Reply To: Getting Connected With The Trans Community…

DeeAnn Hopings

When I post a message with a poll, I tend to not discuss my situation for a while. My worry is that it may steer the conversation in one direction or another. So, I will discuss my experiences now.

I retired at the end of January 2016 and relocated to Southern California a week later. By midyear I joined the Transgender Community Coalition (TCC) and became a board member in January of 2017. Somewhere in the later part of 2016 I also joined the steering Committee of the local Human Rights Campaign group. I held both offices for a bit over 2 years. I resigned from both by the middle of 2018.

In the 2+ years with TCC, I met a number of trans men and women. Some were doing well while others were sleeping in their cars and others still were considerably underemployed. In 2017 TCC finally had the wherewithal to establish a physical office. I did mostly back end stuff, such as setting up MS Office, creating E-mail accounts and researching, choosing and implementing secure storage. I didn’t really get involved with the hair removal or helping folks to navigate health care or looking for employment as that wasn’t my expertise. However, when the CEO had to be away, I was the “adult in the room”. Many of our volunteers were 20-somethings, so my function was to provide stability and keep things from rolling off the table. This 2+ years represented a major change for me in terms of being immersed in the community. In that time, I was a part of various fundraising teams and also helped to plan the TDoR Vigils. I eventually resigned as i could no longer put up with the CEO’s BS.

This was valuable time for me as it significantly added to my knowledge of what was happening within the community. I learned how difficult it was for trans people to get hired, in spite of often being over-qualified. I was surprised, but I guess I should not have been, that this often held true for lesbian and gay organizations and lesbian and gay owned businesses. I think part of the problem is that our reputation precedes us in terms of being flaky, unreliable and back-stabbing. Before the pandemic, trans unemployment was about 4x higher that the general population. I don’t know what it is now, but it probably hasn’t changed much. While I knew things were difficult for trans people in general, I really didn’t understand how bad things were. It was an education that I would not have gotten otherwise.

In retrospect, another thing was that I think that I never really connected with most of the community, and they to me, was that our experiences were vastly different. I had a career that spanned 43 years with onlt 2 companies. From college there was never a time when I was not employed. While my coming out was very public, the way things worked out, I retired 4 months later. From a transgender perspective, I never experienced harassment, workplace discrimination, domestic violence or had my kids taken away. Since I retired at 67, I was at a much different stage of life compared to the majority of people in the community.

In more recent times, I am not directly involved in the community, save for my involvement here. However, a funny thing happened. When word got around that I was no longer part of either group I mentioned above, there were offers to join a board here and a steering committee there. While it was flattering, I realized something. I was being given an opportunity to represent my community. I doubt if this was in the thinking of those who asked, but little did they know that visibility is an important thing to me. Anyway, I hope that I can provide a good data point as opposed to the stereotypical ones that are so prevalent.

Currently I hold office in my car club, a political organization, a civic commission and 2 non-profits. I am also a member of 3 other organizations where I do not hold office.

Going from memory, well over half of the US population knows at least one gay person. I believe the corresponding statistic for trans people is less than 1/3. To me, this is where visibility can really make a difference.

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