Dear Prospective VR Counsellor

Thank you for choosing to work with me on starting my new endeavour as a potential business entrepreneur. There are some things I would like to share with you, so that we can all be on the same page. I apologise in advance for the length of this letter, but I think it is well worth the read. I also apologise for the number of links in this letter, but I think these are great resources I found for what I would like to do moving forward. I realise that most of this will be going into political territory, and there’s no doubt that the workplace mandates political neutrality, but I would at least like to tell you my story and the reasons things turned out the way they did. Also, if you do not have experience working with people from marginalised communities or other backgrounds, or if you don’t have the knowledge and expertise for developing a business plan for a self-employed-oriented individual, then I ask that my case be transferred to someone who is more knowledgeable on these topics. Alternatively, you can go here to learn more.

I decided to reopen my case following a long series of unfortunate events. Given that I closed my case with the Commission for the Blind in early 2017, I thought I could find a different provider and start from scratch. As I soon found out, though, a case must be opened with the commission if you are legally blind because they use specialised funding to specifically address the blindness population that is generally not available to the regular voc rehab agencies. They offered to set up a joint case to address my other disabilities, though.

I am also submitting a court order with my new legal name, and with your permission, I would like to remove old and outdated information from your records.

 

I already had some work experience since 2010. Out of the belief that I needed more independence training, I was asked to attend a ten-month programme in Vancouver to further explore my options and attend college at the counsellor’s request in 2012–this after I discovered what I really wanted to do and how I could share my talents with the world. Subsequently, I found my passion for piano tuning, but I was advised to wait to determine whether my hearing loss was going to worsen because as it was at the time, I did pretty well, but there was no guarantee that it would continue to remain the same.

I did not know that there was something lurking in a dark corner and waiting to jump out at me when I had made the turn. In November of 2012, I attempted to apply for Financial Aid, but I was informed that, because I was coercively assigned male at birth, I had to register for the Selective Service in case there was ever a draft. I did not consider myself to be transgender just yet until a few weeks after I completed the programme in June.

I started objecting to this from day 1, though, and to this day I continue to object. I was told numerous times that nobody will be able to draft me because of my disabilities even if I identified as male, but unfortunately, you still must register to get those benefits. I found this out when my mother tried to get my brother financial aid, as well. There are also repercussions for knowingly lying about your gender. Given that this is an old issue, I could not get the media and legal organisations interested to pursue this issue further. It is too bad that nobody wants to address these issues given that transgender and nonbinary people are making headlines today. I should not have to register if I did not identify as male unless they Require that everybody sign up, regardless of biological sex or gender identity, the way they do with jury duty. I would rather have this policy abolished altogether, though.

I started a petition to address these issues, to given the political climate, I doubt anything will come of it, so this is where the folks from Basic Rights Oregon, who are advocating for me, come in. I recently graduated from a leadership development programme called Catalyst, because my hope was to start a project to address these issues. I have vowed to remain civilly disobedient and boycotting Financial Aid, and I entreat anyone who identifies as transgender, gender nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming or whatever, to do this as well if they believe that the 103-year-old policy is giving cisgender males preferential treatment, and everybody else unfair and unequal access to education. Now, I am not opposed to going to college. I have nothing against that whatsoever. I would gladly go back if it were not for the whole Selective Service issue. And there are other ways to get stipends and scholarships or grants depending on what the goals are and how they can be achieved. There are funding sources for marginalised folks and underserved populations. There is also the option of studying in another country, as well. For that, I would suggest checking out Mobility International USA. They have resources for joining the Job or Peace Corps. Most of them require college degrees, but a few let you join with experience and references.

You can take my word for it that I am smart and intelligent, but evidently that is not enough for many things in any developed country. Fortunately, there are still lots of ways to be successful without ever going to college. Also, here are some freelance jobs requiring no degree or experience. People say that you need a job, but you cannot get a job without experience, which sort of sounds backwards, since a job is supposed to help you build that experience.

I’ve been trying to make it as an aspiring or emerging author (with five manuscripts under my belt and counting–through self and traditional publishing), freelance writer, blogger, ceramic artist, baker, musician (DJ and sound tech), authorised dealer, or even a breeder.

As I learnt throughout most of my life, though, a lot of people stressed the importance of getting employment. That means working for someone else instead of suggesting that you could theoretically take employment into your own hands and work for yourself, on your terms. When I asked around, I learnt that many voc rehab places view entrepreneurship as a dirty word because it’s often a waste of government money to support you on something that is likely to not get off the ground, and that it doesn’t guarantee verification that you were working. This is because starting and running a business can be extremely debilitating, and funds can be misused or abused. Similarly, it seemed to me that voc rehab agencies only supported knowledge and intelligence-based careers rather than those that involved crafting or arts. You hardly hear about blind performing artists going to Hollywood because it is often a burden to support all their accommodations. Recently, the Helen Keller National Centre posted an article about the first DeafBlind actor being featured in a film. They also told me that a lot of blind people, of which 70 percent are unemployed, do not have the needed capital or creditworthiness to start their business. I do not know if this number is higher, lower, or the same for blind people with intersecting characteristics, either in the United States or anywhere else. But there are grants you can apply for, like this one, this one, and this one. Once a year, OSU hosts a Funding Blitz webinar to teach you how you can increase your chances of getting the funding you need for whatever purpose you have in mind. They even have a section that focuses on funding for women, minority, and underserved entrepreneurs.

It also seems from what I’ve observed that people want you to work at a job site instead of suggesting that you could work from home, as well, but there’s nothing wrong with that. With the whole COVID19 outbreak, it is pretty much the only option right now, anyway. Maybe it is because they wanted you to build good mobility and punctuality skills, build experience with writing a resume, wearing good clothes to an interview, etc., which would otherwise be lost or remain undeveloped if working at home or running a business. By the way, since I cannot afford to buy clothes, I was referred by Goodwill Job Connections to visit Dress for Success, which is very inclusive.

I am open to working with someone who is willing to support and accommodate me with all my access needs and other characteristics. I am good at writing and editing, speaking English and Spanish fluently (I am a better writer in English), crowdsourcing and building connections, organising information, and writing about technical topics based on research. I have also been in a cohort as of 2013 that explores reproductive medicine, and I have been curious about how to advance my understanding of this to help with my own research as a transgender person. I also love to teach one-on-one about various topics, like Braille and music, amateur radio, or teaching English or Spanish. I could be a technology instructor, Braille proofreader, translator or interpreter, specifically focusing on gender affirmation and inclusion. I could also work in a music store or somewhere in the amusement ride industry. And I am also willing to try working as a caregiver if I can find resources on how that can be done for someone who is completely blind and severely hard-of-hearing.

One of my teachers of the Visually Impaired got me signed up with LegalShield. They look like a typical multi-level marketing company or pyramid scheme, and they are often notorious for selling low-quality products or illegitimate services. However, I found their services to be very satisfactory, and I have been able to resolve legal disputes at the administrative level, so I make it noticeably clear when selling memberships.

When I told people about my talents and interests, a few of them offered to donate their used equipment if they had no further use for it. I am thinking of asking churches and other organisations about building my pro audio or ceramics gear based on donations or finding some in a pawn shop. This after I have taken some audio fundamental and music composition courses online and a ceramics class at the local cultural arts centre. I am also a member of the Able Artist Foundation, and I will be applying for grants later this spring.

Another thing I’ve noticed about job-seeking was that not only did a lot of people emphasise how important it was to get a job, but that you should pursue mainstream jobs as well, rather than suggesting that you could technically get a job pertaining to the minority of which you belong. I guess it all depends on your level of comfort. Somehow, this might seem like we are reinforcing the stereotype that blind people can only get blindness-related jobs and stuff, but what about when someone has intersecting characteristics that also marginalises them as well? How many employers are ready to hire someone who is blind, hard-of-hearing, a person of colour, legally non-binary, comes from an impoverished family, and with no college degree? And at the same time, what if they have mental health issues like anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD? By the way, it is not being transgender or nonbinary that is the barrier. It is the way people are being treated for their perceived gender contrary to how they identify that is the barrier. So, some people may choose to avoid these barriers altogether. It doesn’t mean that they are cowards, but rather, they are building their own path and finding a way to cross those barriers by cutting right through it.

In 2016, I came out to my former VR counsellor, and they agreed to change my name, although they could not change my gender yet. Some of the staff, especially those from the older generation, continued misgendering me, though. Then I got sick, unfortunately, following a trip to Arizona because of the excessive heat, and I spent almost a year and a half recovering from the aftermath. I could not commit to VR anymore, so I had to close my case in 2017 so I could work on getting better. At the same time, I got into a major family emergency that lasted a long time.

There is barely any support in Oregon for folks who are deaf-blind. There is a lot of support if you have one disability or the other, but not both. Anyway, there has been several attempts to implement a support service provider system to assist deaf-blind individuals like they already have over in Seattle and provide case management, but all efforts have been in vain. I had to miss out on various recreational and leisurely activities because I could not get the support needed like I could when I was younger. My mother usually provided this support, but she always needed to ensure that my older brother (who has a significant developmental disability in addition to his blindness and hearing loss) was being looked after first. As I got older, I found that my mother did not have time for me anymore because of the countless number of errands she had to run every time the caregiver came, which is currently once or twice a week. Update: we are expected to have a caregiver come five days a week, which should hopefully be more than enough. Soon, we may talk about hiring an awake overnight provider.

I am also afraid of having anything to do with my life as a transgender person compromised because my mother does not know anything about it, as she and other family members are not supportive and accepting. Before you read on, I am going to be straight up blunt. I’m not going to give out any names unless it were in the best interest of the public good, but it seemed like there were two kinds of people who worked with disabled individuals: those who are genuinely caring, and those who were flat-out controlling and infantilising. These individuals are what I have clashes and misunderstandings with. An author actually talked about it in his book, White Coat, White Cane: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Blind Physician, by David Hartman. I can understand that they only wanted me to thrive, so they did it in ways that were probably not favourable for me. These are the individuals who manipulated or talked folks into doing things they probably were not ready for. They most likely put them in one of their pigeonholes and made it hard for them to get out of. Young and new adults might as well be coerced into going to college, but maybe it is because they also feed on people’s fears and ignorance about what their rights are.

I actually had to file a grievance against someone for releasing information about me and unprofessionally expressing a negative opinion behind my back to my mother, whom I trusted, but since it was hearsay, I was not a witness to the incident and therefore wasn’t able to escalate the issue further.

All of this has cost me financially, and as a result, I am currently battling a decision that was made by Social Security about two years ago. I invite you to read my brief, which is in the next post. After you read it, I think you will understand where I am coming from, and why I will ultimately need your support. Sufficient to say here that it involves housing issues, and I am looking into applying for housing grants, like this and this, to settle the debt. Some of these services ask you to pay for them, though. I was able to get a church to pay one month worth of rent.

One of the folx from BRO told me about a programme called PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-support), but I did not know that there was a catch to it. It will only work if I were getting income that would significantly reduce my SSI. The PASS Cadre then referred me to another programme called Ticket to Work. I would argue that getting grants, if I qualified for them, would count as income, so a PASS would therefore be valid. I said before that churches and organisations may be able to donate equipment, but I think some of them may also provide financial assistance, as well. At least, that was one of my friends’ suggestions, but I could not get anywhere with that.

Also, when someone recommended that I apply for Section Eight Housing, which is run by Housing Urban Development, I objected to the way they collected and used certain demographic information. I discovered that not only do they have a long waiting list, but they also require you to only select male or female on the application. I asked myself, What business is it of theirs to know what sex or gender I am? Furthermore, when I got my court order, birth certificate, and ID that all declare that I am legally non-binary, there was going to be a legal mismatch between the two systems. So, I decided to boycott Section Eight as well. I heard that Oregon is working to provide state-funded inclusive housing, but I do not know much about that.

Anyhow, I think it is time for me to close out this letter, and I hope now you know where I’m coming from, and how we can work together so I can start over anew and get the life I deserve to live, not based on what someone thinks my life should be. If I return to VR, I would like to work on my terms instead of theirs.

I lost nearly four years of what could have been an enjoyable experience, but I was not able to get relief during the time that I was suffering. I tried alleging mental and emotional distress, negligence, loss of enjoyment of life, and possibly a few other things against the organisation that was responsible for the trip to Arizona, but according to my attorney, I didn’t have enough evidence to file a claim. Somebody also told me that given how small that organisation was, they likely would not have money to settle the judgement, although I could have filed a wage garnish as an alternative. Given all the things I have gone through, I think I should be set for life.

Please take some time to go over the information, and feel free to ask me any questions.

Respectfully yours,

Heavenly Harmony

She/they

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