18 April 2015

Embracing Herself And Losing The Job She Loved

Imagine doing something you love—your calling, as some of you might say—for years and years.  But all of that time you’re keeping a secret from others and lying to yourself. 

Finally, one day, you reveal that secret.  To be more exact, you stop wearing the mask and telling the lies you created in order to keep that secret a secret.  

That secret is not about a past crime or other indiscretion.  Rather, it’s what you’ve always known about yourself and it flies in the face of everything your friends, family and co-workers have always seen—or, at least, what you’ve allowed them so see.

You simply couldn’t keep that secret anymore.  It would have taken everything you could muster, if it hadn’t already:  Nothing is heavier than a secret.   Nobody is strong enough to keep it forever. 

So you let it go and take on the truth about yourself.  And you live it.  What next?

Well, depending on your situation, you might lose friends, family members—or even your job.

All of those things happen to too many of us after we start showing up for work, family gatherings, school or other aspects of our lives as the people we actually are.  Some of us are shunned; family members and friends decide we’re no longer good enough for them.  Some of us are humiliated and harassed on our jobs, the latter often being among the tactics used to push us out or get us to  quit.

Everything I’ve just described happened to Tamara Lusardi.  As a kid, she grew up on US Air Force bases around the world.  Then, for three decades, she worked for the US Army in various capacities and even served in the first Gulf War.  She found her niche as a software quality ensurance specialist for the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at the Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama.

But after she started her transition, superior officers limited her access to the women’s restroom, referred to her by male pronouns and her birth name and intentionally outed her.  While working as male, she was praised; after she came to work as a woman, she was removed from her post and her professional reputation was irreparably damaged.

Three years ago, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  On 1 April, the EEOC decided that her civil rights had been violated and that Army officers had created a hostile work environment when they subjected her to ridicule and embarrassment.

According to the Transgender Law Center, Army officials have 30 days to ask the EEOC to reconsider its ruling.  According to a spokesman, the Army will comply with the ruling.

Lusardi says she hopes this ruling will set a precedent that will make life easier for other transgender women and men.  On the other hand, she points out, many people still need to be educated about us and Federal policy still allows most healthcare insurers. to exclude transgender people.

N.B.  The article I linked was sent to me by my father.

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