(16 Feb 2019)
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These are quite real issues that have apparently had little change during the past four decades since the time when I began my adult Transition (1974 at age 18).
Two employers during my early Transition effectively condoned what amounts to criminal, felonious assault. This first occurred when I was employed at a service station (1975 – 1976), the second was when I was employed as a Substitute Teacher (1977- 1978). Be they co-workers or students, assailants grabbed at me, pushed me, said words that should not be spoken. These events were my daily endurance. To the people who knew me during that time – please think back to those years and realise now how this explains what was happening in my personal life.
Recall that I changed my Social Security file in Summer 1978; my new SSA card arrived September 1978 (remember, Uncle Jack?).
I found employment with the Forest Service (1978 – 1985); they soon discovered something not obvious about me. I returned from lunch one day in January 1979 – early, before the other co-workers returned – and overheard their infamous debate about me, that conversation between Edie (my supervisor) and Nancy (the clerical pool supervisor):
- ‘He’s a she!’
- ‘No! She’s a he!’.
Dunno if they knew that I was there at the office or not. But I became extremely frightened about my future.
Why did they have their debate?
How did they suspect?
Social Security Administration issues their monthly discrepancy report – it lists whose identities do not match between what SSA has in their records about that employee versus what an employee presents to their employer. There I was – my SSAN file is now Sharon, but I was employed presenting as Nick.
I eventually composed a statement to submit to Edie if the appropriate time came. Maybe it did and I missed it; maybe I should have told her, or maybe it was better that I kept my mouth shut. Dunno. Life usually allows only one opportunity to do it correctly, the rest of the time, well, we make do.
Word got out; people at work made me their subject of their gossip. Most every co-worker at Kaibab abused me in one way or another. I shall never really know whether my promotion to the Forest Service’s GSC was on my merit, or Edie’s way to get rid of my ‘trouble’. But ‘trouble’ it was that followed me to Utah (October 1980).
Remember, the Forest Service had my SSA file reporting me as Sharon / female from the beginning of my appointment (December 1978); I made my legal ID change to Sharon / female by early 1980. So it came to be that Forest Service management knew of me – officially, according to my documentation – as Sharon / female, not Nick / male. My presenting as Nick / male unwittingly fostered their imagination that I was Sharon / female in Transition to Nick / male – a F-M Transsexual. (See my essay: ‘My Own ‘Victor / Victoria’ Days’, 23 Jul 2015).
Blanche, my new supervisor (February 1981), certainly made herself and her antipathies obvious, the Southern Conservative that she was. Gossip soon spread that there was a F-M Transsexual among the workforce of about 150 employees. GSC only knew of me – legally – as Sharon / female, not Nick / male. Blanche, Don, Gary, John, Gloria were among the management at GSC who exposed my privacy. LeeAnne, Pat, Dreama were among the leading co-workers who were spreading their hateful gossip – usually behind my back or in whispered tones when I approached – methods common among bullies.
Blanche’s final act before she retired (May 1983) was to summon me to her office:
- Blanche (in her Southern drawl): ‘There is gossip that someone here in the office is a woman working as a man. I think that it’s you. No, I know that it’s you. We just can’t have that here.’
With that, Forest Service initiated termination action against me.
I had been earlier promoted to Personnel Specialist; they took that from me and demoted me to Clerk, though they obligated me to continue my same duties. They imposed upon me to work concurrent appointments at multiple Forest Service offices – Uintah and Wasatch – trying to shake me – discourage me – to no avail. I fought valiantly for two years, clinging to both my employment and my dignity, til the time was right for me to move on.
Strangers among the people at the commercial office building where I worked were regularly mis-gendering me as female by 1984 (Remember when that man in the men’s restroom thought that I was a woman?). I could go shopping and be mis-gendered female. I had a date with the sales clerk at the quickie mart gasoline station; I suspect that she wanted to figure out whether I was male or female. That was happening while I was still presenting as Nick, trying to present as male. Proof to me (1985) that it was time to get a clue, buy a vowel.
I was long-ready to complete my Transition anyway. Two surgeries finished the physical part (1982, 1983) – at least what was available and presented to me at those occasions. All that remained was making life official.
I applied for Unemployment Insurance (June 1985). Forest Service challenged my request; they lost. UI determined that I endured six long years of the Forest Service’s ‘hostile work environment‘.
I knocked around for several years – forced to accept low-wage and Minimum Wage employment because no one really wanted to hire me (1985 – 1990). Dunno? I never said anything about being Transsexual. I still expected that being stealth was the best alternative. I control my private, personal, medical concern; this is not something subject to employers’ debate regardless about what the Forest Service did to me.
My dad became terminally ill (January 1989). He went to obtain treatment ‘back East’ (April 1989). I quit my job to be with my dad during his last three weeks. He died July 1989.
I returned home – back to looking for jobs that never came – unemployed for a year. I eventually applied for Food Stamps because the money in my savings was running low. One day, during one Food Stamps appointment, the case manager asked if I was interested in a job similar as hers being a Public Assistance case manager. Well … civil service tests, applications, and interviews later and I got hired by the state’s public assistance agency (July 1990).
Good times were fleeting. I had only been on the job a few months when Ros, one of the unit supervisors, approached me at the employee water fountain:
- Ros: ‘I know what you are. I’m going to get you.’
A clear threat that she made good. She enticed Patti, the office Director, to assign me to her unit. The next two years were filled with Ros’ antagonist behaviour – taunts, threats, work overloaded, irrational performance appraisals, forced over-time without pay. My only recourse was to resign from work and seek other employment (June 1983).
Six months later and I was hired by another state agency to their Payroll department. Trouble again with Ann, the supervising manager. She was not quite explicit, but she made it known that I was not welcomed. She passed over me when time came for two opportunities at promotion, despite my superior qualifications compared to the others whom she selected. Eventually, Dan came along as my supervisor; he promoted me to Fiscal Specialist. One day, Dan had a unique project for me – an audit that Ann required. I was reluctant to deal with it, fearing that it was Ann setting me up to fail. I completed the audit better than Ann or Dan expected. I finally seemed to have earned Ann’s respect; we got along well after that.
Another state agency came along and hired me (May 1999). They assigned me to manage a wide variety of spreadsheets and databases; I was preparing and maintaining accounts to billions of Dollars balanced exactly to the penny. My work performance won PIPP bonus every quarter. The agency named me Employee of the Quarter. The agency included me in other superior performance awards – even while Bettye, my new supervisor toward the latter time of my tenure, was destroying my work and my character. Mind you, she frequently ditched work un-announced following gambling binges. She was also about as close to being a chain smoker – constantly excusing herself to take her incessant cigarette breaks. The common, frequent refrain from we at work:
- ‘Where’s Bettye?’
All came crashing about one week following an agency gathering in which they issued another agency-wide award to me as part of our work group. My agency Director summoned me to his office and presented termination papers to me – ‘mentally unfit’ to be a State employee because I am Transsexual (August 2008). I fought and won my case through the state employment and legal process. No matter, the agency refused to restore me to duty, contravening their legal order to comply.
I filed for Unemployment Insurance (2010). This time, the state as employer conceded to all charges; UI again determined that that employer waged a ‘hostile work environment’ against me.
I thank you who have read this far.
None of this all matters other than my documenting that we Trans persons are not secure in our employment.
We endure hardship – hostilities at work if we can find employment; otherwise, lack of work, lack of income, economic calamity, and poverty when we are denied gainfull employment.
The financial cost to me is in the millions of Dollars considering less income due to the loss of better-paid employment with either the Forest Service, or the state, or any other prospective employment during the 40-some years of my advanced careers. Add the loss of investment income that would have derived from greater available income. Add the loss of income upon retirement – less Social Security retirement, lost federal retirement, diminished state retirement. Add the loss of home and life’s better necessities and luxuries. Now know that I have it good compared to many, if not most, Trans people who live on far less income, have no home to call their own, resort to food box donations for their sustenance.
Lost family and ‘friends’ already happened since childhood. No family corresponds with me in any continual, meaningful way. Last time when I saw any family was 1993 – when cousins un-invited me to Thanksgiving Day holiday. I tried to maintain a relationship with one cousin into early-1994, but they were stringing me along; there was little sincerity from them.
I do have a select few Friends from my ‘before’. Thank you for being with me, though geographical distance is with us.
I also have a small number of Friends among people locally where I reside. Thank you.
And I feel good about the opportunity to develop Friends through these cyber environments. Thank you.
Real Friends read this far. Thank you!
(I shall continue this narrative in a moment.)
I had to repeatedly save and close this essay for fear of losing the composition midway.
I think that I am now completed with this.
Thank you, Rachel; I shall return my attention to binging on Degrassi:
Please return next time for another essay.