Forget Everything you Believe About Me
I suppose I have had some amazing advantages throughout my transition. I was wildly accepted by nearly all my blood and extended family. My wife didn’t leave me. My employer accepted me. And being open about my journey lead me to new and exciting friendships.
Now that all the braggadocio is out of the way, wanna guess how much of that is true? I’ll tell you; almost none of it.
It’s time to be brutally honest about how my life has been less-than what could have been wrongfully extrapolated from my previous writings. Much of what goes awry in the lives of Trans folks has slowly crept up on me, and one can rest assured that much of what I deemed a positive in my life has switched to a null or an outright negative.
For those who have been paying attention, I have been detached from writing for many months now. In that time I have focused a lot of attention on maintaining my sobriety, and conversely I have come to realize that alcohol was often directly associated with my ability to produce. No doubt I have been in denial about this for quite some time, but as my alcoholism began to once again peak to unforgivable levels, it has became all too obvious. Such an addiction tied to ones creativity ought not to surprise anyone, considering how many acclaimed authors have struggled with addictions. But I was truly blindsided by this.
Today I have been sober for more than 4 months, and as the world is now in the grips of a global pandemic, I find myself struggling daily to maintain that sobriety. These are trying times for all of us regardless of individual circumstance.
Near the end of November 2019, and just days before I quit drinking, I bought a bottle of wine… I don’t know why I never opened it, but as I treaded into sobriety I chose to write a message on the bottle; now, everytime I feel like going off the water-wagon, that bottle speaks to me…
The day I bought this wine, I was buying groceries for my new apartment. Even though we’d separated by that time, my wife happened to be with me in that moment. I suppose part of me was making this purchase to show her that I would not be shamed for my alcoholism; I was now independent of her, and not going to be made to feel less-than for this addiction. That was the last time she held company with me for more than an hour or two, and who could blame her. Who would want to be with someone who would disregard her feelings so much that self-destruction was more desirable than fixing what we’d broken over the course of so many years.
The marriage had collapsed under the weight of opening it up. I was simply incapable of believing we could have our “others” and still remain committed to each other. Alcohol fed the narrative that she’d abandon me as soon as the first beau took interest in her, and that created a drunken feedback loop. I wasn’t prepared to accept the loss of a marriage which had been in place for fourteen years, and had endured the last three in transition. But after all the fighting, I determined that what was best for us, was for me to choose to leave instead of waiting for the inevitable “Dear Jane” letter. Even though I know my moving out hurt her, I don’t know that the alternative would have been better.
We were able to sell our house in mid-January 2020, and settle the marriage amicably. The papers are signed, awaiting a judge to rule. The only hold up is timing and social distancing; but for all intents and purpose, we are divorced.
To say that I am okay with this would be incorrect. I feel like I lost my best friend and confidant. But even in this short time apart, I am coming to realize that perhaps we kept things together for a lot longer than we ever should have. I believe we are better people apart, but that doesn’t negate the hurt that’s felt on both sides.
At the end of it all, I am left feeling blindsided by the delusion that I helped perpetuate; the one that says love can survive a transition. Some form of love does; I will always love her But our love — as it existed on the day we were married — did not survive. This is the lie that I bought into and believed, a lie that I subsequently fed to my readers, and for that I am truly sorry.
The position my blood relatives took did not change. As best as I can tell, if they accepted me after my transition, they seemingly still do. I’m certain I could say the same of my in-laws. They welcomed Kira with arms wide open, and while I don’t think they hate me, I do feel a marked distance since the marriage fell apart. To say that doesn’t leave me wounded would be a slight understatement. I had no friends or blood relatives in Oklahoma when we moved here in 2007, so with the loss of familial connection, I often find myself feeling adrift with few people to rely on. I’ll call it a sobering experience, which is ironic because my first compulsion is to reach for a bottle; a compulsion I continue to resist.
Regardless, the loss is measured and deeply felt.
My job has begun to take an unexpected and transphobic turn.
I successfully transitioned while working for a national Propane company (AmeriGas). My supervisor had no objections to my transition regardless of his political leanings which would have given me reason to think otherwise. I was so well accepted within that company that it pained me to make the decision to leave. I had been delivering propane cylinders for nearly five years while in their employ, and because hormone replacement therapy was breaking down my muscle mass, I thought it wise to leave before I ended up experiencing a permanent injury. Other opportunities within the company existed outside the state of Oklahoma, but I wasn’t willing to jeopardize my marriage for the sake of employment.
Life is not without a sense of irony. I’d began a job as a line-haul driver for another national company in mid-September 2019, and within 2 months I had decided to separate from my wife. Had I simply transferred out of state with AmeriGas, I would probably be in a better position than I am now. Likely not having to worry about being discriminated against because of my gender identity.
I had my reasons for opting to stay with a company that operated all over the country. Most national companies will not fragment their human resource policies to accommodate states that permit discrimination. Instead, those companies will set their Equal Employment Policies to conform with the most liberal of all state policies. This is consistent with the Equal Employment Policy I was made to sign when I was hired at my current company; that policy was authored for the State of California, and therefore it listed Gender Identity as a protected classification. Only after seeing this did I feel safe in my decision to switch companies, unfortunately some people don’t care about equal protections, and I am now being targeted within my current place of employment.
Lamentably, this employer has a union in place. While unions are supposed to be a good thing for blue-collar workers, I have come to realize over the years; and after previously having brought a union into another place of employment, that unions create more friction than is necessary, while creating a structure that completely disregards the value of new talent.
After just a few months, I had already taken issue with some petty and childish behaviour at the hands of my immediate supervisor; something the other driver’s warned me about; it took all of about four and a half months before things started to go really awry. I had been informed that a Hostler (see modern use) wanted to file a grievance against me for disconnecting my own truck and trailer. This would mean that someone would receive a sizeable compensation for the one minute of work that I performed in their favor. A pathetic position if ever there was one. Most coworkers appreciate another’s help; in a union, the rules can be exploited for egregious compensation. However, in this situation, the union simply gave me a warning, and let it go. But that was not to be the end of this.
Unlike many other line-haul companies, mine does not have a mandatory uniform policy. This means the drivers are free to dress as they feel comfortable. Naturally, when one is expected to be in a truck for long periods of time, taking consideration for the driver’s comfort makes good business sense.
Those who know me in person, know that I am very open about my gender identity; and yes I wear it on my shirt. This tends to be a position that seems to gather smiles and positive interactions over thousands of miles of work sanctioned travel — an experience not that dissimilar to the one I had when I traveled across the country whilst en route to and from my father’s funeral the year before.
Dressing like this was my norm after about the first three months on the job, but not more than a month after the the Hostler had tried to file a grievance, things took an ugly turn. My manager cowardly told me that another manager (that I didn’t know) needed to talk to me. I had applied for a supervisory position within the company, so while thinking this was related, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. When the manager arrived, I ended up in my manager’s office with them, my manager, and a union rep.
Think about that for a second; three cisgender heterosexual men, one being duplicitous in order to corral this Trans woman into an office where she’s the only female. I was subsequently told that a “Hostler” had taken issue with me wearing a shirt that stated “This is What Trans Looks Like”; their rationale for objecting to my shirt was that they deemed it a “political statement” even though it could in no way be considered a endorsement of a candidate or political party.
Now take a moment to think about that…
The company that had me sign off on an Equal Employment Policy that listed gender identity as a protected classification was telling me that I could no longer wear a shirt that reveals my gender identity. I had no qualms telling the managers they were discriminating against me, a fact they aptly denied. They did not attempt to make me sign anything; not that it would have mattered, I will not sign a declaration approving discrimination. That being said, they all seemed to have a smug expression on their faces as they effectively got away with denying my humanity.
The intriguing thing about this is that I was — once again — targeted by an unnamed Hostler; the timing of which is extremely suspect since I had a post on The Transition Transmission Facebook page that had recently gone viral; the content of which was a declaration of why I choose to openly identify myself as Transgender (by means of wardrobe). While I don’t deem the content of that post as political, I can imagine that by oppressing me, they feel they have limited my reach to other trans folks that I might happen to encounter in the course of my travels.
Unfortunately, now I can honestly say that I am in the throws of experiencing active discrimination in the workplace; one of the last — but all too familiar — experiences I had yet to experience as a Transgender individual.
I now know I will be looking for a new job this year. I have no problem adhering to a dress code — if one exists. But changing the rules to permit discrimination is pathetic, and I cannot stay with an outfit that disregards my basic humanity for the purpose of supporting the hate filled biases of their Transphobic employees.
As we have recently seen with large corporations rallying behind the Trans community that fell under attack by the Idaho State Legislature; these entities understand that promoting discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community can have negative consequences to not only their bottom line, but also their talent pool. That being said, it does not come as a surprise to me that my company is not listed on the HRC’s 2020 list of best places to work (their competitor UPS is). Further evidence that anyone in the community should avoid working for this same company.
What my company may not realize is that in the pursuit of their transphobia, they may have just thrown away an ideal opportunity to elevate their own PR position such that the HRC might have even recognized them. Prior to this ambush, I had been contacted by a production company (ComBerry Studios) seeking to shadow me for 3–4 days. They have a reality/documentary series which covers women in trucking. Aspects of this production were to focus on sexism in the industry, as well as how easily I have been able to transition within the field. As the corona virus spread, the ability to move forward with this production ceased, and at this time I cannot know if they will seek to move forward. But should that occur, my current company will most certainly not be involved; I cannot sugarcoat the way I have been they have chosen to dehumanize me, and they should not expect reward for such incredulity.
So what am I getting at? Perception of happiness is just that, perception; I’m struggling just as you all are.
I recently reconnected with a Transwoman who had cast me aside more than a year ago. Her reasoning was the perception that the suffering, rejection, and loss typically experienced by members of the community were matters I have not had to deal with. The reality is that those things did eventually befall me, and sooner or later we will all be faced with these challenges.
In the same regard, I can be just as bitter for taking an intolerant position regarding others within the community that do not appear to be dealing with the same struggles; people who seemingly have it easier.
I say to you now that we are not served by making assumptions about another’s quality of life based upon superficial forms of connection. It is never a just position to assume that we ever understand what another is going through. The brave face is something we all show because we don’t want others to be afraid of becoming themselves.
Going forward, you will see the smiles, but they will not hide my truth. We are all trying to make our way in a world that seems to believe that oppression is going to stem the growth of our community. While that’s our reality, I reject that as our fate. Addictions be damned, losses be damned, discrimination be damned; being true to myself has brought more connection with the world, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Kira Wertz (she/her) is a Transgender woman who openly identifies as pansexual and polyamorous. She is a top writer in LGBTQ for Medium, Editor of The Transition Transmission, and Professional Truck Driver. Kira is a strong advocate for Transgender rights, especially the rights of Transgender youth. She is a public speaker, a panelist, and can often be found helping her local Transgender community. You can connect with Kira on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.