Transgender in America: One Day at a Time

It’s the New Year, a time when I like to reflect on where I have been, where I am, and where I might be headed. I will be celebrating a landmark personal anniversary in 2019 as it will be twenty years (on March 31) that I underwent gender reassignment surgery.

Yes, I am a transgender woman.

Over the past two decades, I have seen a steady improvement in acceptance and a general increase in understanding of the trans “phenomenon.” I like to believe that I have been an instrument to this end in my little corner of the world by standing tall with confidence, being willing to educate, and speaking publicly on the subject answering questions. Many, many questions! My motto is that I will answer any question, no matter how personal in nature, as long as I feel that it is posed with sincerity and an honest willingness to learn from my answer.

When I have the opportunity to speak on the subject, I love to keep it light, funny, and informative. However, I always caution that while appearances suggest that society is more accepting and open-minded, we are indeed a long way from being out of the woods.

I look to my own personal work history as proof. I am a pharmacist and a 32-year member in good standing of the Ontario College of Pharmacists. I possess a broader skill set in pharmacy practice and business acumen than average within my peer group, and my communication skills are excellent as is my “bedside manner.”

In short, I am capable, outgoing and my clients generally become very attached to me. My references are numerous and supportive.

While I’ve enjoyed personal success, I must note that I’ve never been hired for a full-time position outside of the company I founded in 1987. When I sold the small chain of rural pharmacies, I continued to work within the group. On several occasions, I applied to positions outside of the group to move on and expand my horizons but to no avail.

These countless failures indicated to me that there was a silent, conservative force lying hidden and dormant that was still very anti-trans. It confounded me because my orbit had grown, and I was enjoying relationships with thousands of friends, acquaintances, and clients who seemed to genuinely enjoy association with me. These folks come from all walks of life, including farmers, professionals, bikers, musicians, and law enforcement to name a few.

Until 2016, the plight of the trans individual seemed to steadily improve. People were starting to understand that being trans wasn’t a choice; no one would ever choose to subject themselves to the total life upheaval that transition brings. Further, being trans is totally unrelated to sexual preference.

Then, Donald Trump was elected President of the most powerful and influential country in the world.

As a Canadian, you might say that this shouldn’t affect me, but you would be wrong.

I’d like to say that I have no opinion on whether President Trump is anti-trans or not. One can never tell how politicians truly feel because the most important thing in their minds tends to be the next news cycle.

I can say that when powerful people demonize any group – be they trans individuals, immigrants, Muslims, etc. – the process gives license to the dormant and hateful elements to rise to the surface. The result is a loss of precious ground gained for all of the demonized groups as if the clocks have all been turned back twenty or thirty years.

Famously, Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben preached that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

I believe this is important for all of us to remember as we all exert power within our own orbits and we must exercise that power responsibly. It becomes more important as we move up the chain of power, and it’s paramount that the most powerful world leaders – the President of the United States among others – recognize this power-to-responsibility dynamic. Seemingly inconsequential thoughts uttered by a powerful person to capture a sound bite can devastate the lives of innocent people trying to survive and be contributing citizens in their communities.

There are very few things in life, if any, that follow a smooth upward curve. The stock market comes to mind as there are always ups and downs, but we all hope for an overall positive trend. It is my hope that we are simply experiencing a downward blip that will resolve with time. I am mortified when I hear some state that, “this is the new normal and there is no going back.”

I often visit the United States riding my motorcycle or attending an NFL game, and I know that the “heart” of America is good and decent. One of the things I most enjoy is having random conversations with locals, whether in the hills of Tennessee or on the streets of towns and cities that I might visit. I enjoy learning about and trying to understand different regional perspectives.

As a minority, I know my lobby is too small to make a difference without outside help and support. For those of you who know and support transgender individuals, I would like to say thanks. If you have not encountered a trans person but believe in human rights and general decency, please take the time to educate yourself. Better yet, reach out and talk to a trans person and get their perspective. I am quite sure that you will find that we are all just people with the same hopes, dreams, and fears.

If there is a chance to reverse the current trend and get back on the road to evolving our world to that of a more humane and enlightened one, we all need to make the effort to learn and then help educate the next one down the line in a chain-reactive fashion.  When I speak publicly, I will say, “give me a beer and ten minutes, and I can move the most ardent objector.”

Ah, if only there were enough time and beer!

Humor aside, I truly believe in the decency that lies within all of us. I also believe that progress and evolution happen one person at a time, ten minutes at a time and one social interaction at a time. If you agree and believe in the “Golden Rule” it’s time to educate yourself and then step up and be heard one person at a time, ten minutes at a time and one social interaction at a time.