It Isn’t Aways About Being Trans*

This may come as a big surprise to a lot of TS/TG Folks who come out later in life and suddenly find themselves experiencing employment issues.

It isn’t always about being TS or TG.

When did you come out?  Has it been since 2008?  Has it been since you got that letter from AARP?

Guess what…  You not only transitioned and entered a new demographic but you passed an age milestone.  From here on out your employment opportunities are in decline.

All this assumes you are perfectly passable.

If you aren’t you entered a world occupied by many non-conforming people including hippies, bikers, folks with tats or something about them that deviates from the pasty white bread model of conformity.

I’ve met engineers who worked in management but who now work the concrete floors of the big box stores.

I know a number of professors with doctorates teaching as part time adjuncts.

Welcome to the Brave New World Order.

It is part of the oligarchy’s formula for transferring more wealth into their pockets while impoverishing the bulk of society.

Those of us who were obviously different from the cradle have known we are destined to live on the fringes of society from the start.  As a result we have honed our survival skills in fields less demanding of conformity.

When I read a piece on Huffington Post the other day: The Challenges of Finding Employment as a 52-Year-Old Transgender Woman by Rebbecca Pell, I really wanted to sympathize.

Nah just kidding…  I wanted to say “Kiss your male privilege good-bye.  It’s time to cowgirl up.”

Transitioning in Middle age moves one into a category of being different.  Like being a hippie.

I served in the Army as a Military Policeman from 1984-1987 and during that time got married. After my discharge I went to college, but decided to temporarily put school on hold and go to work full-time after our first son was born. I worked 11 years for the Department of Energy in a variety of capacities, including managing environmental remediation projects. By the time we relocated to Missouri in 2001 for my wife’s job we had two sons, and I began working for a large Mid-western university as the Operations Manager for a research center. Shortly after moving to Missouri my wife was diagnosed with depression, which eventually led to her being unable to continue working or help with the responsibilities of raising a family. I was working full-time, taking classes to finish my degree, taking care of the boys and the housework, and it finally reached the point where I was starting to get overwhelmed which affected my ability to be an effective parent. So in 2004 we divorced. The safety and well-being of my sons was my top priority and was what ultimately led me to make the decision to file for divorce.

From 2004 on I was a single father, and I remained in Missouri to provide stability for the boys, even though my family is all on the west coast and my ex-wife moved away. I tried to hold things together and provide as normal a life as possible for the boys, but we went through some difficult times given the circumstances, in part because I was dealing with depression. Although I had a good job at the university, money was still tight and things were stressful. But I realized how fortunate I was to be with my kids and be part of their lives every day and to appreciate the time we had together. So I coached my son’s baseball team, went to all their band concerts and school functions, and tried to be the best dad I could for them.

In other words this person was part of the privileged male class.

In September of 2010 I was unexpectedly laid off from the university due to loss of funding for my salary. My overriding fear was that I would not be able to take care of my kids. Thankfully, I had a decent separation package from the university, so for the most part I was able to make ends meet financially. The difficult part was the stress and embarrassment of being unemployed, and the difficulty of finding another job. My depression got progressively worse the longer I was unemployed. Added to that was the stress of worrying about my transition and all the uncertainty caused by being unemployed, and wondering whether or not I would be able to continue with hormones.

You and how many more people your age?  Many who enjoyed being middle class just as you did.  I watched the high unemployment rate, the houses that were foreclosed on.

Did you think you were special and that none of this could happen to you?  Or that your being trans may have had nothing to do with either your unemployment or inability to find new employment?

Finally in September of 2011 I was hired back at the university with the Employee Wellness Program. It was a fun and rewarding job and I worked with a great group of people, and I felt like I got my life back. In November of that year I made the decision to start living full-time as Rebecca, including at work. The transition at work could not have gone any smoother; everyone there was very supportive and understanding, and I felt very fortunate. Even more importantly, my family has been great about accepting me for who I am. So I felt like the worst was over and that I could finally relax and enjoy having a job I loved and being able to live as Rebecca and to have the opportunity to finally be happy.

In the spring of 2012 after some unexpected personnel moves within my department, my position was reclassified, leading to my termination in July of 2012.

You have fallen into the world of contingency employment.  We now live in a world where most workers can be hired or fired on a whim.  A world where the corporations dictate the terms and ask us to smile when we submit to drug testing.

The problem with identity politics are that they limit people’s ability to see the universality and commonness of issues that are the same issues that affect people beyond one’s identity group.

4 Responses to “It Isn’t Aways About Being Trans*”

  1. tinagrrl Says:

    Yes indeed, falling out of the middle class can be difficult. Perhaps it might make sense to look around. Perhaps read about all the successful straight white men who are no longer successful. Try going to places like swap meets, flea markets, etc. and find out what some folks who toil there did before they embraced that “golden opportunity”.

    It’s not always about being trans — it can be about being older, or about being a WOMAN. Misogyny is something trans folks have never had to deal with. Suddenly you seem not to be heard. If you insist on speaking, some men immediately see you as a “bitch”. The “sweet dear kind men” don’t seem to like it if you do not smile, or defer to them. They might not even realize it. It’s just automatic. So, some trans folks who claim “I NEVER had Male Privilege!”, almost HAVE to blame everything different on “Transphobia”.

    Some is, but a lot has to do with losing that secure long term job and being thrown into the storm tossed waters the likes of which we never saw before.

    In any case — good luck.

  2. Edith Pilkington Says:

    I read this a few hours ago. I don’t relate. I find the article irritating. I also find stereotyping just as irritating. It’s also very destructive to the class of people created by the stereotyping.

    I had posted something, earlier, on my Facebook page. My nephew became outraged by it. Without thinking about what you, and, later, Tina had written(I didn’t even see it until I returned to this page), I wrote back to my nephew the following account, where someone else replied: “Shitty story but I’m afraid this happens all the time.” This is what things looked like to me “pre”:

    “it’s a long story, Pat. I was down there helping Kyle register a used car. We had just bought it from John Revens, former majority leader of the R I Senate. It was just coincidence that we bought the used car from him. I had to go into a crummy whole life insurance policy to pay for it(my legal fees). I still haven’t paid the loan off. It happened in 2002.The creep smashed my head against the plate glass door at the old registry on East Ave in Pawtucket after he slammed the handcuffs on me. I went to Robert Mann. I knew a woman who worked for the Providence Police who used him to file a Sexual Harassment suit against them. They specialize in police brutality. Dana Harrel was the woman who defended me. Here’s a picture of her with Mann.

    She told me what happened to me was nothing. In one of my meetings with her she told me she had been out the night before to visit a pregnant woman some cop had just punched in the stomach. She went on to tell me how afraid of the sheriffs and the cops the judges were. She told me I would never get off. It’s horrible going to the lawyers. She was very tough. She kept me at arms length. She made me feel guilty. She worked very hard for her money, though. Eventually she was able to find the Haitian woman, who was afraid and reluctant to testify. This woman(who was outraged by what the cop had done to me) had stuffed a piece of paper with her phone number on it into my mouth as the cops were taking me away. My lawyer used the power of her office to get her to testify; written testimony, I think. Attorney General(at the time) Lynch’s sister was the judge presiding over the case. She had just had a baby with her partner, another woman. I had my day in court. She sympathized with me, apparently. In spite of Dana’s dire prediction, she dismissed the case. I hadn’t made my transition, at the time. It was obvious how queer I was, though(i had my bright red hair neatly braided, falling two feet down my back) . That helped make me a target. I had gone out to my car to get something. Kyle was locked in the registry. I had a number and everything. The cop wouldn’t let me back in. He couldn’t believe I had a child who had just turned 21. I don’t think anything like that would have happened today to me. I wouldn’t have been targeted the way I was in my dirty work clothes, even if I were wearing the same clothes, which I still do, often.”

    You all know what YOU know. That’s all. I’ve paid my fucking dues since the day I was born on the Mississippi River down there in Tennessee. If I told you the whole story, you’d realize my mother paid them, too – big time – unmarried, pregnant, 2000 miles away from home in 1951. No apologies, even if I haven’t had it as bad as some others. No regrets! No apologies! No more apologies! My life is so improved – so much better than the misery I lived for decades. No one will ever take that away from me – no one.

    • Suzan Says:

      So many sister seem to never get that they are just one more oppressed person after coming out. It is like they can only deal with the loss of privilege by thinking their being trans is the only reason.

      I grew up in the mountains of up-state NY, in mining and mill towns. I was born working class and a what many consider a hill billy.

      When I came out I was a hippie kid living in abject poverty, but I was also radicalized and able to put the connections together that let me see classism, racism and sexism too.

      I actually remember when radical feminists were Marxists rather than TS/TG haters.

  3. tinagrrl Says:

    Saying “It isn’t always about transphobia” does not mean that transphobia does not exist. It merely points out that there are other factors, factors that most newly transitioned folks have never quite experienced before.

    Many “late transitoners” (including me) have been the recipients of “male privilege” for a long, long time. In addition, many have lived mostly middle class lives — especially those who tried the “education cure” and became fairly successful — though still very unhappy.

    For those folks, both falling out of the middle class (even if only for a while), and facing the pervasive misogyny of our society, is a startling shock. It’s very easy to see it all as transphobia. I do not think it is. After all, the teasing and abuse we suffered as children was just about being seen as “different” in some way. It didn’t matter what that difference was — “different” was enough to get the shit kicked out of you.

    If you grew up to be a “man”, and did what you could to hide your “difference”, your life could settle into a fairly normal routine. In some cases your talents might well be appreciated – then again, not always.

    The massive losses suffered during transition might well be seen as the result of transphobia — the fact it seems they continue after transition and SRS, looks to me as the result of being seen as a WOMAN.

    No one told you to “hush up little lady” before — some guys feel free to do so now. If you do not shut up — you’re a “bitch”

    That kind of stuff is not transphobia, and the sooner folks realize that, the better we will be able to fight misogyny.

    Now, if you ARE seen as a woman, but are over 50, in this youth oriented, got to be totally “up to date” culture, you are also devalued. When they can hire a young, newly minted “whatever” for far less than they have to pay you — someone young, eager, willing to work those 70 hour weeks with no complaint — well, you do the math. This is especially true if you are a woman in a almost entirely male field. Now you face both agism and institutionalized misogyny.

    Do you think “transphobia” has to even enter into it?

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