came up as I approach the 9 month mark on hormone replacement therapy. As that’s the typical pregnancy length, I guess I had babies on the mind. Anyway, here’s a timeline I made.