My city is soon voting on a change to the non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Simple matter, right? Don’t discriminate against anyone. Apparently not. The city council meeting I attended was… heartbreaking. I could not find the courage to speak, so instead I sent this email to our mayor, as per his request.
Honorable Mayor Stephens,
First, I must applaud you for the work that you do and the patience I saw exercised at the City Council meeting on Monday, September 8th. A meeting so incredibly long, yet amazingly civil despite the passions on both sides.
I realize that the non-discrimination ordinance before you is just a small step, but a journey can not be taken without that first small step. This will by no means change things overnight, but it is a change that is needed.
I am a non-gender binary person, a demi-guy, or more simply a trans man. This means that, although I was born and raised with the societal expectations of being female, I identify more strongly with being male. Not completely, only partially. The council heard from several trans women, but sadly I did not have the courage to speak. The night was long enough anyway, right?
For thirty-five years I have tried to deny myself; pressured by parents and society. Only recently in May of 2014 did I give up this battle against conventional standards and came out as transgender.
I am unemployed, living on the bare minimum required to keep a roof over my head, doing my best to raise two children on my own without the support of their other parent. We live on food stamps, my son’s disability SSI, and little else. I do not have health insurance, no coverage for any transgender care. It is a difficult enough life. My children suffer discrimination daily for being poor, for riding the city bus, for having thrift store clothes. I have suffered long acting as a female so they did not suffer more by having a transgender parent.
I learned my lesson once. I was dating a woman, a neighbor took offense, and she called a hotline for child abuse. My children were taken from me and I fought hard for eleven months to get them back. Those eleven months are burned into me. That is time I will never get back. Time of my children’s lives that can never be returned to me. And thank goodness they themselves were returned to me. I worry still about speaking out only for their sake. I can suffer for this cause, and I will, but please do not take it out on my children. They are the reason I did not speak that night. I have to keep them safe.
I came to Springfield in 2003 to attend Forest Institute and obtain my PsyD. I thought moving to a bigger city would be more tolerant. Particularly since this was a city with a professional school of psychology. There are so many colleges here, so much education and potential for greatness. It is also a beautiful city. There are times when I wish very much to move away from this area and its pervasive religion. Even if I were not so torn inside, I do not have the financial means to leave.
Coming out as transgender has brought me a happiness I was not able to realize until now. However, as private as a decision as it is, I found the process to be – by its very nature – very public. What bathroom do I use when I am not entirely either gender? Do I avoid going out completely? Many times, yes. How much productivity and revenue is being lost because I’m afraid to leave my home and not patronize local businesses? I would greatly prefer if there were a more subtle option, let me make my transition in peace and in private, and not have to worry about how it might endanger me or my children. Especially my children.
I wish I could speak out with confidence and know that they are safe. Or at least protected in some manner by the law.
I have suffered discrimination and abuse many times. My children have suffered, and they have both made it plainly clear that they are interested in the opposite gender. The difference is that they accept me, and love me though they won’t always say it, as I am. That is all I am wanting from anyone else, from employer to medical professional to my server at a restaurant. Just accept me for who I am, please. You don’t have to like me, or sing the praises of the gender spectrum, just allow me to do what I need to do to survive.
Though it would be really great if you could sing the praises of the gender spectrum with me.
Mr. Naomi “Nil” McFarland
ps. If you wish to share this letter, feel free to do so. I think I’m tired of being quiet, so it’s okay.