Invisibility part one

Last month I presented Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible at an LGBT-affirming conference in Seattle sponsored by the United Methodist Church. As I related in my blog post about it, the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) of the Pacific Northwest decided to focus primarily on transgender issues at this year’s annual conference.

At the end of the day, after all the workshops and presentations, Shannon, a trans woman and one of the leaders of the RMN led a closing service that included a homily she crafted and shared. In it she revealed the spaces where transgender people are so often invisible. I felt so moved by stories I rarely hear, yet that happen all too often, that I asked if she would send me the text so I can share it with you. I will present it in parts over the next few days.

Shannon began with the following introduction:

This whole day has been about discussing what transgender is, transgender lives, and how transgender lives are mostly invisible to the community around us.  I have a couple of stories I want to share with you. Some are mine, some are by other people. I am not going to tell you which are which. These are the stories that are invisible to you,  but which happen to us all the time.

Then she began to share the stories. This first one is about employment.

In August 2005, I was hired by a smaller fabless semi-condudctor design firm . I started as a contractor, and it went well for the first 3 months. So well in fact that they offered me an employment position making slightly more than I was as a contractor.They liked me.

In sort-of negotiating with my direct report, I had stayed up late researching what pay scales were for my position , and I was shocked that people were getting paid that much.  I thought I would be bold and ask for about $20k more than I’d ever gotten before, since it was still a bit less than the figures I’d seen. I asked if it might be ,maybe ok to get $X/year and the manager chuckled and said: ” well since I was suggesting you get $15k MORE than that, I think we’ll go with my figure”.

14 months later, there was an issue. Our new HR person called and said that the Fidelity investments liaison person said that someone seemed be ?sharing? ?stealing? my social security number. I _freaked_… yes, I did used to have a 401k with them, before I had to spend it all to just pay taxes and minimal costs to avoid being homeless.  Fidelity was not kind. They had already suggested to HR that well, she could be a victim of identity theft, a criminal, or (shocked pause) could she be transgender?

I called our Fidelity liason and I faxed my name change documents to him, and a form they had, and he said they would look into it.

Also we started working on a new “high security” project with another company.  Still, I felt relative secure, I had recently gotten very good feedback from my direct manager, and had been told I was now reporting directly to the CEO. The next week I was given Stock Options, approved by the board.

A week after that, I was called into the conference room, about 4pm on a Friday,by the CEO and told: On Monday or Tuesday of the next week, I was setting up an office, for two visiting engineers from the San Jose office. This was right next to the Comptroller’s office, and I couldn’t help but overhear our admin asst/HR person, griping at  the Comptroller about how she didn’t know if she could work with this hermaphrodite/half-man half-woman THING.

Then…just 3 or 4 days later,I was called into the conference room, about 4pm on a Friday,by the CEO and told: “We really appreciate the hard work you’ve put in but realize that over the long term that things are just not going to work out. We wish you well in your future endeavors.

It was difficult to avoid crying. I felt very hurt.

I took the check, and signed the 20 page document and cried driving home.

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This post has 5 Comments

  1. Diana on March 2, 2009 at 8:51 pm Reply

    This is an all to common occurrence. Usually it is the Social Security “No match” letters that they send out when the reported gender and the on file gender does not match.

    In the support group one day this woman came in crying. She had had her surgery 10 years earlier, was married with an adopted child. They were applying for a mortgage when the bank sent a copy of their credit report that said “Sue, AKA Steve,” he left her and took the child.

    We can never shake the past from us.

  2. Whittier on March 3, 2009 at 3:46 am Reply

    Stories like these really make me lose my faith in people.

  3. Anna on April 1, 2009 at 9:39 am Reply

    I have – had – a 401K with Fidelity. They gave me a bunch
    of “no match” guff about my SSN and then stopped sending
    me monthly statements. I tracked it down, and they said
    that since there was a no match between my name (I have
    long since transitioned and been through surgery) they
    could not acknowledge my correspondence.

    Cut to the chase. After some prodding, and after sending
    them copies of all my documentation, including copy of
    surgery letter, court name change, etc. I get a phone call.

    “We don’t pay faggots.”

    OK. At 59-1/2 we’ll go to court. They leave me no option.

    But for the rest of you, be warned.

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