Freedom And Anxiety In The Shadow Of State Legislature Debate On Nondiscrimination
By Todd Heywood
Originally printed 11/24/2014 (Issue 2247 - Between The Lines News)
LANSING - Amber is looking forward to the new year, but she is also fearful of what 2015 will bring her. She plans to transition to living her life as she was meant -- as a woman. But the ongoing debates at the state capital about adding gender identity to the state's civil rights law makes such a move terrifying.
"The big thing I am worried about is losing my job," the 23-year-old told BTL. "Say I lose my job, I might have to move back to my parents' house and my transition would be put on hold."
Between The Lines has agreed not to use Amber's last name or the exact location of her hometown in order to give her some protection and the ability to come out to people at her own pace.
Amber hails from conservative west Michigan. Her parents and three brothers are unaware that she is preparing to transition. They will learn of her life change through a letter crafted by Amber with the assistance of her therapist. That letter will be delivered after the holidays.
The revelation may not come as a surprise. Amber says she fought with her parents about her gender when she was a child.
"I really thought I was a female when I was 4 or 5 and I ended up getting into an argument with my parents," she says. "It ended with them saying I was male, and me crying."
She did what she could to fit herself to her gender assigned at birth -- including playing football in high school. She studied criminal justice in college and has worked a series of warehouse type jobs usually associated with men.
"I was trying to prove to myself something," she says of her masculine choices in her teen years. "I never felt the same. I felt like an outcast."
When she was 18, she began dreaming of herself as a woman. Then the moment of revelation happened.
"I was trying to picture myself as a male like five years down the road, and I couldn't," she said.
She moved to Lansing in June and began the process of transitioning. That includes counseling. She has a letter to begin hormone therapy and has fixed her transition date in the beginning of 2015. Despite feeling more confident in her gender, and being excited to begin life fully as Amber, her apprehension grows as her transition date comes closer.
Lansing has a nondiscrimination law which includes gender identity and expression. The ordinance has been on the books since 2006, but it has never been tested. It has, however, been used in negotiations between Lansing Community College and Spring Arbor University as the community college prepared to open a university center, sharing publicly financed space with some of the state's private and public universities.
Spring Arbor had come under fire for firing Julie Nemecek when she transitioned; LCC also reminded all the potential university partners that they must adhere to LCC policies, including nondiscrimination rules. Spring Arbor bowed out of the running for a partnership as a result.
Amber still has not discussed her transition with the bio-engineering company where she works. She is terrified that her new life will be cut short by an economic dagger in her back; she worries she will be fired for her transition.
Amber is more than a little aware of the economic struggles of many transgender women in America. She rattles off the statistics related to unemployment and underemployment as well as homelessness. She know she faces a potentially hostile world.
Among her ten transgender friends, two are unemployed. Neither can find a job. The gender markers on their identifications out them as trans, leading to a bias in hiring, she says. Amending Elliott-Larsen might ease her fears. "It would make me feel more comfortable; it would ease a little bit of that anxiety," she notes.
She says the current debate at the state level is "dehumanizing."
"It's crazy to me people would like to think it's OK to exclude a group of people from a nondiscrimination law," she said.
As for the lawmakers talking about transpeople, but not with them, she has a message.
"I'd talk to them about many trans people losing jobs," she said. "It's crazy we are already so discriminated against."
- Love is Patient, Love is Kind: Local Couple Details Path to Altar
- JCC Book Fair Welcomes Jewish Gay Author
- 3 Michigan Cities Score Perfect 100 Rating in LGBT Inclusion Report
- Conversation On Bullying Empowers Students and Parents
- Freedom House Seeks Help for LGBT Refugees
- John Allen Paves Way for Brighter Future for LGBTQ Youth
- Detroit Police Officer Dani Woods Recipient of Equality Michigan Award
- Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown Celebrates Same-Sex Marriages
- State Board: Lawyer with Anti-Gay Rants Committed Misconduct
- Holly Lanes Hosting LGBT and Friends Night to Connect Around Equality
- Community Demands Justice for LGBTQ Prisoners
- Village of Holly Votes 6-1 Against Human Rights Ordinance
- Attorney Faces LGBTQ Discrimination
- Progressive Groups Join Forces to Win Big in Election 2016
- Federal Law Protects Transgender People at Homeless Shelters
- LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education
- Urge Michigan Attorney General to Withdraw from Federal Lawsuit
- Anti-LGBTQ Smear Campaign Targets Eaton County Commissioner
- Charter Yachts
- Detroit Princess Riverboat
- Families and Parents
- Grand Rapids Alternative Families
- Foundations and Funders
- The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
- Heating & Cooling
- Hinson Heating & Air Conditioning
- Labor Union
- Unite Here - Fair Hotel
- Pet Day Care
- 4 Paws Community Center
- Pet Training
- Fido Personal Dog training, LLC
- Horton Plumbing & Remodeling
- Recreational Vehicles
- General RV Center
- Pewabic Pottery
Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more
- Hillary Clinton's Commitment to LGBT Equality Stronger Than Ever
- 'Campfire' Opens at The Ringwald Theatre
- McCrory, Cooper Blast Each other on LGBT Law in Debate
- Unleashing Garrett Clayton: Actor on Studying Porn, Keeping His Sexuality Private & How His Latest Movie's Greatest Critic Brent Corrigan 'Let the Movie Get Made'
- Idina Menzel on Working Toward LGBT Icon Status, a Lesbian Elsa & Angry Gays Who Oppose Her 'Beaches' Remake
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!
As an openly gay man, Fred Hoffman said, "I really didn't know if there would be an issue." And while he wasn't waving rainbow flags when he was recruited by Chrysler in 1988, he was told being gay wasn't a problem.View More Automotive
This Week's Issue
Download or view this week's print issue today!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!