29 January 2009

Serving A Community

More electrolysis today. Today a very nice young woman named Sandra zapped and plucked me. Turns out, she's been in the Navy, although she's almost nobody's idea of a military woman.

What's really interesting about her, though, is that she says she wants to specialize in services for male-to-female transgenders. She says she became interested in us because her boyfriend owns a club where she's met trans people. "I have so much respect for you, to do what you do. And I've had a lot of fun around transgender people." And, she said, "There's not that much in the way of services for you."

"Tell me about it!"

"You have to go through so much to find anyone who understands what you need."

She could not have been more right, but there's much, much more I could have told her. But I did tell her that I've known that I'm transgendered before I knew the word for it; in fact, I knew even before I knew the words "girl" and "boy." And, although I'm making my transition fairly late in my life, I am lucky: I have something like a career and a life.

So many young trans girls run away from, or are kicked out of, their homes, sometimes immediately after "coming out." So what job choices does a teenager have if she hasn't finished school and is in a city she doesn't know? Let's see....Starbuck's is about to close 700 stores. Other chains have already closed all of their stores. And most other jobs, not to mention college, are not available for someone who doesn't have a high school diploma.

So what do they do? Almost nothing legal, I can tell you that. Many of those trans teenagers who leave or are kicked out of their families' homes end up on the streets, where they do whatever they have to do to survive. That is how too many end up selling their bodies or drugs.

Sandra's heard of such stories. I've actually seen them, and it's awful to be living one. Any one of those girls might make more in a night than I do in a month, but there's no way they can hold on to it. So, more often than not, the money they make doesn't last a day or two.

Anyway, I am glad that Sandra is choosing to work with trans people. She is sensitive and has a good feel for a person's hair and skin, so I think she should do very well.

It still fascinates me when straight people want to work with trans people. Sandra told me a bit about her story, but I think there's something else motivating her. I thought the same thing about Nina, the grandmother and retired school teacher who volunteers at Carmen's Place, a shelter for young trans people.

I'm always interested to find out why people choose to serve certain communities or groups of people. It's often said that we try to help those with whom we most identify: members of our own community, in other words.

Sometimes, though, we don't find the people we expected in our communities