What if they clock me?
Her eyes open suddenly from a reoccurring dream that she’s been having every morning for a year now…running from something that is not easy for her to make out. She reaches up and turns off her phone alarm, her eyes take a moment to adjust to reality. Immediately her thoughts begin to race and lead her towards her daily routine of heavy and sad emotions; it’s like she’s falling slowly into a black hole. She’s jolted out from the downward spiral by the phone notification that pops up to remind her that she has a job interview today for a position she has been preparing for what seems like her whole life. A wave of anxiety and self-doubt now starts to pile itself on top of her heavy and sad emotions. The phone rings, as she grabs the phone to turn it off she realizes that an hour has gone by since her alarm awoke her. She takes a deep breath and with all her might she sits up from her bed and then she takes the amount of deep breaths that she feels it would take for her to get out of bed and into the restroom. Staring at her frightened face in the mirror she whispers to herself that everything is going to be ok; her thoughts tell her that she is a liar, but she repeats to herself out loud, “Fake it before you make it, fake it before you make it.” Pulling herself out from under the shower she ignores her self-hating thoughts and starts to get dressed for the interview that is scheduled in an hour from now.
Nearly half of all individuals who identify as transgender experience depression or some form of an anxiety disorder and 41% of transgender people are estimated to have attempted suicide. [Schreiber, K., https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201612/why-transgender-people-experience-more-mental-health]
She starts to review her resume on the train, the last time she worked as a CPA her name was William. As she moves on to look over the company website a notification pops up on her screen from one of her daily news sources which reads, “Supreme Court Will Hear Cases on LGBTQ Discrimination Protections for Employees.” She opens up the article and it discusses how the Supreme Court has accepted three cases that ask whether federal anti-discrimination laws should apply to sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. She feels a pit in her throat the size of a golf ball and slowly sinks into her seat; she looks around and feels as though the mere reading of this article outed her transgender identity, as though all of the other passengers on the train could now see her transgender identity and they would seriously consider hurting her. She feels herself starting to tremble and looks out the train window, the number 16 comes into her punching thoughts, for a moment she wonders why that number came up, then she realizes that it’s the number of transgender black women that have been murdered so far this year.
One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent, often coupled with physical assaults or abuse. The majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization [ 2016, June. Office for victims of crime, https://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/index.html]
She quickly puts on her sunglasses to cover the tears forming in her eyes, she starts to feel her anxiety attacking her with hurtful thoughts around her identity and “what if” statements filled with doubt and fear. Feeling her breathing getting heavy, she thinks to herself, what if they clock me the moment I sit down with the manager who’s scheduled to interview me, and tell me that the position has already been filled? She remembers reading an article about a transgender woman being fired because she came out and asked her boss of 6-years if it was ok for her to start wearing the clothing that matches her gender identity. She thinks, what’s the point of trying to create a good life for myself when it’s all eventually going to be pulled out from under me? Why do so many people that don’t even know me hate me so much? What did I do to them? I’m just minding my own business; I’m not trying to hurt anyone. Why can’t I be allowed to live my own life the way that makes me feel whole and complete?
Tears start to fall from under her sunglasses, then the train stops, and she notices a man running to catch the train. He leaps and makes it just as the train doors shut forcefully behind him. She notices that he’s in her train car, now he’s standing in front of her and she hears him ask her, “ Ma’am, is anyone sitting here?” He points to the seat next to her, she pauses, quickly wipes her tears and says softly, “No, no one is sitting here.” He smiles at her and sits down. He makes polite conversation and asks her what her stop is and she tells him. She looks out the window and notices that her stop has arrived, the one a block away from the interview. The train comes to a stop. She hesitates, her thoughts challenging her, convincing her to give up. She hears the train conductor give the last call for her stop; she grips the bar in front of her seat. “Isn’t this your stop, ma’am?” She hears the voice coming from the seat next to her. “You’re going to miss it ma’am.” She looks at man sitting next to her and says, “Oh yes, you’re right. Thank you.”
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 18.7 million LGBTQ people age 18 or older had a substance use disorder in the United States [healthline.com, https://www.healthline.com/health/why-is-substance-abuse-worse-in-lgbtq-community#2 ]
She can feel the wind from the train as it leaves the station as she walks towards the interview. Her legs tremble with each step, her anxiety hits her like waves on a shore, that feeling to run away comes rushing through her body; but then, there it is, the building that holds the job that she’s works so hard to prepare herself for. She takes a deep breath, closes her eyes and pulls the door open. She notices the building air feels cool upon her skin, she opens her eyes, “May I help you, ma’am?” The receptionist is asking her a question. She takes a deep breath and responds, “Yes.”
This is a fictional depiction of the life of a transgender woman looking for employment, but the issues are very real. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality:
More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourth have experienced some form of workplace discrimination. Refusal to hire, privacy violation, harassment, and even physical and sexual vioence on the job are common occurrences, and are experienced at even high rates by transgender people of color. Many people report changing jobs to avoid discrimination or the risk of discrimination. Extreme levels of unemployment and poverty lead one in eight to become involved in underground economies—such as sex and drug work—in order to survive.
Research has shown that LGBTQ+ people have higher rates of substance use and mental health concerns compared to heterosexuals. Research has also shown that LGBTQ+ people are most likely to seek out treatment for these issues. Having LGBTQ+ informed mental health, substance use programs, and anti-discrimination policies in the workplace can help to ensure that transgender women like the one depicted in this story can reach their full potential.
 [2019, National Center for Transgender Equality, https://transequality.org/issues/employment] [Schreiber, K. (2016, December 16) Why Transgender People Experience More Mental Health Issues, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201612/why-transgender-people-experience-more-mental-health]
 [2019, National Center for Transgender Equality, https://transequality.org/issues/employment]
[Schreiber, K. (2016, December 16) Why Transgender People Experience More Mental Health Issues, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201612/why-transgender-people-experience-more-mental-health]