Editors' note: Guest blogger Jessica Bussert is the mother of Betsie Gallardo, whose tragic story was featured in a series of posts earlier this year. Jessica lives with her wife, Sharon, in Indiana.
Dear Indiana employers, business decision-makers, state legislators, and fiscal conservatives:
As the former owner of a successful information technology consulting firm and a current healthcare professional, I'm well aware of the imperative to effectively utilize available resources if one wishes to prosper in the world of business. The old adage of "waste not, want not" was never more true than in these difficult economic times. That said, there are a huge number of Indiana decision-makers who are completely ignoring a valuable local resource.
I'm a 46-year-old, married mother of five. My first career of over 20 years culminated in managing the European consulting efforts for a Fortune 100 IT company. After returning to the United States, I began volunteering as a firefighter and an EMT while working toward my degree in nursing. I've managed business accounts worth tens of millions of dollars and advised some of the most powerful executives in the world. I'm an inventor, a clinical missionary, an artist, and a regular speaker on diversity issues. I've volunteered at Methodist Hospital's ER/trauma center, worked as the supervisor for a homeless shelter, and helped out at the local food bank. I've organized both global and local hunger relief efforts as part of my church's effort for social concerns. I've traveled around the world and visited over 30 countries.
I'm also transgender.
Since transitioning over six years ago I have been systematically denied employment at every opportunity. Because of my rather impressive resume I am regularly offered interviews in both information technology and nursing. Once the requisite background checks come back detailing my former name and gender, however, any interest in me quickly evaporates. It's as if my decades of experience and work history were all nullified once I started living authentically. It's also rather ironic that I went from earning about $150,000 a year (and paying taxes on the same) to now being near destitute, with bankruptcy and foreclosure imminent.
I suffer from a genetic disorder that originated at conception and led to a defect in the androgen receptors of my body and brain. Because of all this I was misidentified as male at birth, a fact that led me to no end of suffering as I grew up in rural, northern Indiana. After decades of trying to make sense of my medical situation, I finally found a specialist who was knowledgeable about my condition and recommended the only treatment available to people like me. Since that time I've undergone various surgical and drug therapies to correct the hormonal and physiological defects I was born with. For the first time in my life I feel at home in my own body. Suffice it to say that I didn't choose to be born this way any more than you chose to have a certain color hair or a particular body morphology. I often joke with people that if I did have a choice about my life, I sure wouldn't have chosen this one!
None of my journey has been easy, but at every step I've found ways to overcome the challenges placed before me. This spirit of perseverance doesn't earn me any brownie points with prospective employers, nor does the fact that I had been an exceptionally valuable employee all while I was tortured by my condition. Now that I'm finally unfettered and free to work without all my former emotional baggage, it seems that no one wants to give me the chance.
So, I would like to ask those of you in the business world to take a moment to reconsider your knee-jerk reactions when you come across a person with my medical history. We are strong, vibrant individuals who have overcome great personal obstacles and carry a huge wealth of personal and professional experience. I'd also like to ask those of you in the legislature and judiciary to think twice before you make or uphold laws that further impede our opportunity to fair employment. Each time you limit our access to employment, you reduce the tax base of our state and create more individuals who require social services to pay the bills and keep food on the table. The last year that I earned a salary, I paid over $47,000 in income tax. During the past five years I've paid nothing. Not a smart move, Indiana lawmakers.
I'd really like to ask any of you who know of an open-minded employer who needs a fantastic worker in either IT or nursing to write me, care of Bilerico, about the job. I need work, and I need it quickly. Or, alternatively, when you see that very attractive homeless woman holding the sign on the corner of Keystone and 82nd, please drop a twenty in my can. Ongoing hormone therapy is expensive.
PS: I have no objection whatsoever to relocating for work. Indiana's loss could be your gain!
Read All of Betsie Gallardo's story at The Bilerico Project:
Photo courtesy of Jessica Bussert