She left the shelter and spent weeks sleeping on park benches and in a storage unit. Without a mailing address, it was nearly impossible for her to apply for and hear back from jobs. "From that point on," she said, "I was never able to obtain employment again within corporate America." Hopkins later founded and now directs There's Still Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to providing temporary shelter for transgender adults.
Roberta Black, a transgender woman in St. Louis, said she faced harassment daily as she traveled to and from a vocational training program, including from bus drivers who intentionally misgendered and called attention to her. She started having panic attacks every morning before her commute. "Sometimes I would come home and cry a lot, but I didn't have a choice," Black said. "I pushed through as best I could and spent a lot of time thinking about ending it all."
For many, the daily grind of discrimination begins before entering the workforce. GLSEN, formerly known as the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, reported in 2016 that among LGBTQ students who gave a reason for wanting to drop out, over half said "hostile or unsupportive school climates were a barrier to completing high school."
"What are the employment possibilities for somebody who may have had to drop out of school and get a GED because the school itself was not supportive?" asked Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas. "And by 'supportive,' I really think folks need to understand this is just recognizing a child as who they are."
Hopkins, the activist in Charlotte, said she was confronted repeatedly when she used a public restroom that matched her gender identity. "For a time, I stopped going into public accommodations and using facilities," she said. That seemed easier than risking a scene, but it turned the fear of confrontation into a constant: "These things played havoc on me."
(c)2020 Bloomberg News
Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.