Thursday, June 10, 2021

My Story 169 – Off To College

I was getting ready to retire and transitions in a couple of years at the ripe old age of 59 ½. In September 2006 with only a couple of years to retirement work threw a monkey wrench in to everything. 

They called an “All hands meeting” in the cafeteria and dropped a bombshell on us, we were just bought out by Toshiba and they decided that they didn’t want a manufacturing plant, that they will contract out the work.

Well it wouldn’t be so bad for me because I was planning on retiring in two years, but the others who were not near retirement age were a different story. Then they started going into the details of the layoff…
  •     Two weeks severance for every year that you worked there… 27 years time 2 equals 54 weeks! Whoa, I get paid for over a year not to work, I also had six months of vacation in the bank! A year and a half of pay; yeah I could live with that.
  •     They also said that they would give us tuition reimbursement for any accredited school… neat (Sadly out of 64 employees I was the only one to take advantage  of the offer.).
  •     We also would be getting COBRA.
Not bad, not bad at all.

I was grinning like the cat that ate the parakeet, they had hired a social worker to be there when they made the announcement. She saw me grinning and she sat down next to me saying something like about waiting for it to sink in and that it can become stressful being laid off. I told her that I was planning on retiring in a couple of years, she said now I see why you’re grinning… you don’t need me and waved me off.

When I decided to retire at 59 ½, I stated asking friends what I should do in retirement. I went out to dinner with Jerimarie and her wife before a meeting one night and I asked that question and they both without a second hesitation said become a social worker. I asked others the same question (little did I know that they were all social workers) and the answer back each time… Become a social worker. And I answered the same way to each of them, I am not a people person, I could never hear other people problems, I would get too emotionally evolved with them.

But then Amy from Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWELF) said that she was a community organizer. Hmm… I never knew that I always thought of social workers as therapists or working for DCF.

When the company made “The announcement” serendipity struck, I remembered a flier that came to the Connecticut Outreach Society’s mail box a week before and dug it out of the trashcan. It was from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work! The flier was for graduate social work courses as a non-matriculated student. Hmm…

The next day I marched down to HR and said that I wanted to enroll in these classes, the HR director loved the idea.

I had not transitioned yet, so my legal name was my male name and had to register under that name (It was before they changed their policy to add preferred name). My first class was “New Perspectives on Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals, Transgender people.” So on the first day a class I waited up front of the room for the professor and when he came in I introduced myself and told him that I was trans and I my name is Diana.

So that was my first day of college as Diana (I still keep bumping in to classmate from that class, last summer (the summer of the plague) I was sitting on a stonewall in front Joe’s Coffee and Cafe in P’town when who walks up my classmate from the class. Then this January when I went to get my vaccine shot who was there running the registration overseeing UConn SSW interns, she was. She introduced me to the interns as her classmate from the school.).

At work everyone was asking me. “Why social work?”

On Friday June 29th 2007 at 11:00AM I got called to go to HR, I was skipping down the hall waving my Pink Slip. At one o’clock I was at the mall and had my ears pieced. Then on Monday it was off to probate court.

On Friday June 29th 2007 at 11:00AM I got called to go to HR, I was skipping down the hall waving my Pink Slip. At one o’clock I was at the mall and had my ears pieced. Then on Monday it was off to probate court.

After I took all the non-matriculating classes that I could, now I had to register as a full time student, so I contacted my undergraduate colleges to get my records and have my name changed on my transcripts One college had closed and I had to get them from the state. Sorry we cannot do that, was the answer that came back from the colleges. They said that because the records are on microfilm they cannot be changed, so I said send them to me anyway.

I had to write an essay in why I wanted to go to UConn…

About six years ago, I came out as a transsexual after denying it for most of my life. I hid this part of my life from all of my family and friends.  Over time, the pressure from keeping this secret grew inside of me.  I knew that I needed to make a decision which would rectify this internal discord. As part of this journey into self acceptance, I joined a transgender support group…
...Before I came out, I lived in fear and shame. I was afraid that someone would find out about my great secret and my self-worth suffered accordingly.  In coming out, I leaned self-acceptance and in gaining this acceptance came empowerment. This has become a valuable tool in which to help others.  Self-acceptance allows one to not only believe in themselves but that all things are possible – even social change and social justice.  I think the Reverend Jesse Jackson said it best in his poem “I am Somebody”-- we are all somebody and we can never forget that.

I left my application at the Admission’s office and went home. When I got home the message light was blinking… it was from Admissions! The message was, “There seems to be a discrepancy with your  application…”

The next day when I stopped the Admission’s office and I walked into the door they all looked up from their desks and one said, “Oh we just figured out the discrepancy.”

At grad school I did the best that I have ever done in school my grades were all A+, A, and B+ compared with my undergraduate grades of C, I squeaked by with a 2,02 average. I also lead the Student Organization’s Community Organizing committee and sat on the Student Organization meetings as the CO chair. Many times I went up to UConn’s main campus as part of the Student Org and my internships and I became friends the Rainbow Center director and staff.

It was almost a non-event being trans at college. The only thing that happened was a rash of term papers on trans topics and I was interviewed for many of them. It was only for two semesters that I had to use my male legal name, but on all my tests and term papers I used Diana. Once I had transitioned UConn changed over my paperwork to Diana and also changed the gender on the documents.

I did my internships at Connecticut Women Education and Legal Fund where I worked on the lobbying for the non-discrimination law. This is from Lobby Day at the Capitol, I am looking up their legislators.

I made many friends among the student body and the facility, many of whom I am still friends with. Some have asked me if I had any problems as a trans student and I joke… it is the School of Social Work, I better not have.

Ten years ago May I walked across the stage to be hooded and receive my diploma.

Next week My Story will be about coming out at work.

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