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Why the no-child-left-behind law—doesn’t apply to transgender children

In July 2008, I received a phone call from a transgender escort, (whom I didn’t know), a few days after an article ‘Cops Take Aim at Brighton Brothels: seek to shut down online sex rings’ by Jessica Van Sack, appeared in the Boston Herald. The article, a page-and-a-half long, focused, (unfairly), only on transgender prostitutes; including revealing some of the names of the transgender escorts who were arrested and my caller was one of them. Irritated, she grumbled to me—“there are nearly a thousand female escort ads posted each day on the Craigslist’s Boston Erotic section which never seems to reduce, but only 10-15 transgender ads are watched closely by the police.” Further, the article quoted police: ‘ the trend in transsexual prostitution is an emerging phenomenon.’ With sympathy, I inquired of my caller as to where she was going to live—all apartment leases require a background check; also she had no job history to provide; to fill out a lease application was a common problem for escorts; worse still, she had a criminal record. Isn’t it ironic—the transgender minority had just caused a major public problem? It is very difficult for non-trans-gendered people to understand the host of problems transgender individuals face everyday in today’s society.

While living in Thailand during my high school years, a teenage friend of mine was caught possessing women’s makeup by her parents: they found a woman’s powder compact hidden in her school bag. Her parents had suspected that she was attempting to live as a transgender. Her mother pulled her into the bathroom, and locked the door. With anger, she used a toilet brush to slap her face with, until she was bleeding from her nose; then used a small scissors to cut off her long, curved eyelashes. My friend told me that, even today, psychologically some nights she still has nightmares that her mother tried to kill her. Another friend said—she hadn’t spoken to her father for over ten years; after she revealed her transgender lifestyle, even though they were living in the same house. When my friend really needed to speak to her father, they spoke through her mother.

In America, abandoning a child is illegal. However, in cases concerning transgender children, it is opposite. The family conflicts brought on by the transgender lifestyle of the child, and the sarcastic comments uttered everyday by their parents, has lead many teenage transgenders to runaway from home and live alone—so the parents of transgender teens avoid legal abandonment problems. Few, if any, parents report their trans-gender child as missing. Most disown any child who lives as a transgender.

A friend of mine, from Laos, came to America during the Vietnam War era, when she was very young. She never graduated from high school as she expected to. “My classmates often laughed and teased me; they liked to pull my hair everyday, I didn’t enjoy going to school,” she said.

In the case of trans-genders teens, the no-child-left-behind law doesn’t apply. Parents ignore their children’s problems—they believe that their child’s transgender lifestyle itself causes all the problems; so the way to solve the problems is to simply keep their secret life as a trans-gender in the closet. Moreover, if some problems happen in public places such as in school, concerned over their child’s gender issues, parents are embarrassed to come forward and fight on behalf of their children.

Leading a single life, alone at a young age, is very difficult; especially when trans-gender teens have received inadequate formal education. For most Americans, finding jobs during difficult economic times is hard; but for trans-genders, jobs are extremely hard to find, even when the economy is doing well. Moreover, in American society, sexual genders are strictly divided: nightclubs, movie theaters, place to hang out, and even many residential areas are divided into gay or heterosexual areas. Once two gay men who were moving from Connecticut into a new apartment in Brighton, MA asked me, (when they realized I was a transgender who had lived in the neighborhood for a long time)—‘are gay people welcome in this area?’ These divisions in our society maintain each gender apart; resulting in very few straight people who are familiar with or work together with other genders. Gay men have no problem hiding their gay gender when necessary, but trans-genders face the greatest problems when their lifestyle activities, (cross-dressing), obviously reveals their true gender through their appearances. Many employers skirt gender discrimination laws, refusing to hire trans-genders, especially for management positions, by making false claims as to why the trans-gender is not hired. Today, gender discrimination in employment is common; it is practiced everyday in our society.

Gender transformation is expensive. Most people believe that when a teenage girl asks her parents for breast implants after high school graduation that it is luxurious spending and completely unnecessary. However, for trans-gender women, plastic surgery is a necessary part of their transformation. Imagine—a person whose appearance is half man/half woman, walking down the street; s/he would attract public attention in a way that would cause great embarrassment to her. Moreover, when using public restrooms, surely s/he can’t just walk into a men’s restroom but is she passable enough to simply walk into a women’s restroom? That is what she is thinking while deciding where to pee. Plastic surgery is not an extravagance for those deciding to live as a transgender; but rather, a necessity to help them ease their way into society. So, investing $8,000 for breast implants, $200/week for female hormones, and even more for hair products, makeup, and women’s clothing greatly increase teen trans-gender’s living expenses. This compels them to find ways to earn transformation sustaining incomes; even though their education and job opportunities are not sufficient.

Trans-gender love life: normally people find love within their same gender in society: straight men with straight women, gay men with gay men, lesbians with lesbians, but this is not true of trans-genders. Transgender women are considered a part of LGBT, but many date straight men—discreetly. However, love and sex across gender lines is taboo; straight men always hide their relationship with trans-genders from the public, citing that their friends and family won’t accept this type of relationship. Once, a straight man who regularly hired transgender escorts for discreet sex revealed sadly to me one day—“my parents want me to marry (a woman) but I like trans-genders better.” Another married man said—“I never knew anything about trans-genders before my marriage, until I traveled to Europe and encountered some. I knew ever since that I was attracted to trans-genders, they are why I think everyday about getting a divorce—but because I have kids, divorce is a problem. However, that’s okay—if my life can’t make a U-turn, I prefer to continue hiring trans-genders for discreet sex.”

In the past, there were only a few straight men who had sexual experience with trans-genders; today their numbers have grown exponentially. Straight men (single, married & divorced), now understand and appreciate the transgender lifestyle, but they still prefer not to discuss this touchy subject publicly. Why do men have to hire women for sex, when they can publicly date and marry them? However, in the case of straight men who hire transgender escorts, their paying and keeping their liaisons secret is the norm.

Does the no-child-left-behind law include or exclude transgender children? The conflict created by the trans-gender teen lifestyle within their family and at school still exists today. All the problems that occur within a trans-gender’s lifestyle create a domino-like effect; pushing them further down the ladder of life, until they reach the bottom rung, ending up in prostitution; this might be their last choice in life to help themselves survive economically, especially during these bad economic times. Life must go on—no matter what fate awaits them—especially when society doesn’t seriously fight for the trans-gender minority.

Dear Rainbow Times,

Thank you for Half-Lady Lisa's article on transgender children (May 6th edition). Too often the lives of transgender people are ignored or appear in the media only in sensationalized accounts such as the Boston Herald article Lisa mentioned. I applaud The Rainbow Times for its coverage of the transgender community -- particularly articles such as this which provide personal insight into the experiences and problems affecting transgender children and young adults in our community.

Thanks again, and I hope we will hear more from Half-Lady Lisa.

--Marc Kirby, Boston, MA

© 2011, by ½ Lady Lisa. All Rights Reserved.