Transatlanticism

Transatlanticism

All I see are dark grey clouds
In the distance moving closer with every hour.
So when you ask “Was something wrong?”,
That I think “You’re damn right there is but we can’t talk about it now.
No, we can’t talk about it now.”

So I’ve not written in a while. I’ve just been in too much of funk that I couldn’t manage it. Funk is the wrong word, the phrase I’ve used a few times when talking to friends has been “mind-crippling depression.” I’m still very depressed, but I think I’ve pulled myself from the worst of it. The ideation has passed. I was going to say it was gone, but I know that at some point, sooner or later it’ll come back. 

I still spend an enormous amount of time thinking about Kayla. I really do. I was (am) very much in love with her. I keep thinking all the things I could have done differently, but none of that will help me now. I think that’s the hardest part. It’s like having murdered someone and having to sit in a cell every day and replay those events in your head. For me, the cell is my own brain. It’s not a place one would want to visit. It’s the exit on the interstate that you skip when you’re looking for a bathroom.  

Kayla had posted an idea of what her prime timeline looks like, with her doing successful things in Rhode Island, having never left. When I talked to her about it, I explained that in my headcanon, that timeline has me in Rhode Island with her. Everything is fine. I surmised that the two timelines had split the day we flipped a bottle cap to see which of us was going to move. In the darkest timeline, she came here and it played out as it has. In the prime timeline, I moved to her and everything is going well. 

I want to be on the prime timeline in a bad way. 

So the thought of leaving this place is again popping up. The only thing that kept me from leaving before was Kayla coming here. My reasons for leaving were only partly to be with her. They were also for me to have a chance to start over fresh without so much “dead me” baggage. This has come up due to my company finally starting to come around to the idea of transferring me out of the worksite. Since there aren’t any other call centers in Louisville with my company, they asked if I would consider moving to Atlanta, Miami or New Orleans. After doing some research, I’ve determined that no, I would not really consider that. I asked for something in a blue state. Somewhere that has statewide protections for trans people. I’ve been scanning the company’s open positions and I found a few that were interesting. I even applied to be a Store Manager at one of our corporate owned retail stores, in Providence of all places. 

It feels weird to consider going to Providence and not be there with Kayla. It feels backwards. It feels like dating your best friend’s ex-girlfriend. In any event, I don’t think that I would be even considered for that job. I’d been applying for assistant manager positions in Louisville and couldn’t get a call back. As John Cusack said in High Fidelity, ” It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for fifty grand instead.” 

But whatever. But… what if they say yes. Then what the fuck do I do? I guess I’ll figure it out if that happens. 

It’s nearly 2am, I had to take a phone call when I was really focused on this. I’ve lost that focus, so I’m going to just cut it off right now. 

Black Sun

Black Sun

“There is whisky in the water
And there is death upon the vine
And there is grace within forgiveness
But it’s so hard for me to find”

This is an entry that’s hard for me to write. I debated writing anything at all, but this blog is my story, for better or worse. So, right… 

i am a huge fucking idiot.

There, I said it. I broke up with Kayla. We were facing an issue that needed to be dealt with. She offered a solution, I dismissed it immediately and said that I didn’t see that it was a long term sustainable solution. Thus ending our relationship as we knew it. I let it marinate for a couple days. I had serious remorse of the decisions I had made. I tried to make those known, in an attempt to save the relationship. Alas, it was too late. She left Kentucky this past weekend and headed back to New England, this time to Maine. 

From when she left up until now, I’ve been devastated. There’s no amount of antidepressants in the known universe that could have kept me top side in this moment. With the exception of going to work, I’ve been hiding in my bed ever since. I’ve come home and put the same shirt and sweatpants on, cried, watched tv and tweeted sad sad drivel. I’m not eating. I’m not sleeping. When I do sleep, I have the most bizarre dreams which usually have me in some sort of peril. No matter how much I hate to admit it, I’ll say that I’ve been suicidal. Still am to a certain extent. There’s no gestures or any plans made, but it’s there. It’s scary. It’s like this little nagging thought in the back of your mind that keeps pestering you. 

It doesn’t help when you’re being bitched at by customers for telling the truth and being 100% honest with them. To have them tell you that you’re a bitch and “fuck you very much” before hanging up. That kind of thing is mentally exhausting on a good day. On a day like today, it’s all you can do to keep it all together and not start crying with the customer on the line. 

At some point, I’m going to have to let it all go and just resign myself that I’ve fucked it up. That no matter what I do now, I can’t get mend what I’ve broken. That I may have lost the person that I love very much, forever. Considering how much time and effort I invested convincing her to come here in the first place, it’s hard to let it go. With such a drastic change in locale, it’s not like I could give it a few weeks and then show up on her doorstep and grovel. 

i hate myself. 

I’m not ready to make nice

I’m not ready to make nice

The last few weeks at work have been frustrating. I started trying to get HR to come around the bend, but they are just as tone deaf as ever. All I ever get back from them is either “Our investigation is still in process” or “The issue has been addressed and appropriate action has been taken.” 

What appropriate actions are those? They can’t tell me. It’s all confidential. There’s no sort of transparency, not even a semblance to be seen. I still have my EEOC and Fairness Ordinance complainst being investigated outside the company. I met with the investigator recently. I shared details about the events outlined in the complaint, along with witness information so that he could contact them. He said he was going to request more information from the company. I’m not sure when that’ll be concluded.

Meanwhile, my union representative and I are going to meet with people from the Fairness Campaign and ACLU of Kentucky next week. We’re going to talk about other options and avenues that we might pursue. I’m open to any suggestions that they think might help. I was hoping to keep this contained within the company, but I feel like my hand has been forced. My company wants me to sit down and shut up, but when the only option they’re providing is to shut up and take it or to quit. The only thing I can think of is the chorus from a Dixie Chicks’ song.

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should.

It’s true. If I’m going out, I’m going to do all I can to make everyone be known that AT&T doesn’t care about their transgender employees, based on my personal experience. I shouldn’t have to quit because people are dicks. Just like the Michael Bolton said in Office Space, “Why should I change my name? He’s the one who sucks.” Everyone who has ever worked with in the past knows that I’m a pretty low key person, I come in, put my head down and do my work. But I’ve never been in a bad work situation before. 

People want to act like I’m blowing things out of proportion, or I’m too sensitive. “Have a sense of humor”, they say. Don’t deny me my existence and my right to live a life free of people trying to legislate my life. I’m hoping that my company will pull their heads out of the sand and do something more significant. However, it looks more and more like I am going to have to force their hand for that to happen.  I’m tired. I feel defeated. I’m still fighting. 

“Don’t take any guff from these swine.”  —Hunter S. Thompson

This is not a swan song, but it goes….

This is not a swan song, but it goes….

So this morning while I was catching up on Facebook, a friend asked what are the best places to “people watch?” This was part of an assignment for a class she’s currently taking.

Which got me to thinking. As a person who has always been very observant and generally fairly situationally aware, I have spent a lot of time watching people. Since transitioning, those skills have become more valuable. Being able to gauge a room and know who’s paying you too much attention might be the difference between being accosted and not. It reminds me of a scene in The Bourne Identity, where Jason is explaining to Marie about his skillset.

I come in here, and the first thing I’m doing is I’m catching the sightlines and looking for an exit. I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that?

So while I’m not quite on his level, it did remind me of how my brain works.

I started typing out a reply to my friend, initially mentioning mall food courts. I was trying to think of other places, when I remembered being in San Francisco in May.

The Monday following my surgery, I was scheduled for my follow-up for packing removal. While sitting in the waiting room, as Megan was parking the car, I saw another trans woman coming out into the lobby from the exam areas. She was tall and pretty, but seemed a bit nervous. We met eyes for a brief moment and I wondered if this was before or after her surgery. Maybe she wasn’t having surgery at all. Who knew. She and her friend left and I returned to my phone as I waited, letting my questions fade off.

Two days later, we prepared to return to Kentucky flying out later that afternoon. Having had a very good experience in the hospital, all of the staff being so nice and attentive, Megan and I wanted to do something nice before we left town. So we went down to a local bakery and purchased some very fancy cupcakes and picked up a card. Then we headed back to the hospital.

Megan dropped me off at the door and went to park, so I settled down in a chair in the lobby of the hospital. Just doing what I always do, checking out all of the people, taking in the details of them. A few minutes passed, and from the corner of my eye, I see the girl from the doctor’s office. With the same friend accompanying her.

They were coming into the lobby from the pre-surgery area and they walked out into a indoor garden/relaxation area. I got up and walked that direction, but I stopped. I wanted to tell her congratulations, good luck and a quick recovery. But, I chickened out. My anxiety crept up on me, where I can only speak to strangers when they initiate the conversation. So I let her enjoy the fresh air.

I wonder if she’s happier now, like I am. I wonder if I might even know her online. Have we crossed paths on Reddit or Twitter? Who knows. It was just a neat experience of passing someone on the same journey, but just a step or two behind you. In a week, she would be back at Dr. Bowers’ office for her check-up. Then maybe she’d be flying across country back to wherever she calls home.

Kill yourself for recognition, Kill yourself to never ever stop..

Kill yourself for recognition, Kill yourself to never ever stop..

So, this week has been all over the place. I wrote the other day about having the flu. Turns out, not only do I have the flu, but I had flu strains a *and* b. Double whammy. While the flu is gone, the crud in my chest and throat was lowkey trying to morph into full fledged pneumonia.

My doctor said she couldn’t hear the middle or the bottoms of my lungs, because I couldn’t take in a deep enough breath to get there. She loaded me up on all the best that the pharma industry has to offer. I’m finally starting to feel some clearage. Hopefully by Monday.

I went to work on Thursday with my bag of pills and preparations, hoping to get a better response from management. What I got, was worse than before. Our new center sales manager aka CSM (my boss’s boss), told me that he really didn’t care if I could talk well or not, I either took calls or I called out sick and faced the discipline that comes with that.

I thanked him for the condolences, consideration and compassion. I reminded him that my gender dysphoria would make it extremely hard to be misgendered for 8 hours. His response was that he’d been referred to as female on the phone in the past and that it wasn’t a big deal.  This is exactly the same argument used by the aspiring manager a couple months ago. The one that led into a loud verbal dispute in the middle of the office.

I told the CSM that it wasn’t ok and it wasn’t remotely the same. That he had no idea what it was like to be transgender and how you’re constantly having to prove yourself. Nothing productive came from that interaction and so with no other options, I left. Not like my customers would have been able to hear me whispering on the phone anyway.

*SIGH* 

*SIGH*


Enough of that continuing shitshow… I’m sure there’ll be more to come.

Back to important things, I went to my breast augmentation consultation on Wednesday. It was more informative than I expected. If I’m honest, I wasn’t 100% excited prior to getting there. I never really wanted implants. I was hoping that I’d be able to grow boobies the old fashion way. You know, by downing lots of wide-loadestrogen and progesterone and suppressing my body’s ability to produce testosterone. But that hasn’t been 100% successful. Obviously I have some breast tissue. I can’t go get the mail topless. That said, I’m wearing two bras right now just to get a proportional look on my big ass ribcage and my WIDE LOAD shoulders. Seriously. This is me walking down a hallway. I saw decent growth from probably around the 3rd month and that ran into the next year. When I switched to injections in February, I was sure that they’d start perking up. Especially when they started getting tender and aching. They might have grown a bit. Hard to say looking at the pictures from last year. Again, I thought after GRS that I might see some additional perks from being without testes. While the anti-androgen medication I was using did a good job of suppressing testosterone, it’s not without it’s faults. Who’d blame it, it’s not even labeled for that purpose. It’s a blood pressure medication.

So breast augmentation was seen as a last resort option. It wasn’t like the vaginoplasty where there was no other option. Not doing it wasn’t on the table. Having a BA was something I was hoping to avoid if possible. In any event, I’ve reached the point where I think I’ve plateaued in terms of natural growth. Now it seems the BA is the only logical choice moving forward. I decided to move forward now, while I have good insurance. So that I can kind of cross “transition” off my to-do list and focus on more important things in my life.

Of course, once I was in the exam room and the medical assistant was helping me into the fitting bra, my brain woke up. As we tried different sizes, starting small and moving upward, my excitement peaked. I looked at myself in the mirror and I could finally see myself in a bathing suit without being totally mortified that I lost about 3 cup sizes in the bathroom. Or wearing a strapless dress. Even just going to the gas station at midnight to buy chips and not have to feel like I need to put my bras on first, because society expects a girl my size to not be flat chested…. Also, they expect your nipples to not point in opposite directions like Steve Buscemi’s eyes in Mr. Deeds.

It’s easy to say that you don’t care what strangers think. To proclaim that you have no interest in how they see you, through their own eyes. I’ve said it from time to time, but it’s not a mantra that I can live by. I’m constantly scanning the room looking for anyone that’s looking at me. I live a life where I’m constantly concerned about my voice, what I’m wearing, and how I look in order to blend in with the other women. Having the boobs would take one thing off my list of things to be constantly worried about.

Of course, in order to get the surgery or for insurance to cover it, I have to jump back through the hoops of WPATH once more. As I mentioned prior to my GRS, I had to get two permission slips from mental health professionals to be allowed to take my field trip to the vagina farm. For BA, it’s just one. Which is good, that second opinion cost me something like $300 last time.

However, for someone who considers herself to be well established in her gender, I find it hard to accept that I still have to prove myself just to get covered health care. It’s kind of demoralizing in a way. I mean, jesus fucking christ, I let someone cut off my balls and turn my penis into a functional vagina. If anyone’s committed to the trans life, I think it’s me. No one would go through all the shit I’ve experienced in the last 684 days and not be sure that she needed a boob job. But here I am, forced to go back and talk about my dysphoria pertaining to my (lack of) boobs. About a year ago, I wrote an entry where I said:

See, if you’re a trans person and you want to actually transition, you have to jump through hoops. A lot of hoops. Oh, did I mention that the hoops are on fire?

But whatever, I’ll put my Jordans on and get to jumping. It’s not like I have an option.

 (Side note: The title is from the song “High and Dry” by Radiohead, from their 1995 album “The Bends.” It is not a cry for help. Thanks.)

Need you like water in my lungs

Need you like water in my lungs

I’ve had the flu. It sucks. It kinda crept in 2 weeks ago. Starting as just a little cough. I could tell there was something in my lungs, but it wasn’t a huge deal. By last Sunday, the aches in my hips and my knees had started. I initially attributed it to chasing my kids around all weekend.

However, when I woke up Monday, I had hit full peak bullshit. Most importantly, I couldn’t talk. I tried the usual thing, make some hot tea… try and loosen up whatever was going on in there. That didn’t work. In fact, it still hasn’t. We’re 9 days in, and I still can’t really talk. I can croak. I missed the entire week of work. It wasn’t until Saturday that my fever finally broke. On Monday, I trudged to work. Even though I couldn’t speak clearly or for any length of time. I assumed that I would be able to convince management to give me some other task. Something to keep me off the phones.

Of course, I would be wrong. I managed to chew up the first half of yesterday getting caught up on what changed in the previous week. But the center manager wanted me on the phone at that point.

This brings me back to extreme dysphoria. Let’s talk about my dysphoria. My voice. I hate my voice. Since the earliest parts of my transition, I listed my voice as being the thing that made me dysphoric the most. I’ve worked very hard to get a passable female voice on the phone. One where I don’t have to argue with customers and other employees about my gender and my very existence. Obviously, in my current condition, I sound like a 70 year old man that smokes 3 packs a day with a terrible smoker’s cough.

However, as is with most things trans related, my employer just doesn’t really give a shit. I’ve been told how smart I am, how well I know the systems, and my ability to troubleshoot problems and correct them better than some of the people actually tasked with that job. So, why not let me help reps with their orders. Apply promos, do something productive. Something that has to be done anyway. Nah. I don’t sell enough stuff to get a job where my skill set is actually utilized.

Let’s put the transgender woman on the phone so that she can be aggressively misgendered all day long. Fuck my life.

livia

So I did what any sane person would do, I filed for another Job Accommodation. I go back to the doctor tomorrow. She’s probably going to tell me I have pneumonia or lung cancer or some such shit.

HOWEVER COMMA…

Before I go to my primary care doctor to be given news of my impending slow, painful, and probably humiliating death… I have a consult with a plastic surgeon to talk about my boobs. I’m going to the wizard to talk about boobies. This is all very exciting.

I’m hoping, but not holding my breath, to have that done by the end of the year. Since I’m pretty much maxed out on my out of pocket costs with my insurance, why not? I mean, my lovely company might not care about my mental wellbeing, but they can pay for some consolation prizes.

empty.

empty.

Today is world mental health day. Which is fitting, because it feels like my mental health has reached the Mariana Trench. I just feel numb. I feel blank. I feel like I’m just occupying space, taking up the free oxygen in this room. Yesterday seemed ok. I had fun last night. But I think the reality of the situation caught up with me today and I hit a wall.

largeman-couch

Yesterday was Joey‘s birthday. It was the first birthday since he killed himself in April. We wanted to get people together and remember him. Of course, we went to Hooters. Which is totally where Joey would have wanted to go. I had a great time, we laughed, ate and drank too much. It was a nice time, despite the missing person at the table. Today, I’m looking through Facebook memories and I come across this post:

img_20161010_184849

That one hit me right in the feels. It was one of those times where we couldn’t quite draw Joey out of the house. So I was trying to give him a little crap because, well, that’s what we did to each other.  Such is such and so and so and whatever..

Earlier in the day, Kayla and I had gone to a wedding. Megan was there as well, with the kids. It was supposed to be a happy occasion, but with it being so close to my divorce, it just sort of stung. It’s like, I’m glad that it’s over, because it drug on too long. However, at the same time, I’m still sad and angry that it had to be that way. While I love the new life that I’m building with Kayla, I still miss my family. I miss tucking Grayson in each night and saying the same old corny stuff we’ve been saying for years. I miss Hunter running around here like a madman, even if he has been a big grump for the last couple weeks. I have so much in front of me, but as is normal with me, I spend a lot of time dwelling on the past.  It’s what I do. My mind is basically just one huge flowchart where every stop is a “What if” question. It’s dumb.

Anyway, I sit at my desk and pretend to be chipper to my customers, lying that I’m doing great. Trying to not let my soul get any more dings in it than it already has. At this point, it looks like my old samurai. Rusty and not a undamaged surface to be found.

I keep thinking about the cocktail of medications that I take on a daily basis. I wonder which, if any, are helping me feel better. Or more likely, which are exacerbating the situation. Having also just changed dosage and method of delivery on my estrogen, I consider if that has anything to do with it.

largeman-pills

I think I’ve said enough at this point. If I keep going, it’s just going to devolve into a drivel.

 

I took the pills, I took the advice

I took the pills, I took the advice

I feel like I am barely existing right now.  I’m so exhausted all the time. Mostly physically, but mentally I’m running on empty as well. Just like a Jackson Browne song…

I’m still healing. It seems to be getting better, but I think that has an impact for sure. Working is tedious. It’s hard to stay focused. I’m now on 3 different anti-depressants and I’m just kind of drifting along on autopilot, it seems.

Additionally, I just was forced to switch estrogen delivery systems. I had been on injections for the last 7 months ago. However, as of late, injectable estradiol is not available. It’s on a national backorder. For reals, It’s on the FDA website and everything. So now I’m using patches. But I’m only being prescribed half the dose that most people I know. I have to wait a month and go have my levels checked. That could be impactful to my energy levels.

Mentally, I have the stress of a divorce, trying to build a new relationship, and dealing with all the crap in my office. These days, when HR calls me, I have to ask which complaint we’re talking about. Still waiting on some movement from EEOC/Fairness Ordinance complaints that I filed, as well.

Used to be, when I was stressed, I would drink. I drank a lot for a number of years. Mostly alone, at home. Lately, I don’t even drink. I just want to sleep. Or watch TV.

This will all come to pass. I hope. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

GRS — 4 Months Later

GRS — 4 Months Later

Actually, nearly 5 months. 141 days later. Whatever.

Right. So, I have a vagina. Which is weird, because I didn’t always have one. For near as makes no difference, the first 36 years of my life were spent with a penis. It wasn’t all bad. In fact, I said before surgery and I’d say it now, I wish I was comfortable being non-op. Or maybe just an orchi (think castration), if only to avoid the lifetime of anti-androgens.

However, I wasn’t that lady. I survived the tucking game for over a year, and it was all fine and dandy, but I never quite felt whole. I remember when I first came out as trans, people would ask me if I was getting “the surgery.” Kind of a rude question, but at that point I was just glad people still spoke to me. I wasn’t sure if that would be a thing when I posted the letters.

In any event, everyone inevitably asked about “THE SURGERY.” At first, I was coy about it. Even to my psychologist. I said “maybe, if finances allow.” However, in my inside voice I was screaming, “FUCK YEAH, BUST OUT THE SCALPELS AND LET’S DO THIS DAMN THING!!!” Or something like that, I can’t recall actual verbiage, but I’m not faking the sentiment.

In fact, when I sent in my application to Dr. Bowers, I was less than 2 months on HRT and being “full time.” I’d been in therapy for just over 5 months. I had been researching the surgery since I was an early teen. I already knew what it entailed. I was ready, or so I thought.

Fast forward to today. I’m still learning as I go. I still hurt. Dilating sucks. I’m not sure if I’ll ever quite fully understand the flora and fauna of my vagina. I don’t get a period, but I suspect I use more “feminine hygiene products” than any cis girl I know. I’ve been through a whole case of lube and I’m into my 2nd case now. Also two tubes of Metrogel. All the lube is not for happy happy fun time. It’s for dilating. If anyone implies that dilating must be like masturbation, please slap them in the face.

Dilating sucks. Mostly because it’s just a time suck. But then there’s the messiness and the discomfort. For the first 12 weeks, I was supposed to dilate 3 times a day for 15 minutes each session. However because I went back to work after 7 weeks and my workplace couldn’t accommodate my needs…. I just went to two times a day. As far as I can tell, I did lose a little depth from the missing sessions, but everything else seemed to do all right. So I have to continue to do this twice a day for the next 8 or so months, until I hit the 1 year mark. Even then, my surgeon still recommends dilating once a day for the 2nd year, then going down to like once a week at a minimum.  This is something I’ll have to do for the rest of my life. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Oddly, the pain is interesting because a lot of the skin and tissues down there are still numb or only have limited sensation. That seems to be continuing to improve over time, but some parts are like the exclusion zone. DEAD. I’m constantly exhausted as my body continues to heal. I have to remind myself that this was a major surgery. It doesn’t seem like it, but it took Dr. Bowers nearly 5 hours to carefully craft and that kind of detail doesn’t heal over night.

So with all the whining, you might think I regret doing it. But you’d be wrong. No regrets, none at all. Even though my vagina ultimately cost me my marriage, I still knew that I had to do it. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me he was going to give me something to relax me. I was already relaxed. I never had the jitters that morning. I was oddly at peace. I wasn’t scared about things going wrong. I was just ready. The recovery has been rough, short of a friend that came down from Michigan to stay with me a few days, I didn’t get many visitors. No one seemed too awfully concerned with checking on me. I don’t know if it’s because they see it as a cosmetic surgery or what. It’s also cost me a lot of time at work that I could have been making money. I’ve missed out on a lot of fun summer time activities…. but despite it all, I’m happy. I’m more comfortable with my body than I’ve ever been in my life.  That’s worth a lot.

I’m not going to proofread this, I’m too tired. (insert dealwithit.gif)

She’s Not There

She’s Not There

I had my meeting. The company’s response was best summed up in emoji. It would be:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This was even after I had a heated confrontation with an aspiring member of management, one of our team leads, after he misgendered me. I was so upset that I nearly just quit on the spot. I packed my desk, neatly into a box that I had previously prepared back in April. In April, of course, I assumed I was going to be fired at any moment. Even with that looming impending doom having passed, I never totally unpacked the box. It stayed under my desk until recently, when I moved it to my car. It’s in my trunk right now.

In any event, the company was all like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I was advised to file a complaint with the Louisville Metro Government, alleging a violation of the local fairness ordinance. As part of the complaint process, they asked me to explain how I felt that I was being discriminated against. It took me nearly a week to work up the motivation to complete that. A few false starts and versions later, I had written about 3 pages worth of my experience.

img_20160830_161804

On August 30th, I went down to the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission and signed the formal complaint, filing both locally and federally. The federal component was an EEOC complaint, alleging sex discrimination.

Now we wait to see what’s going to happen next. For those interested, here’s my official statement that I included in my complaint. (Edit 11/23/2016: I’ve updated this to reflect the newest version, with up to date info.)

To Whom It May Concern:

I began working for AT&T in June 2013. In March 2015, I came out as a transgender woman. At that time, I requested that people start using female pronouns and my new chosen name. My name was legally changed with the Commonwealth of Kentucky in April 2015. Throughout this process, I made sure to give a reasonable amount of time for my colleagues to adjust to my new name, pronouns, and appearance.

Initially, I approached center level management regarding restroom access. I was met with needless delay. When I pressed the issue, I was told “Oh, I thought you didn’t want to use the women’s restroom until after you had the surgery.” When I was finally given permission to use the restroom that matched my gender identity, it was almost begrudgingly. The email from HR said “Due to there not being a unisex restroom facility in your building, you may begin using the female restrooms.” – implying that segregating me from other women would have been a more acceptable solution. This also goes against the verbiage in the “AT&T Transgender Policy.”

Immediately, I was met with a new issue. Despite AT&T having a clear and concise policy pertaining to transgender people transitioning on the job, local management decided to ignore it altogether. It was decided, against my objections, that no one in the office would be told about my transition. It was decided that we would deal with bathroom issues on a case by case basis. I made it exactly one week before the first incident.

Throughout, I tried to ignore the misgendering and use of my former name (dead naming), but as time went on I started correcting people as I overheard them. Things were not improving. In September 2015, I arrived in the office to find that a member of management had posted pre-transition pictures of me (Presenting as male) on an office bulletin board. Other bulletin boards were still referencing my former name.

I immediately contacted Human Resources. Meanwhile, the manager in question called me to apologize. Even in her apology, she continued to misgender me. Human Resources assured that the issues had been handled, despite the issues continuing. I asked HR to transfer to me out of the call center to which I was assigned. I was still being regularly misgendered and being subjected to microaggressions. Microaggressions, for those not familiar with the term, are subtle verbal or behavioral slights that invalidate a person’s identity or experience.

I was told by a coworker that the center manager went on a tirade regarding my transition, as she felt her religious beliefs did not allow her to work with transgender people. This occurred on my day off. My understanding was that a number of employees witnessed the outburst and that someone submitted an ethics complaint against the manager in question. At least one other co-worker came to me to let me know that the center manager was continuing to misgender me in meetings, and would continue to do so, even after being corrected.

Meanwhile, I was seeing retaliation from the manager that I had reported to HR for the pictures and dead naming. My performance was being scrutinized more closely than my colleagues, and rules were not being applied equally. The 1st level manager was reviewing my calls and transactions, even though I was not on her team and I did not report to her. Additionally, I was issued discipline that was not in line with other employees. My performance suffered as a result of constantly trying to make sure that I was protecting myself.  

As part of my treatments, I was utilizing FMLA time to attend therapy and other transition-related medical care.  I found that while initially my FMLA time was approved very quickly, as things got worse in the office, the FMLA cases were endlessly delayed. A normal approval might come back in 5 days; in my case, I had cases pending for over a month at one time. At one point, the manager in question showed up at a funeral and was caught in the chapel taking pictures of me. The next day, I was informed by another colleague that she had been printing “Benefit Fraud” paperwork, which I assume she was going to use to initiate a FMLA abuse case. However, she didn’t know that I was out of work for mental health issues, largely because of this type of harassment. Again, I asked for a transfer within AT&T.

Towards the end of April, I went out on medical leave for surgery and the subsequent recovery. During the time I was out of the office, both the manager in question, along with the center level manager were both terminated. While no official word was ever given, the assumption was that it was in relation to the complaints that I had filed with the company.

The thought process was that when I came back to work, things would be much better. However, I returned on June 21st, largely to much of the same. For a third time, I requested a transfer to another work location. I received no response. I continued to be misgendered by co-workers and managers alike, with the same frequency. I tried to let things pass, especially if the person would correct themselves. I was getting a lot of “he, I mean she” references, despite being full time on the job for 17 months at the time. At this point, seeing no other choice, I sent another written complaint to HR. I noted that in the previous 8 days, I had been misgendered by 4 different members of staff. Two had corrected themselves without me saying anything. One I corrected and the person got upset and walked away. The final person engaged me in a verbal dispute on the sales floor about how it was “ok” and “not that big of a deal.”

Again, I asked HR to transfer me to another work center, so that I might be “stealth”, where my co-workers didn’t know about my transgender status. Where they had not worked with me prior to transitioning. The company’s position was such that they were going to continue to deal with the issues on a case by case basis. I asserted that this was an inappropriate response to a larger problem. I also told HR that it was my opinion that the company continues to treat me as an experiment rather than protect me. Additionally, AT&T does not care about the issues within the work center. There’s been no action to remove me from the source of the conflict, nor has there been any significant or good-faith attempt to correct the issues at the origin.

The response was much of the same, I could apply for other positions within the company, but there would be no transfer. There was no policy to support me being transferred. At this point, I filed a formal complaint with the Metro Louisville Government and the Federal EEOC, stating sex discrimination and a violation of the Louisville Fairness Ordinance.  That is still pending. AT&T brought in two people from EEO office to conduct ethics training in groups of 25 or so at a time over the course of 2 days. The training spent a lot more time focusing on the transgender policy than other parts. This was extremely awkward for me, as I felt like the elephant in the room. With that much attention, pretty much everyone in the office knew why they were being subjected to a compliance training.

Since that happened, nothing has really changed. I’m still being misgendered occasionally. At this point, I’ve been full time presenting as a woman for near as makes no difference 20 months. There’s an adjustment period, for sure, but at this point even the “mistakes” are based on people just not caring enough to try to gender me correctly. It signifies that they do not respect me as a woman, they see me as the man in a dress, and I should feel lucky when they get it right. They’re placating me. Even as new people come into the office, they somehow learn of my trans status and then it starts again. I can walk down the street, go to my son’s school event, interact with perfect strangers and never be misgendered. But once someone shares (against my will) my status with someone in this office, then they fall in with the others.

The most recent issue, and perhaps one of the most offensive happened last week.  I had come down the flu, both the A and B strains. During that period, I also came down with Bronchitis, Upper Respiratory Infection, Bronchospasms and a really bad cough, among other things. Once the fever was gone, I tried to come back to work. AT&T wants me to come to work, I want to come to work. However, I could barely talk. I could talk very roughly for brief periods of time, but I couldn’t be on the phone whispering to customers for 8 hours a day. I had asked my 1st level supervisor and my GTR if there might be something that I could do that would keep me off the phone, for a couple more days. I brought in my doctor’s notes explaining that speaking would delay my healing and result in more time lost. They seemed willing to help me but they needed approval of the 2ndLevel Manager (Jason Erwin). He flat out refused. I contacted my union local president and vice president, who called Erwin to try and work something out. They were given the same answer. I could take calls or I could call out and face the discipline for the attendance.

I worked a part day, doing trainings and coverages that I had missed while I had been off. My supervisor went over my scorecard for the prior month and covered me on my overall performance. Once that was done, I was forced to go home, because there was nothing I could do. The next day, I came in, but only ended up staying about an hour because again, the management refused to have any compassion. Wednesday was my normal scheduled day off. On Thursday, I returned to the office. I was having system issues, so I wasn’t able to take calls immediately. Instead of my supervisor coming to see if I needed help, Erwin approached me. I asked him about the official job accommodation request that I had sent Sedgwick. He said they wouldn’t have that for 2-3 weeks. I asked, so what about right now, when I actually need the accommodation?

Again without any compassion or concern for my recovery, he told me that under no circumstances was he going to approve any job accommodations, other than the time missed. I tried to explain that I couldn’t speak very well, or clearly. I also tried to explain that with my gender dysphoria diagnosis that I have extreme dysphoria about being misgendered, and that even if I could take calls all day, it  would be impossible to not be misgendered by customers.

His reply was almost verbatim to a previous person who had misgendered me and then argued his position. He said, “I’ve been called a woman on the phone. It doesn’t matter. It’s not a big deal.” Which is not what a cisgender male 2nd level manager should be saying to a transgender person. He thinks that because he doesn’t have gender dysphoria, that mine doesn’t matter. He doesn’t get to make that call though. A person of privilege doesn’t get to decide what is and isn’t offensive or triggering to a marginalized person. Furthermore, this whole interaction occurred on the sales floor, in the aisle with my team and in earshot of other people as well. It really cements the company’s commitment to transgender people. It enforces to my teammates and coworkers that it doesn’t matter if I’m misgendered. If he says it, why should we care if we call the t****y by male pronouns.

I contacted my ERM via email. This was on Thursday, 10/27. She replied back with a standard “I’ll get back to you by Friday the 28th” email. I was out on Friday, but I didn’t get any emails from her. When I came in on 10/31, I still had no contact from her. On Tuesday, 11/1, I emailed her again because I hadn’t heard anything from her. I also let her know about the conversation that my union reps had with Erwin. I told her that I was leaving, but I asked her to contact me on my personal cell phone.

She contacted me and I explained a little more in depth what was going on and how I was concerned with Erwin’s comments and his refusal to attempt any type of help for an extremely sick employee. She said she was going to work on my issue. I haven’t heard from her since. This was 11/1. I emailed her on 11/2, letting her know that I was back in the office and working, asking for an update. To date, she hasn’t contacted me. On the 3rd, at the advice of a LEAGUE rep, I placed a call to ■■■■■■ ■■■■■■ (■■■■■■) who had dealt with prior EEO complaints that I had filed. I spoke with her and explained that I felt that the company hadn’t been taking my complaints seriously. That this new complaint was just the same as the previous. That I am working in a hostile work environment, that once again, I have a 2nd level manager that I couldn’t trust to protect me from the people who report to him. That I had requested a transfer at least 4 times and was denied each time. I also explained that the “hammer each nail” approach doesn’t work, because another “nail” always pops up. AT&T continues to experiment on trying to fix an office of 100 people rather than take the 1 person impacted out of the situation. I gave her the name and UID of the ERM who I had spoken to, she promised she would get in contact with her and work on it.

That was on Thursday. It’s Saturday now, I’ve heard nothing from her or the ERM. Again, I’m over here in a mentally hostile work environment but it’s not a huge priority for anyone to resolve. Furthermore, they promoted a very close friend of the 1st level manager that was harassing and following me. He’s now a 1st level manager in the center. This is a person that drinks and hangs out with a person that misgendered, harassed and stalked me. When I came back from medical level in June, him and his wife wouldn’t speak to me. His wife is a sales consultant like me. Now he’s effectively my boss. Even though I don’t directly report to him. For example, today because we run a limited staff, we only have one coach in the office. He’s the coach. Initially, he was supposed to take over my team. This was only avoided by me having a very frank discussion with Erwin where I laid out the conflict of interest between he and I.  I also mentioned that I believe it’s inappropriate for a manager to be married to a rep in the same call center. Erwin said HR had cleared that, but that he would work something out so that he and I didn’t have to work together. That obviously worked out well.

All along, the only thing I’ve ever wanted from AT&T is to be able to do my job and be respected as any other woman within the company. The company and their employees, managers and agents continually disrespect me, ignore COBC as well as the laws & guidelines set up within Metro Louisville’s ordinances to protect people like me, and refuse to take action to resolve the situation.