So, hi, ducks.
I’ve been away a bit. Not completely away, I’ve written a thing or two here and there. But I haven’t written much of late.
I have an excuse, for what it’s worth.
The excuse is that I was depressed to the point of…well, of taking rather irrevocable action to solve my depression.
Now, that would be kind of hasty, I think. But I was down so far that I couldn’t really see up anymore.
The thing is, I got laid off at the end of March. The job sucked, so I didn’t miss it, but I sure as heck missed the money. Because coupled with my previous client’s habit of not paying my invoices until I screamed and turned blue, and then being out of work for two months, my savings were pretty thin. And I’d been using my paychecks from the last gig to reduce some of my debt, so that I could live cheaper than I do, in case this kind of thing happened again. Which is a great plan, but it blew up in my face when I got laid off after only ten weeks.
I don’t have to tell you it’s hard out there. It’s hard, even if your day job is a fairly skilled position, and in one of the few segments of the economy that’s making a come back. Even so, it’s hard out there. I would send out resumes and work the phones but only a trickle would come back. I had one or two interviews but no second interviews.
At some point I realized that I was between six and ten weeks from being bankrupt, and losing everything I’ve spent the last fifteen years building.
I have to stop myself there. What I am complaining about is still incredibly privileged. I’d lose my home, but I wouldn’t be homeless–my family can easily put me up, and a friend of mine would do the same. That’s one thing.
Another is…that I’m complaining about the fact that I just wouldn’t be able to live in my expensive (now–it wasn’t when I moved in) neighborhood in Manhattan. I mean, boo fucking hoo, yeah? That would only be something I’d share with all but 1.8 million people in the world. This is not a tragedy.
But all the same, it felt like one. This apartment has been my home for over eight years; it’s where I lived with someone for the first time, where I got my first pets as an adult, the place where I’d come home to a person I loved, the place where I decided to transition and the place where I made that happen. And the neighborhood feels the same to me; I’ve lived within three blocks of this apartment for the last fifteen years.
And too this is the only place I’ve ever wanted to live, and I’ve sacrificed (some) to get here.
And also…it was shocking how quickly it could all get swept away. Three months could do it. That seemed shocking.
There was other stuff too. Between the fall and the last two months, this is the longest I’ve been out of work as an adult. I’ve had a job of some kind since I was seventeen. I’ve always found a way to get some work in the door.
So all that, plus our threadbare economy, had me down. But there was some other stuff. And I think I need to talk about this, because it is a feminist issue, because it is something I can comment on maybe more than other people.
That was the two strikes (at least) I had against me: that I was a woman trying to get a job in technology, and that I was a trans woman trying to get a job in technology.
All that stuff you may have heard about how much harder it is for women just to look professional is true. A stupid example: getting an interview would cost me at least ten bucks, because I’d go and get my nails done, because I can’t put a sheer color on myself and have it look good, and because where I was looking for work, women at my professional level don’t wear colored nail polish.
Okay, that’s a privilege thing, and maybe just my own prejudices. But when you have big hands (and you worry about what people might conclude about that), you do your best to not draw attention to them either from lack of care or for flamboyance.
Anyway. I had other stupid image issues. I haven’t been able to afford a decent hair cut in a while now–and a bad haircut would be held against me far more than it would a man–so I had to either try to blow it out and go long, or pin it up and hope I didn’t look too masculine. I’ll talk more about that in a bit, but: this is an issue for every professional woman, and it’s one of the cruelest of the catch-22s of patriarchy. To wit: professionalism is defined by men’s dress codes. So they tend to make women look more masculine. But you can’t look too masculine! But you don’t want to look too feminine either! It’s the same dynamic as the pointless manicures: don’t get your nails done, and you look too butch and like you can’t be bothered to be professional. But have red nails and you might be too feminine. And so it goes.
These are of course my prejudices. People can and do make either end of the spectrum work. But it’s a much tougher, much more individual struggle than it is for most men. That you’re getting straight from the horse.
Of course the other part of butch vs femme, masculine vs feminine for me was worrying about being read as trans. If my hair is up, I don’t have to worry about it looking too bad, but will it make my face look too masculine? My pumps are my most neutral dress shoes, but do they make me too tall? Will my voice hold up for an entire interview? Will they know? Will they care? It doesn’t really matter that I live in a place where there are workplace protections for trans people. I’d never be able to prove anything.
I’m not really making that up, not that you would think I am. There was this study by Make the Road New York which is pretty depressing in just how blatant the discrimination is. And yeah, I know, it was retail, right CL? I mean customers public face corporate image! Surely it’s different in other jobs.
Surely you jest. You think if people aren’t comfortable buying jeans from a trans lady that having one be your CTO is going to make people more comfortable?
Or to put it more simply: everywhere I went I hoped they didn’t make me fill out a formal job application. Because then I’d have to give my social security number and Ghu knows what they’d be able to find out; sure, I fixed that and my driver’s license, but even with letters to my credit bureaus, that stuff just lasts forever.
This story has a happy ending. I finally found a small place where I was able to meet with the guys doing the hiring right away and I hit it off with them. And two days later they offered me a job that will pay my bills and even get me out of debt. Which again makes me one privileged cat, one lucky ducky: and I’m very thankful.
But for a long time there I was really scared. And you want to know what one of my signs that I’ve transitioned is? I no longer am confident I’ll always pull things out anymore, not like I used to be. And that’s part of the reality of being a woman and being trans in the world today.
So hey: where have I been in the meantime? Well, Below the Belt is on hiatus, but I’m now a blogger at Change.org! You can read the two pieces I have up so far–about a trans woman and the crappy treatment the DC police gave her, and more about our favorite douchebags, Roman Polanski and Bernard Henri-Lévi!
And over on Tiger Beatdown, where I am somehow now the Senior (non)Contributor, I have this trifle about “The Tudors.” Enjoy!