A simple story about a boy

(10:00AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

(Please rec at dkos too)

Michael is nineteen years old. He lives in Tennessee, otherwise known as hell on Earth for transgender people. He goes to school in a relatively more liberal part of the state but things are still ridiculously hard on him. Add to that the fact that his parents don’t really accept or care about him the way he is.

His parents, if you can call them that, are your typical homophobic conservatives who are not adaptive to any sort of change whatsoever. He came out to them as a boy four years ago, and you’d think by now they’d gain some sort of understanding or at LEAST want to learn more about being transgender, but that’s not the case with those people. His dad recently told him, paraphrasing, he is a GIRL and his dad will never recognize him as a boy. Ever. In case you haven’t figured it out already, this is mind-numbingly stupid.

It doesn’t help that there are so many misconceptions about transgender people, but honestly, it doesn’t help that they won’t take the time to learn about it and rid themselves of their incorrect views on it. His parents seem to think that transgender and intersex are the same, and that he’s somehow trying to say that he has ambiguous genitalia or looks. He looks like a guy, because, you know, he IS, but they argue that he doesn’t and they also argue that if he does, it doesn’t matter because he’s not a boy. They argue that he’s been constantly indoctrinated and brainwashed by people and by “facts” he read on the internet. Michael is a really smart guy. Probably the most intelligent guy I’ve ever met, really. When he first realized something was off with his body, he started reading about it. He posted on transgender internet forums and met people who were the same, so he could learn about what’s making him feel that way. He signed up to Transgender Dating
sites to reassure himself that he wasn’t alone in this process, and in fact, there were people out in the world who loved him. This is a logical step for anyone. This isn’t some sort of secret plan to turn oneself into a boy. He wanted to understand and to be closer to people. He wanted to stop feeling so alone and scared.

He met people on the internet, and his parents eventually said they were part of the evil plan. They were pedophiles who were trying to make him into a boy because they thought it was hot. Or that Michael himself wanted to “fit in” with weird people so he chose to start trying to make himself weird.

My mom said that to me about my being gay. She said people were starting to be more accepting and it was some sort of new trend, so I decided to tell people I’m into guys. In south Alabama. In high school. Because if anywhere is safe to come out… it’s in Alabama. Or Tennessee. Really.

Michael accepted he’s a boy really quickly. I couldn’t accept being gay for so many years and he realized he’s a boy and said, okay, now where to go from here? I’m truly envious of that. I wasted so many years being scared and alone and hating myself. And he struggled, definitely, but he accepted it and has since moved on. He’s so well-adjusted it’s unreal.

His parents are mentally abusive. I’m not exaggerating. As I already mentioned, they refuse to accept he’s a guy. They just deny it repeatedly. They make excuses for why he’s wrong and why they know him better than he knows himself. Even though they’re denying reality. They won’t even research anything about what he’s going through because they think information is some sort of plot. Let me repeat that: my friend’s PARENTS refuse to accept or learn about what their kid is going through.

They make him dress like a girl when he’s at home. They won’t let him wear a binder over his torso. The binder makes him feel better mentally and physically. When he doesn’t wear it he gets sick. He shakes and gets nauseated and feels like crawling out of his skin.  But he’s not allowed to do that while at home. His parents introduce him to people as a girl. They refer to him as one and won’t use his name, Michael, even after he’s repeatedly told them that’s his name. If anyone calls their home and asks for Michael, they say no one by that name lives at that house. They’ve truly reached that level of delusion. It’s frightening.

They choose what he wears, down to almost every part of his clothing. They choose everything. And they don’t accept him. And then they yell at him, especially his dad. And his dad gets even more pissed off at him when he cries out of frustration. They just say and do whatever they want to him. And his dad says things like “if I told my parents I was a girl I wouldn’t be here anymore…” and other things. Like Michael asked me, what’s that supposed to mean? Are they saying “at least we don’t kill you”?

They refused to let him go to any of his choices for college, and he ended up being forced to go to a college that isn’t very trans-friendly, though not the worst. Just to say that in a different way, his parents care more about controlling him than they do his personal safety. They’d rather him try to accept being a girl than make sure he has the best possible life and the best possible environment when he’s away from home and they can’t protect him. Because they’re just so awesome I guess. What’s better than risking your child’s life in order to have control over him?

I could seriously go on for days about how much I loathe his parents and how horrible they’ve made him feel. They’ve made him consider hurting himself multiple times. They’ve made him go to sleep in tears. They’ve made him uncomfortable in his own skin for their benefit.

Michael finally left his home just a few days ago. I use the word home loosely. He couldn’t take anymore. He’s tried so hard. He’s done everything possible. He’s been so brave and tolerant and patient with his parents, beyond belief. He’s given them so much slack! And they just kept taking more and they won’t do anything to help him. So he’s gone from home. He’s safe and he has definite plans, but they no longer involve being stuck in that hell.

Recently, I’d been pushing him to write his parents a letter. To say, look, I’m a guy. Any discussion we have must start at that point. I’m a guy. No going back. He wrote this long letter listing his grievances against them. Explaining how hurt he is and how they’re making things worse. How they’re mentally abusive. How he expects change. He even mentioned that if things don’t change, he’ll be gone. Forever.

How did they respond? They said they’d write him a letter back. They… didn’t. Yeah. They also blamed everything he said in his letter on himself. It’s all his fault. They’re not doing anything wrong at all. And they love him and give him a place to live. So they have rules.

So he left. Goodbye fuckers.

He’s still dealing with all of those things. Now he’s reeling from the lack of love and fundamental respect from his parents. He’s lost and sort of alone, if not for me and some other friends of his. He’s brave and he’s doing well. He’s exceptionally strong and the sweetest guy in the entire world. He just wants to be happy and feel normal.

That’s all. Why is it so hard?

Then, comes the issue of getting a job.

Michael has wanted to get his own job for years so he can make his own money and so he could get out. So he could spend his money and not have to hear his parents argue that they do so much for him and he should bow to their rules.

So he needed a job. As a transgender person. In Tennessee.

There is no provision in Tennessee law that protects against discrimination for transgender people. It even specifically states in the FAQ of the discrimination portion of the state’s site that there’s no protection.

Tennessee is also a “right to work” state, which means you can be fired any time for any reason.

I’m a pretty politically-informed person. I’ve educated myself on a lot of issues. I’ve also been really trans-friendly for years. However, in the middle of helping Michael research information about getting a job, there were many questions I’d ever even thought of. I was surprised.

When do you have to disclose your gender?

How do you fill out the application for a job?

How do you change your gender on your official ID and forms?

Will you get in trouble for putting the “wrong” gender on your application?

What IS the “wrong” gender?

How do you make sure the gender you want to put is the gender that is considered correct?

How do you address discrimination against you or how do you address when your fellow employees refuse to call you by your name or acknowledge your gender?

Do you have to comply with “gender norms” at work?

If so, which norms?

For what gender?

What happens if you’re ambiguous?

There are these questions and many, many more. I’m really oversimplifying the issue. Getting a job as a transgender person in a liberal state is difficult enough, but in Tennessee, or Alabama, it’s unbelievable.

Then there are these things called “no match” letters, on Social Security. When you apply for a job and they do a background check, the SSA is contacted and if any of your information doesn’t match, your potential employee receives a letter.

This was meant to affect illegal immigrants but it hurts transgender people too.

You’re not really accepted until you have surgery. You’re different and you can be discriminated against.

And god help you if you have to come out to your potential boss immediately. If they’re a bigot, there’s no legal way to make sure they can’t take that into consideration.

So people like Michael have to just hope and pray that their boss is understanding. That their fellow employees are understanding. Otherwise he’d have to get a job as a girl, which would not only be unbelievably uncomfortable, but mentally and emotionally unacceptable for him or for anyone else who is dealing with these things. He couldn’t bind in public or cut his hair or be “ambiguous” at work. A job in itself is mentally and physically stressful. It’s tiresome.

And on top of that real people like Michael have to deal with these issues every single day.

What will happen to him at work? What can he do? Is he alone? Will anyone understand? Will anyone accept him? Will he be tormented or attacked or picked on? Will he be given less hours? Will he be given more scrutiny than others? Will he be unfairly denied promotions or raises because he’s transgender?

Can anyone in the world deal with all of these things for too long?

It’s mentally draining.

Just helping him research these things, I got frustrated. I threw things. I punched my pillow. I cried. CRIED. I’m not even personally going through any of this and I’m not attempting to sound like this is “my” issue, but I have a great amount of empathy and especially for someone as amazing as Michael. This is all so frustrating and convoluted. There is no help for any transgendered or GLBI person in a lot of states, when it comes to getting a job.

This should be so much easier.

People deserve BETTER than this.

So please, please call your congresspeople. Please write letters and email.

We need trans-inclusive ENDA to pass NOW.

It’s not acceptable anymore to just stand by and watch people getting hurt so much.


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  1. If I was Michael, I would leave. His chances or finding a sympathetic employer would accept and support him and actively shield him from harassment is minimal. Sorry to say that.

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