“What’s the big deal? When I hire people, I don’t discriminate. I would never even ask you if you were transgender. How would anyone even know?” These words were spoken to me in a transgender educational forum.
I responded, “Would you check my references? Would you do a background check? A credit check? If you did, you would know.” She said, “I never thought of that.”
Of course, if you transition, people pretty much pick up on the fact that you are no longer presenting as one gender, and now you are presenting as another gender. I intentionally used the words, “another gender”. There are more than two. So in the transition process, you literally have to come out to everyone you know: the mail carrier, the pharmacist, the electric company, the neighbors, the bank, the insurance agent, and on and on and on.
Eventually, you come out to most everyone you know, see, talk to, or do business with. That should be the end of it, right? Wrong. For some of us, blending in as the gender with which we identify can be very challenging. For all of us, coming out is a never-ending process.
If you are transgender, and you have transitioned to the point where you have taken a name of the gender with which you identify, you will be “outed” repeatedly, forever. It will happen when you look for a job. When you apply for a loan. When you open a checking account. When you transfer to a different college.
In the late 1970s, I attended the University of Kansas for a couple years. I dropped out because I was abusively using alcohol and other drugs to hide from my reality. That’s another story.
I went back to school in 2009. I was living as Stephanie, but my identification still said Steven. I asked the kind lady at the University of Phoenix Online recruiting office if my records could be under Stephanie. Nope. No way. Not a chance. Are you kidding? So I went to college to learn new skills, coming out to college professors.
When I got my name changed, the U of P graciously changed the name on my records. The diploma, showing my Associate’s Degree in Human Services Management, says Stephanie. Then I transferred to Washburn University (Topeka) to work on my Bachelor of Social Work degree. My driver’s license and social security card now reflect the correct name, so there shouldn’t be any problem, right? Wrong.
When the admissions office saw my KU transcript with my old name, they informed me that I would need to submit a copy of my legal name change order. Washburn, like many of the universities in Kansas, has an anti-discrimination policy that includes gender identity. Of course, I was outed by the fact that I had to present the transcript to begin with, but the SSN on the KU transcript was the same as on the University of Phoenix transcript, and the same as on my social security card.
Being pretty much certain this was discrimination, I asked if they would require a woman who was single and attended KU, and who had married and taken a different name, to show a copy of her marriage license. Two days later, they dropped the requirement that I provide a name change order.
The same thing happened when I was placed on the checking account at my church. Our bank required that I provide a copy of the name change order. Given no protections in this situation, I complied. I paused as I left the bank, and turned back to see the woman, to whom I had given proof of myself, showing the document to a male employee and pointing at me.
At the beginning of the column I quoted a woman, “What’s the big deal?”
Honestly, I don’t get what’s the big deal either. I’m just trying to be me. Why should anyone care? Then again, that changes nothing. It is a big deal to some people.
A transgender person is murdered in the United States once a month because of who they are. In the world, a transgender person is murdered every other day. What’s the big deal if we are outed repeatedly, forever?
Every time I publicly identify myself as a transsexual woman, it increases the likelihood I will meet with violence. But I also believe that it reduces the likelihood some other "not the same as everyone else" person will meet with violence.
I’m already out. I might as well dance. What’s the big deal?
© 08/11/2011, Stephanie Mott
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