I am transgendered. I feel very uncomfortable about using that phrase as an opening gambit, for I do not feel that simple fact defines me as a person. It should not define me any more than my skin colour, whether I have a disability, eye, hair colour - or even what football team I support. It is just not that important to me, and I do not see why it should be to others either, as I happily live my life.
Sadly, since the very day I officially announced to the world of work, exactly a year ago, that I was changing my name and preferred gender, it became the very thing, the single feature upon which my capabilities are judged - or so it would seem.
I would suggest, members of the jury, that I have some fairly compelling evidence to back this statement up. A year ago, within two days of making a fairly bland announcement that I was changing my name, but that it was "business as usual", I lost my one source of work, a self- employed contract in financial services, a business that I had worked in for 30 years, many at a senior level. The "reason", given by email, because I never had a telephone conversation, let alone a meeting, was "that I was unsuitable to lead the project..." and, by implication, the subsequent new venture I was creating. Other than some knowledge i acquired that my revelation caused some degree of infantile sniggering, I heard nothing further. Had I been employed, I would have had the protection of the law, but I had no such protection.
Perhaps this says a lot about prevailing attitudes in financial services,; but having spent a year, and all my savings, searching for work and applying for literally hundreds of jobs, permanent, temporary and contracted, across many different sectors, I can only conclude that it is fairly endemic across the board. My only reward was a temporary Christmas retail job that turned into another six months of work. My latest rebuff was this week, from a major High Street chain, which declined me, post- interview, "...due to the calibre of applicants being so high...". Really? I am always quick, perhaps too quick, to point out my own shortcomings, but I fail to see that, as a person with the aforementioned senior experience plus, recent and highly relevant retail experience, could have been so far down the list. Could it possibly be due to my being transgendered?
There are shades of the recent Stephanie Hirst story in my summary dismissal last year, but sadly, I do not have the benefit of a large petition to support me. Neither do I want one. I am still the person who, for so many years, seemed to be accepted, lauded even, by my peers, for doing a good job, being good and witty company, and a respected colleague, manager and rugby team mate. Indeed, the removal of the terrible stain of Gender Dysphoria and its many years, hidden to family and colleagues, of the insidious erosion of self esteem and inability to reveal my true self, should make me an even better employment prospect. I am now fully focused on the road ahead, taking courses, writing and learning yet more new skills. Instead, it seems I have become a pariah. Only the love and support of my wife is saving me from complete financial meltdown.
It is not all gloom and doom, nor is it incessant introspection though, I am finally, to use a hackneyed phrase, comfortable in my own skin, and a well- respected charity has seen fit to appoint me one of its trustees; but, interesting and rewarding as it is, it does not pay any bills.
I do not want special treatment. I do not want campaigns or petitions; I want to provide for myself and try to leave a legacy for my children. Well reported cases would give the impression that society is dealing with its prejudices. Sadly, it would appear that I am prevented from doing so by prejudiced attitudes that still prevail - no matter how many high profile cases hit the media.