About this time last year, I was celebrating Christmas with my parents, just outside Boston, in the home I grew up in. Most of my large family, which includes 6 brothers and sisters, 17 nieces and nephews, and numerous cousins, filled each room. We were making merry on a snowy winter’s night and it was so magical I nearly forgot I was an unemployed transgender woman. Until the previous June, I was a devoted high school teacher and track and field coach for 18 years.
That night, my brother and I talked about what kind of job would be best for me, if teaching was now off the table. Trust me, leaving education was not my decision, it was my dream job. But the reality of being a trans public school teacher in Maine, I guess just wasn’t to be for now. I had been volunteering with a trans support organization and with the marriage equality campaign while I was unemployed, and gained great satisfaction from the work I was doing. My brother suggested, if there isn’t a job for you, create your own job. I knew right then what I needed to do, work on outreach for LGBT individuals, especially trans folks across my large and mostly rural state. While it was a great idea, I didn’t know how to make that a reality, so I continued to volunteer for another year.
Last week, after 19 months, hundreds of applications, and interviews in California, Washington D.C. New Jersey, Vermont and Oregon, I was offered, and accepted a new job as program coordinator for a state-wide equality organization here in Maine. And get this, my primary task will be working on rural outreach and community building across the vast and beautiful Pine Tree state. How about that? There is a slight problem; I’m not ecstatic like I should be. I’ve been unemployed for nearly 2 years, and I know I should feel grateful and excited to finally be working, and getting paid, but I don’t. And it’s not because the job is lame or anything like that, it’s a pretty badass position and seems like it was made for me, but it's also a little terrifying. Picture little ole me, an out trans woman, traveling by herself through the backwoods to the far reaches of Maine, visiting small towns to help build support for other LGBT folks. Heck I still get nervous shopping at the Target in Portland. And maybe I’m still a little sore from how my dream career as a teacher was taken away. I guess I need to learn how to be appreciative of what I do have and move on.
Last week I had two board meetings for local nonprofits, and while I was eager to share the news of my job with colleagues, it wasn’t the first thing that I wanted to announce to each group. This is what I shared instead. Last Saturday, as our first big snow storm was about to hit, I was home, writing Christmas cards to a few friends as well as a special one to an inmate in California, whose trans like me, but has to hide her identity because she’s in a male prison. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her in such a place, and I was struggling with what to say in my note. I ended up writing about the weather, of course, and what it’s been like for me since I’ve started to transition, especially my relationship with my family.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. While I was a little disheveled, I made my way to the door and saw a man standing on the front steps. He wasn’t wearing the typical UPS or FedEx uniform, but I opened the door anyway and hesitantly said, “Hi, how can I help you?” “Are you Gia?” “Ya, I’m Gia.” “Well, I’ve got a plant for you. I didn’t want to leave on the steps if you weren’t here, it’s too cold.” We walked over to his Toyota Camry parked in driveway and waiting in his backseat were several bright red and green plants. He opened the rear door and handed me one. “Here you go, give it a little water, this weather really dries them out quickly.” “Thanks so much…who’s it … from… oh,…Merry Christmas” I stuttered as I stumbled back towards the open front door.
As I was walked, I impatiently reached for the card and tore it open. It was indeed for me, I suppose I needed to see proof. For years, my dad has been sending his daughters poinsettias for Christmas. So yes, I got a job, but the good news is, I got a poinsettia this year.