Dear Catelyn: The Woman Who Opened My Eyes to Transgender Inequality

Dear Catelyn: The Woman Who Opened My Eyes to Transgender Inequality

Dedicated to The Woman Who Opened My Eyes

 

When I Met Catelyn •

I was part of the hiring team for a popular clothing store in Los Angeles years ago (pre-husband, pre-kids).

One of the applicants was a woman named Catelyn.

  • She was in her early twenties.
  • She was black.
  • She was also transgender.

 

She was transgender.

Though she was very in shape, nearly 6’3’’ a slim waist and broad muscular shoulders, her posture made clear that she felt insecure. Uncomfortable in her own skin as she felt our eyes sizing up her “situation.”

She tugged on her clothes trying to cover up…just like I would do when I felt probing eyes gawking at me. And I saw the hurt in her eyes. She felt our eyes drift away quickly like we were ashamed too.

 

“I know I am a risk.”

She talked about how many interviews she had done. Countless.

“I know I am a risk,” Catelyn said, “but I promise you I’m a good worker. I just need the chance to show you.”

 

To me, it was so clear rejection was part of her existence. And her desperation was obvious. She was begging for a job that paid minimum wage! I was heartbroken.

 

Recognizing my privilege

I remember thinking, I get every job I ever apply for. I’ve never had to worry about how I look because I am what society wants to see. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to be her.

 

“We need to hire her.”

I’ll tell you this: I did not want to be another person rejecting her.

After she left, I turned to my colleagues and fought for her.

“We need to hire her!” I said immediately.

 

“She’s smart, she’s eager,” I plead, “And c’mon guys, this woman needs someone to give her a break. What if this job could make a difference in her life? She just needs us to take a chance on her.”

Surprisingly, the team agreed. We extended the offer and got her on the schedule the very next week.

Black transgender people belong.

I wish that had been enough to change Catelyn’s life, but it wasn’t. People are hateful. Racism is a present day problem. Transphobia is a violent threat to safety.

//  view on instagram 📷 @aclu_nationwide  //

Her First Day on the Job •

You know that awkward feeling on the first day of any new job? Well I will never forget her first day of work…

Dress code violation

Catelyn arrived wearing a shirt that fit her for the most part. But since she was so tall, it exposed her midsection. That was against dress code policy.

My boss tried to handle it kindly, he came up to Catelyn on the sales floor and asked her to go to cover up. She nodded and walked back into the stockroom. But she didn’t come back out.

 

Behind-the-scenes desperation

A long while passed. I grew concerned so I went back to check on her.

What I Found: A woman in tears, frantically, desperately pulling her shirt down to cover her long torso. She was hysterical and it totally caught me off guard.

 

“I can’t lose this job.”

“Hey, calm down, calm down,” I said, “what is going on?”

“I can’t lose this job and I don’t have any clothes that can cover my body!” Catelyn cried.

 

Catelyn sobbed and her voice sounded totally defeated and alone.

I grabbed her hands and squeezed tightly. “We can figure this out.”

 

She doesn’t want to wear men’s clothes because she’s a woman.

I quickly searched the stockroom for tops that could work. There was nothing on the women’s side that could fit her.

I had to go with Plan B. I knew she wasn’t going to like it. But I was out of options. I grabbed the smallest men’s tank I could find so that it would fit her snuggly and came back to her.

 

“You are not going to lose this job.”

“Just put this on under your shirt. That should be long enough,” I said. Then I looked her dead in the eyes,

“You are not gonna lose this job.”

 

She headed to the bathroom to change, but came back concerned, “I don’t have any money to buy this.”

“I’ll buy it,” I said, “Don’t worry about this anymore today.”

 

I meant what I said.

I was not going to let this woman fail. Not if I could help it.

 

There is no excuse. We must do better.

This is just one of many ways that our society alienates transgender people. The world is not setup to show acceptance. And that became abundantly clear as I worked as an ally with Catelyn day-to-day….

//  view on instagram 📷 @nastybrowngirl  //

;

The Daily Struggle Working Alongside Catelyn •

Employing her wasn’t easy.

 

Our Daily Dose of Aggressive Hate

Everyday was filled with hateful comments and horrible statements:

  • “What’s that thing doing in here?”
  • “I don’t want THAT helping me.”
  • “Look! He thinks he’s a girl!”

 

Being an ally to Catelyn exposed me to a side of humanity that shook me to my core. It was hard on me in so many ways.

 

The customer was not always right.

My days became a never-ending stream of:

  • Shouting matches with customers
  • Kicking angry customers out
  • Getting called in to “the office” as the complaints flowed in
  • Her tears flowed regularly

 

“Put her in the back.”

After one-too-many grievances from customers, the district manager called me in.

“This can’t go on,” she put it out there, “Catelyn needs to work only in the back.”

“NO. Absolutely not,” I said without any hesitation.

“We are not ashamed of her. We are not going to hide her from view.”

 

Winning the standoff…”She’s your problem now.”

I would not relent so the DM’s solution was to “make it my problem.”

Effective immediately, Catelyn was only to be scheduled on days when I was working.

“Fine by me.”

Love wins.

I will always be an ally to those less fortunate. This was hard. And I had no idea at that time that what I was experiencing would get worse.

//  view on instagram 📷 @genderqueer.positivity  //

I Don’t Know Where You Are •

Catelyn worked for me for less than a month. But I will never forget what happened before I never saw her again 😔

 

No call, no show #frustrated

One day, she was late. Like super late. The store was packed and the team needed help. And Catelyn was not there.

I called. No answer. No response.

I called again. Straight to voicemail.

Now I’m pissed.

 

Angry and over it #howcouldshe

I was resigning to the fact that Catelyn was going to be just another “no call, no show.” But I was so wrong on so many levels.

Quick context note: You should know, no-shows are super common in retail. It’s a pretty unreliable business as far as sustaining great staff. The workers aren’t paid well and tend to be pretty young.

 

“Where have you been?!?”

Two hours after her shift was supposed to start, Catelyn walks through the door.

“Where have you been?!?”

I couldn’t keep my frustration at bay and yelled to her from the cash register in front of the store, “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for hours!”

“I’m sorry,” Catelyn said in a calm voice, “I was jumped at the bus stop and they took my phone.” 😨

 

Jumped at a bus stop and still came in to work.

My heart dropped. I looked at her face. It was covered in cuts and bruises.

This time I cried.

I had no words.

 

“This is just my life.”

“It’s alright,” Catelyn said.

This time is was her holding my hands tight as I sobbed.

“This is just my life. This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.”

 

I will never forget how SHE comforted ME.

 

Without any explanation, she was gone forever.

Not long after that, Catelyn stopped coming to work. No call. No show.

And to this day, I don’t know why.

But I know I will never forget her.

I will never forget how much I learned from her.

I wouldn’t be who I am without her.

To The Brave Woman Who Opened My Eyes to Transgender Inequality •

 

Dear Catelyn,

 

I still think about you.

I’m still fighting for you.

Take up space in this world.

You belong. YOU BELONG.

 

Love, Sarah

Trans rights are human rights.

This is one of many experiences I’ve had that showed me that violent racism and hate crimes against sexual minorities is alive and well in America. Anyone that says otherwise is lying.

As a society, we must do better #transrightsarehumanrights

As communities, we must stand together #lgbtqcommunity

As individuals, we must educate ourselves and spread acceptance daily #lovewins

//  view on instagram 🎈 @blcksmth  //

Explore Blue Mom Red State •

Explore http://www.BlueMomRedState.org to how I found my voice as a democrat in a republican, patriarchal state //

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