I don’t know if I have ever said this, but my existence for the last couple of years has been somewhat tenuous.
I lost my job in October 2011. Now, up until this point I had been continuously employed since 2007 and employed off and on since the later part of 2004. Despite this, I was unable to get any sort of work for a number of reasons.
First, while I’m not pathologically awkward the way someone with a condition like ADD or Asperger’s would be, I’m not great socially. I like to keep to myself and I enjoy my private time. However, the job market these days seems to favor aggressive extroverts.
My inability to get a job frankly made it worse; the more rejection I got, the more introverted I became, until I got to a point where I was so neurotic I could barely leave my room. My anxiety spiked and to this day I’m still struggling to control it; I can only take life a little bit at a time now before I become emotionally overwhelmed and can’t function. Unfortunately, poverty doesn’t allow you to take life at a reasonable pace, and I have a long history of medication resistance for my anxiety treatment.
Then there was the fact that I lost my job roughly a year after my first onset of gender dysphoria, a condition- like my anxiety- that most politicians, employers, and the Archie Bunker types who snap up all the jobs don’t believe exists because they don’t have it.
Initially I put transitioning aside and put everything into finding work, and for about 9 months I managed to function somewhat. But by July of last year I had begun seeking treatment for my gender dysphoria in earnest because I couldn’t take it any more. It didn’t help that there were a number of people in my life who would not get off my case about “faking” gender dysphoria to supposedly get out of looking for work; they said if I was really transgender I would do something, so I set about with what meager resources I had and tried to get help. There were a lot of inexpensive clinics that said they knew how to treat transgender patients, but didn’t; all the cheap places in town knew how to treat was textbook cases of depression, anxiety, and schizo and not transwomen with drug-resistant anxiety.
I found one clinic that actually did work with trans patients, but they were a training clinic and so they were not only overly cautious, but VERY unprofessional. The woman there was not forward with me on what decisions she would make on my treatment and why, and by December she had misdiagnosed me with borderline personality disorder (an amateur’s mistake that was later ruled out by two competent psychiatrists) and told me I would have to see her at least a year to get on hormones.
A year and a half of aggressive searching yielded no jobs, and faced with losing my home and having to deal with horrendous health care standards for low-income transfolk, I was forced to go back to a full-time degree program to survive and finally get the treatments I need.
Although I do well as a student, I frankly wanted to avoid this. I’m having to take out huge loans and not a day goes by when I don’t worry about how I’ll ever pay back the money I need to stay alive. I worry constantly about what will happen if I get sick or injured and can’t finish school. I worry about what will happen if budget cuts mean I can’t finish my degree or my transition. I hate being on food stamps and worry sometimes that I’ll be the victim of a hate crime not because I’m trans, but because I’m buying my groceries with an EBT card; and if you think food stamp recipients have it easy, you try eating on $4.62 a day. Do you really think us “parasites” who used to work and still want to work but can’t really, honestly dine on taxpayer funded steak and lobster? Fuck you. I can barely afford canned ravioli most of the time. At least I don’t have to eat dog food… yet.
I should also mention that although I am not autistic myself, my partner is. He is diagnosed as such and receives a paltry sum from social security disability, and our roommate is employed but could only find work in fast food and is being hounded by payday loan companies for the money he took out to move out here because he didn’t want to freeze to death on the streets of Wichita.
Because of the situation I am in, financially I might not have any choice but to come forward with my story at some point. I do not want anyone to treat my poverty as a game to discredit me and that is why I am being completely and entirely transparent on this matter, because the claims I make, while they tell a fascinating story, I don’t believe I can prove decisively and I don’t want any self-righteous armchair pundits to paint me as a welfare queen spinning fantastic tales to get money. I will do everything I can to keep from having to do that.
However, apart from that my only other option, should conditions prevent me from finishing my degree and my transition and finding employment after graduation, would be to retreat to my father’s home, in a Bible Belt community with 18% unemployment and zero prospects for a MtF transwoman. My father has only offered this because he got in on the ground floor in the engineering profession 30 years ago when they only required a tech school degree and a willingness to work. He has offered to help me in a crisis but considering his job is through a government contract his ability to help beyond giving me space “if things don’t work out for me out west” may be limited.
My anxiety is slowly improving, though it’s slow going. As silly as it sounds, and as much as I try to play it down, the memories from the Great War made life extraordinarily difficult for the first 3 or 4 months. I have had a great deal of help from others in a similar situation but they’re not professionals, and the going is rough sometimes. The flashbacks are intense and they still flare up now and then, and always leave me in a bad state for several days after. I only wish I could show the world exactly how that feels because without that, I can’t expect any of you to think I’m anything but a liar.
I only hope that this post is read with compassion and consideration and not with contempt simply because I literally have become one of the people who can’t take care of themselves any more. I hope no one accuses me of living a carefree lifestyle at the taxpayer’s expense, and I hope no one accuses me, should I need to save my home by going public with my story, of making the whole thing up to get rich. I don’t have a lot in this world right now and getting rich off of a story I can’t entirely prove is not something I consider a realistic goal.