by Max Brantley
The day I got my driver's license with the gender marked "F" and my new legal name was one of the best days of my life. I was assigned male at birth, and my parents named me Steven. But I'd known for many years that I am a woman, and now I had the identification to prove it.
That year also included many of the hardest days. My parents, who belong to a conservative church, disowned me. My next-door neighbor hosed me in the face with a chemical poison. And I was fired from the job that I loved – all because I am transgender.
I'm an electrician, and I was working at H & H Electric, a contractor in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The day after I got my new driver's license, I told my boss that I am a transgender woman. He looked shocked. He told me that I was one of his best people and that he would hate to lose me. I was stunned that his first reaction was that he might have to fire me.
He didn't fire me right away, but he didn't let me come to work as a woman, either. He told me I couldn't discuss my transition with anyone at work or use my legal name, Patricia.
Even though I didn't say anything, people at work noticed that I was transitioning. My hair was growing out, and I'd started hormone therapy. Some of my co-workers were kind to me, but others were cruel. Twice, co-workers tried to sabotage my work. One of those instances could have caused an explosion that could hurt or even kill someone. Fortunately, I discovered it in time, and no one was hurt.
The more time passed, the more it became obvious that I am a woman. Eventually I felt brave enough to wear makeup and a blouse to work. I was on top of the world. I had a great job, and I was finally being myself. That week, my boss pulled me aside and said, "I'm sorry, Steve, you do great work, but you are too much of a distraction and I am going to have to let you go."
I am not a distraction. I am a woman, and I shouldn't be fired for being who I am.