Profile of a Mount Holyoke student, from's Communities in Common

30 Nov 2010 9:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Genesis | November 19, 2010

Genesis is an Astronomy student at Mount Holyoke College who is currently working with NASA. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, Genesis reflects upon
discrimination in the workplace and his ongoing struggle to receive appropriate identity documents.

I recall receiving my school ID card during orientation at Mount Holyoke College and considering how the image would not match my appearance after beginning hormone treatment. Over time, I had to renew my picture and a male presentation was a source of suspicion to anyone who knew that Mount Holyoke College was an all-women’s institution. Upon graduation I sought to prevent a similar problem with my state ID.

That summer I lived in Maine and was searching for a job. After being stopped repeatedly in airports because my ID stated the “wrong” gender marker (I did not look female any longer) I realized that I would need a new ID in order to gain employment. I researched the DMV gender marker laws and found that, as is common with many states, I needed a doctor's letter confirming that I was transgender in addition to proof of gender reassignment surgery (GRS). As a 19 year old transman, I had no plans to go through GRS. But, without identification it was almost impossible to find employment.

I eventually found a job with a supervisor that didn't seem to notice the gender marker mismatch. I breathed a sigh of relief, but I was wrong. For a grueling two months I was treated unfairly, spoken about inappropriately, and harassed based upon my gender identity. I never knew if I was treated this way because my supervisor disclosed my private information or because I didn't completely pass as male. Unfortunately, there were no state laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer individuals in the workplace at that time. Only recently did Maine pass anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ individuals. I quit and found a new work place.

I used an incorrectly marked state ID for years until Massachusetts changed its gender marker laws last fall. I immediately acquired state residency and a Massachusetts state ID with a gender marking of “M”. For the first time, my gender identity was correctly reflected on a legal document. It felt like coming out all over again and a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders. With a correctly marked ID, going through airports or making purchases with a credit card suddenly became so much easier. The stress of disclosing my transgender status, the fear of being denied service, and the possibility of being subjected to further security screenings disappeared. Next, however, I needed to acquire a United States passport.

At the time, American citizens were required to not only provide a doctor’s note and proof GRS but citizens were also required to legally change their name to a “clearly gendered name” in order to receive a proper gender marker on a passport. My legally given nameundefinedGenesisundefineddid not fit the criteria. I was mortified as traveling outside of the United States with an improperly marked passport could be dangerous in many places.

Fortunately, this past June the US Department of State announced that GRS was not a prerequisite for passport gender marker changes. I'm currently in the process of acquiring mypassport and will have two correct and valid forms of ID that are so often required for various official documents, applications, and traveling.

I'm currently taking a gap year working as an intern at NASA Ames in the Bay Area while still being active from a distance with the Coalition for Gender Awareness, Mount Holyoke's gender student organization. Next year I'm returning to finish off my senior year and graduate with a BA in Astronomy and a minor in Theatre Arts.

My experience has taught me the importance of LGBTQ activism at all levels. High School outreach clubs, University organizations, and community LGBTQ centers contribute to making change. Thousands of individuals must contribute their hard work to make LGBTQ rights a reality. Everything from public policy advocacy to increasing visibility and awareness makes a huge difference. On this Transgender Day or Remembrance, remember to stay strong and give a moment to remember those whose sacrifices have brought us to where we are today.

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