Anchorage ex-Marine faces Work Discrimination for being Transgender

Laura O'Lacy wrote the following letter to the Anchorage Assembly in support of a trans-inclusive ordinance, describing the harassment and discrimination she has faced as a transgender woman trying to get a job in her field of training.

[Editor's note: The original ordinance added both veterans status and sexual orientation, including gender identity, to the protected classes. On Friday, the Assembly released a new version of the ordinance that removes veterans, at the request of veterans' groups. Read an assessment of the current version by Equality Works.]

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I read a great "crypto quote" in the ADN this week: "There is enough pain and suffering in the world that there is no reason to be making more on purpose."

I am a United States Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam era. I have nearly 20 years of security experience, some of which is in Marine prisoner escort ("brig chaser") and private corrections. I hold an AAS and a BHS degree in Human Services from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. I am currently working on my masters degree in human services and have been trained as a psychiatric nursing assistant, proficient in crisis intervention and MANDT client de-escalation techniques. I also have an IQ of 129, donate time to the Anchorage community and have letters of appreciation from both Government Hill and Mountain View PTA's for my work as a "room mother" and for assisting with fundraising projects. I have no criminal history of any kind. In the early 1990's I interviewed at McLaughlin Youth Center and was told that with my Marine Corps and security experience I was the top candidate for the job, but that I need a bachelor's degree to be hired. I eventually went after the degree and at the same time corrected an issue in my life that had tormented me for decades - I corrected my gender.

Now, even though I am more skilled and better trained, I am deemed "unfit" to work in my field. Even though I served my Human Service practicum (internship) at McLaughlin. I have interviewed 25 times with no luck.

I did manage to get hired at API as a psych nursing assistant I with the head nurse being aware of my transgendered past. She told me, "You are a woman, leave it go at that." After the 3 week training course was over (in which I passed each test with a 93% or better) I was called to take a call from the state H.R. office. They said my SSN matched up with the name of someone who had worked for the state with another name. I explained about my court ordered name change and thought the issue was settled - until four days later I recieved a letter from director Ron Adler stating, "Ms. O'Lacy, your services as a Psychiatric Nursing Assistant 1 at API are no longer required" --- and nothing else! Try as I might, API -- all the way up to Ron Adler, does not give a reason for terminating probationary hires. I know my supervisors said they were pleased with my dedication and work, but co-worker friends have since called me and stated that one of the women in my training class - who I had even tutored to get her through the training - had been going to all the units and stirring up gossip about the "he/she" on the ward.

Leaving API, I went to Hope Community Resources. My supervisor was very supporive but several managers insisted they only wanted "genetic females" working in their group homes. Some co-workers would ask such questions as "Did you get 'it' cut off yet?" or "Are those your own boobs?!" They (or others) would then go to Human Resources and state I had "Made comments about [my] body that made them uncomfortable." I had not, but there is no way to prove a negative. I finally left, not because of the clients.

My skills from having experienced the world in two genders gives me the ability to nurture when it's needed -- and it's always needed -- and to stay steady in a crisis, even a violent situation when necessary. I have dealt with house fires, frightened teens and adults, and angry felons. I just use the gifts I have been given -- when I am allowed to work.

Currently, I cannot work in my field(s) of training: security, corrections, youth corrections, or mental health unit counselor/aid. As a result, the $100,000+ in student loans I took to get my degrees so I would be "employable" are beyond my ability to pay. I barely make enough for minimal expenses, let alone for basic health care like fixing my teeth. We won't even discuss anything "exotic" like the procedures it would take to make me look acceptable, not even beautiful. That number has too many zeros! As a cab driver [get 2 college degrees and belong to the wrong group and you too can drive a cab!] I take home between $1 to $100 dollars for a 12 hour day. No benefits, no retirement, no insurance.

Those who oppose this equal rights ordinance are stirring up fear and resentment and are using many of the same arguments their great grandparents used to keep black men out of the military -- and out of society in general -- and their parents used to prevent legalizing mixed-race marriages. Together we overcame that. Together we need to overcome this. Yes we can!

As for the "restroom scare" tactic that ABT is using, this is the first line of offense that all the anti-rights groups have fallen back on every time such an ordinance is produced. However: 1. There is currently no law regarding access to restrooms to keep men out (I personally know women who admit to using the Mens room at the Sullivan Arena during concerts... no lines for stalls), 2. "Sexual predators" are not about sex, but about hating women, and dressing as one would kill their ability to function, and 3. There has NEVER been a documented case of a transgendered person molesting anyone in a Ladies restroom.

Voltaire said, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!" I feel that it is time we grew up enough as a city to say, "I may disagree with how you live your life, but I will defend to the death your right to be who you are!"

I can provide you with citations for studies that show that being gay or transgendered is not a choice, but a function of prenatal brain development. But, since when did "choice" become an un-American activity??

Finally, the opposition says that connecting veterans with this ordinance is outrageous and wrong. I guess we need to remind them that many of us are veterans, who served to protect their rights! Now, protect ours please.

Thank you so much for your time!

Laura E. O'Lacy
USMC 74-78
AAS, BHS (current Masters student at Capella Univ.)

2 comments:

stefging said...

Excellent letter Laura. That should get through to anyone.

Most people are very unaware of what obstacles are placed in the way of transfolk, myself included.

stefging said...

I should have also mentioned that Laura has been involved in the GLSEN chapter for many years, including serving as security at Pride Proms.

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