Many transgender people are forced to choose between breaking the law or not surviving.

Coming out as transgender is tremendously difficult, even today. Transgender people are kicked out of homes and churches, abandoned by spouses and friends, and so many of us risk losing our jobs. Many of us are forced into a life of crime in order to survive.

I Am an Outlaw

Photo credit: darkday. via Visual Hunt / CC BY

When I came out in 1992, I was fired from the company I worked for. To make matters worse, I was at a loss on how to find a new job. How could I get employer references without revealing my old name and my trans status?

I managed to find another job and was repeatedly told for two days I was a good fit. And then my new employer discovered I was transgender after running a background check. I was immediately fired with no reason given other than that I was suddenly “not a good fit.”

Eventually, I was forced to take some jobs for some unscrupulous companies doing things that were basically illegal. The first was a company that basically asked employees to sell a variety of electronic goods out of the backs of their cars. In retrospect, I have no doubt these were stolen goods.

Next, I got a job working for a “placement” company that helped vending machine owners place their soda machines. Only I began to notice that frequently, these sales people were using fake names and the office was flooded with calls from irate machine owners who’d paid for service they never received.

When my paycheck bounced, I woke up to the realization that this, too, was a company doing illegal things. I eventually insisted on getting paid in cash or I’d report them to the FBI. I got paid.

No Good Options

Sex worker
Photo credit: alessandro isnotaurelio √ via VisualHunt / CC BY

I am not alone in this. While some trans people are able to transition on the job, so many of us do not have that luxury. Too often hardworking trans people are forced into less-than-legal work in order to survive.

For me, that meant working for companies doing illegal things. For others, it may mean sex work or dealing drugs or identity theft or even violent crime. I call it survival crime.

We don’t want to live this way. Most of us would rather be upstanding citizens making an honest wage. But systemic transphobia often leaves us little choice, especially in the middle of a transition. We are forced to choose between committing crimes or dying of hunger and exposure. Even homeless shelters turn us away.

Help a Girl Out

On the plus side (if there is a plus side), it inspires me to write LGBT crime fiction about people living in a world with no good options.

If this story touches you, consider supporting my work. Help a trans woman make an honest living by going to https://amazon.com/author/dharmakelleher and buying my books. If you already have, please leave a review and consider recommending them to your friends. Thanks!

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