Michelle's Transition Story

You were looking for transition employment stories.  I have two stories because I have for many years worked two jobs, one to support myself and my family and the other out of love.  The first is my fulltime, support myself story.  First of all I am 59 years old and have worked for the same people for 20 years in three different companies.  The last company I worked for them for about 17.5 years.   I have a wife and grown children, but as with so many transsexuals my marriage will not survive and the divorce is in progress.

I fought my Dysphoria for 58 years in some fashion or other and a year and a half ago couldn’t fight any more.  I now live full time as a woman and await a date for Genital surgery.  

My profession, full-time employment, has been in the Computer industry as a technical instructor.  I have for many years been the senior technical network instructor for the company I worked for.  Before teaching I was a field service engineer and helped to build up the company’s service department and also build the Education department.  The company went from a single location operation to a multi- location operation.  I was instrumental to that growth and did the most teaching. 

Just before I planned to enter full-time living as a woman I sat down with one of the partners of the company, a man who I worked with for 20 years and with whom I shared confidences, and explained my situation to him.  He thought it best if he talk to his partner.  A week to the day from that conversation they both came into the site I manage and sat down with me.  With straight faces they handed me a three page lawyer-written letter explaining why they needed to lay me off.  All the reasons in the letter were unrelated to either my age, or Gender problems or my performance.  They were carefully stated and all claimed to be “business reasons.”  The fact is that two months before they had hired two people to be instructors.  They had no experience and no certification, but were retained.  I need to say at this point I have two graduate degrees from Yale and all the certifications to do the teaching I was doing.  A very modest severance package was offered if I signed a statement that I wouldn’t sue them.

I have no intention of suing, but my divorce lawyer did look at all the paper they gave me and believed that I would win a suit.  Suing would take years though and leave my name posted on bulletin boards for years.  Connecticut, where I live, does not have a law protecting transsexuals in employment, but it does have a legal interpretation of an existing sex discrimination law that applies.  It has not been tested in court and my case would have been the first, so it would be sure to make the news.

I am now unemployed and searching for a new job in the computer industry.  I am not fully unemployed because I have a weekend job as a Minister in a group of small churches.  I am fully ordained in my denomination and had been a full-time pastor years ago.  The issue in the churches has not been acceptance by the leadership, but by the people in the congregations.  I have the support of the Bishop and the other clergy I work with.  For the most part the lay leaders are supportive.  I am however officially on leave from my regular duties.  I visit one of the churches each Sunday and worship with them to get them used to me in a new role. The hope is that I will be able to be in front during worship by September. 

For the most part people have been compassionate and sensitive and accepting.  It is hard for some people to grasp, but when they see me and talk with me they understand.  Though most accept there are a few who are vocal and don’t really accept.  The problem is that they do not confront me directly and claim their problem isn’t with me, but something else.  There was a recent Sunday when three men and one wife would not enter the church because I was in it.  Another woman left in the middle of the service, her husband had stayed outside. 

There is hope that with time I will be able to begin functioning as I did before in the churches.  Some want me up front now, but wisdom says to take it a little easy.  The church situation is very complicated because there are 5 congregations involved.  Yet these congregations have been more accepting than people I knew and worked with for 20 years. 

The church story isn’t completed yet.  Being a minister is a very public position to be in and any flaw is often criticized.  My Gender problems which once were a secret I kept from the world are now very public.  In spite of that I believe I will be able to continue in the active ministry and continue to work with non-transgendered people as I have always done.

If you have any questions or suggestions I will be more than happy to reply.  I think that the more work that is done now in helping transsexuals cope with life the less that will have to be done in the future.

[posted 7-13-2004]