Fair Workplace Project: More than 90 percent of transgender people report experiencing discrimination or harassment in the workplace. As a result, transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty. Many others choose to remain in the closet rather than risk their careers. To address the disparities, Basic Rights Oregon is re-launching its Fair Workplace Project, which was successful in creating safe and affirming workplaces for lesbian and gay employees during the 1990s and 2000s. This story is part of a series to better understand the experiences and challenges many transgender Oregonians face.
By Jennifer Firth
I began questioning my gender identity as a child growing up in Florida. I would occasionally wear something from my mother’s closet when I was alone, but I was terrified that my parents would find out and punish me — my mother was an abusive alcoholic and my father was a strict disciplinarian. Since I couldn’t discuss my feelings with my parents, I hid them. I never tried to commit suicide, but I often wanted to disappear.
Transgender issues simply weren’t discussed in the 1970s. There was no internet, no library books and no understanding of the subject. When Renée Richards came out as transgender, the ridicule and scorn she was subjected to deepened my fear of discovery.