Struggles in the South

My failure to bring it up on a daily basis–although I do mention it regularly–may leave you thinking that being transgender in Mississippi isn’t really that bad. But it is.

For years, my property was vandalized when I lived in a small town about 40 minutes south of Memphis, Tennessee. It got to a point where I didn’t have a mailbox or a garbage can, because someone came through and regularly destroyed my mailbox and kicked over my can. One of my vehicles was spray painted so that “SATAN LOVER” was written over the windshield. Thankfully, that proved pretty ineffective. Of course, all of this was merely because I’m an atheist. But there’s more to it than that, naturally, because I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m an atheist, and it got around in the communities pretty well. For the first few years after I “came out” as an atheist, I received death threats regularly. Locally owned gas stations would refuse to serve me and told me to take my business elsewhere, while people standing behind me in line often made remarks about how they’d love to catch me in a back alley.

This is the same place where we have pastors regularly calling for the death of homosexuals, and one of the LGBT bars in Memphis recently had to hire additional security because people were being attacked as they went to the parking lot. A lot of people were put in the hospital, but no one was killed this time. And I live about five minutes from where a gay black teenager was kidnapped as he walked down the street, raped, tortured, and literally beaten to death. While Mississippi has also produced wonderfully accepting people like my friends, it has also produced some of the most hateful and bigoted people out there. The Westboro Baptist Church is pretty well-known through the United States, but only because their antics are calculated to garner media attention; many churches in this area do things very similar to what the Westboro Baptist Church does, though they do stop short of picketing gay funerals.

But I don’t milk this angle often because I’m not in any real danger myself. I’m simply not, and it’s for the same reason that people stopped vandalizing my vehicles and property: I’m respected enough that no one messes with me. It’s not because I’m tough or anything like that–it’s because they know that I do nothing arbitrarily.

I have a friend who is a pretty fundamentalist Christian. And I am a vocal atheist. We’ve disagreed quite a bit, but we always respected one another. And that’s the thing–I’ve earned their respect. A year or so ago, this guy reached out to me and asked for my help getting, onto our county’s ballot, a referendum that would put prayer back in schools. You read that sentence correctly.

We had a brief dialogue about what he meant, because I had to explain that prayers are completely allowed in public schools; the only thing is that the school administration and staff cannot call for prayer and cannot sanction prayer. There is nothing stopping a student from kneeling at his locker and saying a quick prayer. There is nothing stopping a football team from kneeling and saying a prayer; it is illegal for the coach to say “Everyone bow your heads,” but there is absolutely nothing illegal about the team’s captain saying, “Everyone bow your heads.” Students are totally free to pray, and See You at the Pole Rallies still happen. He was aware of this already, but he wanted to make it so that the school administration could lead prayers, and he asked me, a vocal atheist, to help him with this.

This obviously created a conflict for me. I don’t think that a government school should be endorsing a religion, and that’s what it would be to have administration-led prayers. But, at the same time, that’s not up for me to decide. I don’t have kids at that school, for one thing, so I have no skin in the game. For another, whether school-sanctioned prayer should be allowed in this county is for the people in this county to decide, not for me to decide. Refusing to help him–considering my knowledge of politics, government, and how the system works–would have been attempting to make that decision for everyone else. It’s not my place to do that. I could help him get the referendum on the ballot, and I could write articles in local papers arguing against the referendum, but it would have been wrong for me to refuse on the grounds that I didn’t think it should be done. There was a choice presented to the people of this county, and it was my democratic responsibility to help the people of this county make that choice; it was not my place to make it for them.

As it turned out, he didn’t have the drive to really achieve such a thing anyway, and it quickly fell to nothing. I’m glad for that, in many ways, because it would have passed with flying colors–we’re one of the few counties in the United States that continues to be a dry county, and we’re the only state in the country that kept the Confederate Flag as part of the state flag.

Minutes from my house.

Minutes from my house.

It’s easy to lose sight of just how badly this place sucks. It really is. A number of years ago, before I went to college… I guess I was 20 then… I was the manager at a nearby Pizza Hut. I took a week vacation, and when I came back, I immediately realized what terrible shape the store was in. Nothing had changed; it wasn’t like the assistant managers had failed in their duties. It was just that sort of thing that you can’t notice because you’re too close to it. And, to be fair, it wasn’t unclean or anything like that–it was that the seats needed to be upholstered again, the floors needed to be stripped and waxed, everything metal in the building needed rust cleaned off it… Things that you can’t really do on a daily or weekly basis; that was what needed to be done. And it’s really hard to notice that sort of thing when you see it everyday. When I stopped recently to take pics of the area for some friends in Michigan, I realized instantly how terrible this place really is.

Grove Street's got nothing on this, CJ.

Grove Street’s got nothing on this, CJ.

Look at that place. To my right, not pictured, is a bank that closed. Even our banks said “fuck it” and left.

Excuse me while I derail this entire post because someone just pissed me the hell off. It’s a colleague of mine–the one who sends about 95% of my work to me as a contractor, and he just expressed the sentiment to me that he’s been worried that I fell back to taking opiates, an addiction that I used to have, because he thinks I’m burning through money. This not only pissed me off beyond measure at the mere allegation, but it also deeply wounded me, because I daresay that there is no one who would do better than I at this income level. So let me fill you in.

For the first four months of last year, I was doing great. My company was doing great, and I was making good money; I had a wage of $50 per hour, but only about 1 in 4 hours were billable. As a result, I was making about $500 each week and was doing great. I paid $6500 cash for a vehicle and still had about $3000 in the bank. I wasn’t wealthy by any means, but I was making money and generating savings. Then I dropped everything and moved to Vegas. I’m not going to get into that right now, because, frankly, I can’t. I’m emotionally frayed enough without getting into that bullshit. But the short of it, the necessary part, is that it cost me about $1600 just to go there, stay for a few weeks, and return. On top of that, it nearly killed the $6500 vehicle that I had just purchased, but that was my fault for buying an experimental and untested thing.

So I returned to Mississippi believing that I had about $1400 remaining, which should have been fine. What I didn’t know is that my psuedo-accountant had made a tax payment of about $1,000. I had nowhere to go so spent about two weeks in hotel rooms, and that drained every penny that I had. I immediately began putting in job applications everywhere that I could–including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s… I didn’t care. It didn’t matter that I am a college graduate, entrepreneur, business manager… I just needed income. But, of course, places like McDonald’s wouldn’t hire me because I was way overqualified, and it was obvious that I was just needing a job ASAP, and that I would leave as soon as I found something better.

I lost all my clients when I told them that I was closing the company and moving to Las Vegas. And when I returned, only one client took me back as their I.T. vendor–the rest had already replaced me, or didn’t want to work with someone who would evidently just drop everything and move across the country. As you can see from the images, this is not the kind of place where I can just shrug off the loss of clients and find replacements–there simply aren’t that many potential businesses here. For a while, I had to move around. I stayed with a friend in Gulfport for long enough to put in dozens of job applications and realize that I wasn’t going to be hired there, either. I went to Nashville and stayed with a friend, and then repeated the process there. Still nothing. No one was fucking hiring me. No one was even calling me for an interview.

I had no choice but to return to Mississippi, where I lived out of my car without any money–and with my cats in the car with me–until a family member happened to stumble across me where I was parked one day. I had stressed to them that I was going to be homeless, but they didn’t seem to really take it seriously–but now that I was homeless, they weren’t going to turn blind eyes to it, and my sister let me stay with her. I busted my ass and finally got to the point with this colleague where I was making enough money to survive, but only barely, and then had the falling out with my sister and had to move again. So I did, moving into my own place since now I had just enough money to do it.

Through all of this, I never stopped putting in job applications. Through all of last year, I interviewed for one job in the area. One. No one else even called me back. And it is no exaggeration to say that I put in at least 300 applications. No one has fucking called. No one hires in this area. We have some casinos relatively nearby–about an hour away–and they’re pretty much the only sources of actual, gainful employment in the entire north half of the state. Just look at those images. Life here is a struggle. The entire reason that I opened my company in the first place was that I couldn’t find a job after I graduated college, and I graduated with the most marketable degree out there–technology. Certifications, a college degree, excellent employment history–and no one is even calling me back. Because that’s Mississippi.

Last month, I made $545. That’s every penny that I made last month, and it’s not from lack of effort. I’ve reached out to every business within 30 miles. I’ve applied to every job opening I’ve found. I’ve done odd jobs for people. I’ve done what I can to promote my writing and get some money flowing from that. I’ve literally done everything that a person can do. And, of course, the job matter is going to be even worse going forward, because I’m transgender and this is Mississippi, where there are no anti-discrimination laws to protect transgender people from being fired. So even if I could find a job, I wouldn’t be able to have it long. And that’s ultimately my choice in Mississippi: to either continue living this lie, or to not have a job.

But for me, it’s really a non-issue, because I can’t get a job anyway. It’s ridiculous. My resume is gorgeous. I was only in Vegas for like three weeks and got no less than six callbacks–they continued calling long after I’d returned to Mississippi. One of those was for a $55,000 year job that I was more than qualified for. There simply aren’t any jobs here that I’m not overqualified for.

I made $545 last month. My rent is $300 a month, and my cell phone bill is $130 a month. That left me with $115 to survive the entire month. That’s food, gasoline, cat food, kitty litter, razors, soap, garbage bags–you know. The stuff people need to survive. But I did it. And I started hormones. People can level a lot of allegations at me, but the accusation that I can’t fucking manage my money is a direct slap in the face. But to go beyond that and to be worried that I’m back on pain killers because I’m broke after I survived an entire month and paid all my bills on what amounts to $7000 a year… No, man, fuck that. I won’t stand for that allegation. You pay your shit with $545 is my message to him. Because of how everything worked out, I made just over $9,000 last year, about $7000 of which was earned from January to April.

The poverty line is $11,800. I’m more than $2000 under the poverty line, all my bills are getting paid, my cats are well taken care of, I bought another $2500 vehicle in December because that piece of shit I’d paid $6500 for twelve months prior was completely dead, and someone has the fucking audacity to say that I should have more money than I do based on what I’ve earned?

I opened my company because I couldn’t find a job and because I became infuriated that my life was in other people’s hands. I couldn’t make companies hire me, after all. This was immediately after I left college, but i had years of work history in the field as a senior technician and office manager. I’m fucking qualified–give me a job and let me work my way up; that’s what I do. I started with Cubed3 thanks to some user reviews I wrote for Gamefaqs in my spare time, and now I’m an editor there. Because that’s what I do. I start somewhere at the bottom and work my way up to the top–or as close to the top as I can get. I’ve done it at every job I’ve ever had. Even when I was 18 and still in high school, I was an assistant manager at Popeye’s, because I work hard and because I work smart. But there’s nothing I can do to get a company to hire me after the interview; that’s entirely beyond my control. And I don’t like things being beyond my control. So I opened my own company and blazed my own path to success–and was successful doing it. Hey, I dropped $6500 cash on something without blinking–I was doing good.

$6500 for something that I was forced to sell a year later for two hundred dollars.

When I say that the Vegas shit destroyed me, that’s why. And now I’ve successfully begun the recovery and rebuilding process, bought a better car, and have my own place again, despite barely making any fucking money. And while I will never deny that I was an idiot for risking the Vegas thing in the first place, no one in their right mind would have expected to be given less than a month to make shit work, and, really, six months would probably be the minimum any sane person would expect. I mean, the Vegas chick knew exactly what I’d done, exactly what I’d given up, and exactly the risk I was taking. I can’t blame her that I took the risk, but I wouldn’t have taken the risk if I’d known that what I had given up would mean fucking nothing to her, and that knowing what I’d done would not factor into her bullshit. Honestly, I didn’t give it much thought, but at the bare minimum I expected that I would have three months, which would have been more than enough time for me to have a stable job and be able to just get my own apartment there. What would you say is the bare minimum amount of time that you’d give a relationship in these circumstances? Did you say “two days?” No. No one in their right mind, no one with any amount of decency, compassion, or heart would say anything less than “a few months at least.”

If it had turned out that I was violent and abusive, that would have been another thing altogether. But no, I did nothing wrong; I was fucking perfect. It’s easy to be perfect when you’re only a few days into the relationship. I gave her space, I gave her attention; I did nothing wrong. So while there are plenty of things that would undoubtedly have warranted what she did, none of those apply. I didn’t have a secret drug or alcohol problem, I wasn’t secretly abusive or controlling, I clearly wasn’t a bum, I clearly wasn’t secretly a bad role model–I was exactly who I said I was, in fact. So none of that applies, and I say this only to clarify that, yes, some things would justify giving the relationship only a few days.

But yes, Vegas is at the root of my current situation.

Did I let that stop me? No. Am I using that as an excuse to be in a bad situation? Hell no. I’m doing everything that a person can to move forward. Do I still harbor anger? Goddamned right–this chick destroyed my life, and she knew it when she was doing it. And, to make matters worse, every indication since is that she did it intentionally.

Sigh.

I intended to write about what it’s actually like to be transgender in Mississippi, what it really means on a daily basis, how it actually affects someone’s life. But instead I had to deal with this bullshit allegation that just pissed me off, which made have to explain why the situation sucks so bad in the first place. Again, it’s not that I haven’t rebuilt–I clearly have, to some degree. But it’s hard as fuck to lose everything except your piece of shit vehicle, and then reconstruct a life. It’s hard, and it takes time. And it takes even longer in Mississippi, since no one fucking hires anyone.

I intended to write about how it’s proving ridiculously difficult to get my next month’s supply of hormones, and how I’m going to run out during this upcoming week because I’ve been trying for about 8 days to order them and I keep running into problems. First, my bank blocked the transaction and put restrictions on my account. Now, the Chinese pharmaceutical company can’t process the transaction because it’s still saying that my account is blocked, while my bank assures me that it isn’t. Between the two, I trust that my American bank knows what they’re talking about. I’ve been using this bank for years; I know them well. I trust them, as far as banks go. Another pharmacy I tried didn’t process the order for 19 hours, when I finally called them and they told me that they were waiting on a prescription. If I had a prescription, I would go the pharmacy a mile from where I live, people, not a pharmacy in India. Besides, their website has Estradiol as OTC, as most countries do. It’s non-narcotic–why is a prescription required?

Only in the United States could I walk into a store, buy a gun, buy bullets, and then fucking shoot myself, but can’t walk into a store and buy hormones. Don’t take that wrong–suicide isn’t on the table. I’m just making a point. If hormones are restricted to prescription only because some fuckwad might start taking them and then sue someone because he grew breasts and the government has to protect us from ourselves, then why in the fuck can I buy a gun? I fully support the second amendment, but I fully support my right to do what I want to my body, too. And I’m not interested in taking the American doctor route, because fuck that. First, I’d have to see a general practitioner, who would be required to send me six months of therapy. Only at the end of that six months would the therapist be able to say “yes” or “no” about me starting hormone therapy, and then all the therapist could do is send me to an endocrinologist, who, after a lot of expensive tests and shit, would finally start me on hormones. I don’t have the money or time for that, and no one has the right to stand in my way in the first place. Society doesn’t have the right to tell me that I have to see a therapist for six months, and society damned sure doesn’t have the right to let a therapist tell me “no.”

I control my life, not the government, not a therapist, not an endocrinologist, and not society.

My sister went to a doctor yesterday, and I gave her one of the empty packages and asked her to get her doctor to “write her a refill” for these hormones that “minimize the recurrence of cysts” for her. She didn’t do it. She told me last night, though, that she was going back to a doctor today, and that she would do it then. She still didn’t do it. Honestly, because of her stance on things, it was always a longshot, but when she voluntarily told me that she was going to another doctor, I thought maybe she was being more open-minded. And she had agreed to do it, and then didn’t. Plus, she doesn’t know what these are for, or what they do. She knows it’s hormones, but that is all she knows. And I finally got her to call the doctor and tell them she forgot to ask, and she says she did it and is waiting on them to call back, but… I doubt it. And even if she does miraculously come through for me, what next? The pharmacy I’ve been using suddenly can’t process my payments, and I haven’t found a replacement pharmacy that won’t require a prescription. My life is fucking hard enough without the government standing in my way.

4 thoughts on “Struggles in the South

  1. I don’t think you derailed the post too much with dealing with the allegation. I think it is good to read about that and the rest of what you said in the post. It gives me a better idea of what you are going through. I have to admire your strength to keep going with the setbacks and the situation in general.

    As compared to that person who made the allegation. From what you wrote about what happen it seem the person saw what was going on with your money and made that assumption because it fit the facts for them. Never once thought that there might be other reasons for you burning through your money besides pain killers.

    Which is something I really hate. Not only dealing with the allegation, but sometimes playing damage control. When the person makes the allegation and tells other people which then affects my relationship with those people. All because someone assume they knew the explanation because it fit the facts for them.

    In one of your posts you made mention of what you might write that would appeal to other people. I don’t know about other people, but I know for myself that posts like this one and others like it appeal to me. They give me insight and a better understanding of you as a person and what you struggle with just being you. That is what I really what to know.

    • I’m glad it didn’t derail it too much. You’re right, that I shouldn’t have been so angry that he did postulate that, because he knew I did once have an addiction to them. It still hit hard as a confidence issue, since that was 4 years ago and I’ve actually taken opiates since for legitimate reasons and didn’t have an issue.

      It’s definitely a complex issue for me, what to write, because I view art, any art, as something that should be beyond petty concerns like money. That’s why I love the idea of Patreon. With that, I can write whatever I want and share it with everyone, and then those people who want to pay for it can do so. I don’t want money to motivate what I create, or alter it in some way to be more palatable.

      I’ve written a gargantuan novel that simply isn’t going to work as a debut novel. I can split it into three parts and damage the cohesion, hoping to get it published that way, or I can hold onto it until I have the credibility for a publisher to take it. So I’ve gone with the latter and switched my focus from another fantasy novel to Dancing in Hellfire. The need to be successful has changed what I’ve written, but only by rearranging the priorities. I’ve always wanted to write about my experiences, but knowing that it’s more likely to be successful than something else gave it a higher priority.

      I’m glad you like these. It seems “That Place” was, by far, the most popular thing I’ve written, but I don’t really understand why. It was more or less just a description of despair. :/

        • I would still get angry because the person did jump to a conclusion with the allegation instead of discussing it with you first to see what was really going on. I have things myself that I am sensitive about and sometimes I react badly because of I am sensitive. I shouldn’t play it down, but realize I am sensitive about it and keep that in mind when I do react.

          I agree that art shouldn’t be about money. It can be the means to get some, but shouldn’t be the reason to do it. Do art because you want to be creative and express how you feel that way it reflects you not greed.

          At the same time don’t try to hard to figure out what appeals to people. Readers are a strange group indeed. What I think would be appealing ends up being a dude. What I think is a dude or not all that exciting, there is people flocking to read it now. Go figure. Sometimes the author just has to go with flow and not question it. Otherwise they will be pulling their hair out in the process.

          I have seen some people in blogs and other art worry so much about the appeal that they turn off the readers that way. They become predictable because they think find out what is appealing and that is all they do. Nothing worse at least for me to see an author do the same thing over and over again for whatever reason. I like creativity and being surprised. To be drawn into a post or story because I don’t know where its going and want to find out.

          That is something I can understand about rearranging priorities. It is like first impressions. You want your debut novel to be something that appeals to people so in the future when you write other things they will already be attracted to reading it because of that.

          That is funny you bringing up using ‘issue’ too much. I never noticed until you said something πŸ˜› Ok I will hold you to that promise now because I am focused on that word now πŸ˜› LOL

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