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 mission-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 after someone convinced me to do so following a long series of unfortunate events. Given that I closed my case with a VR provider 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 a provider that works with blind individuals if you are legally blind because they use specialised funding to specifically address the blindness population that is generally not available to the regular vocational rehabilitation agencies. They offered to set up a joint case to address my other disabilities, though. It seemed absurd that they considered blind people to be completely separate rather than putting us on a spectrum along with the other folx with disabilities (mental health included). I could’ve also requested to work with a certified psychiatric rehabilitation counsellor during the time I was in therapy for the experience I had in 2016. Unfortunately, they have gotten more strict about sharing a client within multiple VR agencies.
I am also submitting a court order with my new legal name, and with your permission, I would like to remove old and outdated information from your records.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. Basically, I had a revellation about advancing the knowledge of synaesthesia with colour and sound, as well as learning about genetics and biotechnology, etc. I enjoyed the programme and made lots of new discoveries. Then I found out that it was very difficult for me to implement my system when I was living with people who either didn’t know how to be independent or who were sighted. Like for example, if I organised all the dishes and cookware in my mother’s kitchen, they would be back to where they were before a few days later. I was also taught independent living skills with the assumption that I could still hear with my hearing aids. They tried to accommodate my hearing loss, but since they were primarily blindness-oriented, it was pretty difficult for them to do. That’s why I’m glad I later learned about the Helen Keller National Centre.
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, which was why I became obsessed in genetic engineering and stem cell research, as I didn’t like the idea of having mechanical devices implanted in my head, like a cochlear implant. In fact, one of my friends suggested that I team up with another piano tuner, but they were pretty snide about it and said, ‘No, I don’t wanna work with someone who is deaf.‘ I told them in front of my friend that I planned to get stem cell treatment, and then they wouldn’t be able to make fun of my hearing loss anymore. Still, I wonder… for as long as I can remember, I’ve had perfect pitch since I was little, and even losing my hearing over time hasn’t significantly affected my ability to perceive pitch, just in the higher frequencies. Here’s someone with hearing loss and perfect pitch, though.
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 so I could go to college, but I was informed that, because I was coercively assigned male at birth (CAMAB), I had to register for the Selective Service in case there was ever a military draft. I did not consider myself to be transgender just yet until a few weeks after I completed the programme in June. In fact, at the end of the programme, one of my favourite staff members bade me farewell, but when they addressed me using gendered terms, I automatically flinched without even thinking about it, and they must’ve seen it, for they immediately corrected themselves and resorted to using gender-neutral terms. This was before I fully realised that I was transgender. To this day, I am still amazed at how I had reacted without even thinking about it, and yet the memory is still very clear in my mind.
I started objecting to this whole Selective Service thing from day 1, though, and to this day I continue to object. I was told numerous times that nobody would 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 older brother financial aid, as well. There are also repercussions for knowingly lying about your gender if it doesn’t match what the Social Security Administration has on file for you. Given that this is an old issue, I could not get the media and legal organisations interested in pursuing this issue further. It is too bad that nobody wants to address these issues given that a lot of transgender and nonbinary people have been making headlines today. I should not have to register if I did not identify as male unless they Required everybody to sign up, regardless of biological sex or gender identity, the way they do with jury duty. In fact, the supreme court delivered an opinion on 15 June 2020, stating that LGBTQIA+ employees should be protected at the federal level from discrimination. I would rather have this Selective Service policy abolished altogether, though, if there’s no plan on drafting people any time soon.
I started a petition to address these issues, though 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 boycott Financial Aid, and I entreat anyone who identifies as transgender, gender nonbinary, 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, 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 of them might let you join with lived experience and references. In fact, I was asked how I was going to compete in the market and convince people to choose me as a business owner over someone who has years of academic background and training to specialise in a specific field. Besides, those individuals would most likely have greater prominence or influence, as is the case with rich people. They told me that having lots of lived experience and being self-taught may not be enough to be fully competitive. Still, if my target audience is primarily serving underserved groups, they may be more open to folx who don’t have that kind of background as long as you are deemed competent. Besides, my vocational interests are more progressive than what most voc rehab databases have at their disposals, for most of their career options are a little more traditional and old-school, so that might probably account for something. But in some countries, you can actually take courses that are not only geared towards your specific area of study, but chances are that they are well equipped with job-readiness training. Most schools here in the US only focus on core classes and improving critical thinking, which isn’t always required for most types of jobs.
One of the folx from Catalyst is a black transgender man who used to be a VR counsellor, as well as an addictions counsellor, and he has helped people get back into the workforce, go back to school, and start a business. Because of his unique intersecting identities, he has helped me cut some corners with my VR counsellor to make sure I could get a job that was gender affirming, supportive, and nonjudgemental. I added him to my release of information, so that if any issues arose, he could advocate for me on my behalf, which I have the right to do. But it does explain why it has been so hard for them to find me a job that I really liked. Still, some people think that those jobs are far below my potential of being a research scientist simply because I chose not to go to college. But I think it’s important for me to work on the things I can do right now and worry about that later. Besides, if I were studying, I wouldn’t be earning as much money as I am now to improve my situation, which I have outlined a little bit of below.
There are many ways people can get professional experience: One way is through a work experience, which bridges the gap between volunteering and being an intern. The client is paid wages through a temp agency that contracts with VR, so there is no cost to the employer. Then, if there is a mutual agreement between both parties, the client is onboarded and hired as an actual employee, but the employer can get reimbursed with On-the-Job Training funding, which comes from the federal government if they feel that the employer still needs support with the client’s wages. These options are very carefully coordinated by job development and business relations experts. They would help clients in ways that the employer might not be able to help them alone. Since the company offering the work experience is technically not the employer, there are some rules they have to follow, like training the client to do the tasks they agreed to do when they set up the work experience agreement with the job developer or job coach. They also have to provide weekly feedback to make sure that it is actually a good job fit.
Then of course, there are apprenticeship and fellowship opportunities, but those options are more long-term and would focus more on the academic aspect of skill refinement.
The thing is that I had done so much volunteering throughout most of my life for the past eight years, and I had wanted to work for those companies that I volunteered for, but I had never been able to get past being a volunteer. So, I am basically ready for the next level of responsibility because say, there’s only so much work you can do as a volunteer. So, as long as I am learning something new that would make me more qualified for a job within the same organisation, or a job somewhere else, then they are okay with paying wages. So, a work experience is basically like an internship. The temp agency most commonly used is Galt Foundation.
Still, we have to be careful about throwing around these work experience and OJT offers, because often times, many employers take advantage of wanting to have a free employee without realising that they will have to pay them eventually as the client gets more experienced. The goal is for the employer to want to hire you without any monetary support unless they are hesitant to hire you, in which case it is okay. But this is what I love about the Progressive Employment Model. If you give someone a chance, they’re gonna do a great job. And half of the battle is getting employers to be willing to give you that chance for you to prove yourself worthy of being paid. And, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, people with disabilities will have more support to getting a job.
And finally, you can get course certifications that are relatively cheap, usually in between the $100-$1500 range, and these certificates can open the door to new possibilities, such as becoming a proofreader or being a piano technician. In fact, Google is partnering up with several employers to offer job-ready courses for people to take. Someone said that while they probably meant well, the certificates would be limited to a specific number of jobs, whereas a college degree might have a wider range of opportunities. Plus, there’s almost no way to get into medical or law school without some kind of degree.
You can take my word for it that I am smart and intelligent, but evidently that is not enough proof 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 at any time. 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 they often say that it is a burden or liability 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. And, even if they did, they most likely wouldn’t have the notability necessary to attract an audience. That’s why I took out a secured credit card back in 2017, so that I could start building my credit as soon as possible. I do not know if this unemployment rate 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. As someone from Basic Rights Oregon put it, if there’s no seat at the table, then you build your own table and chair. This is especially true for creative people. The Holland Codes certainly didn’t lie when it told me that I was investigative, artistic, and conventional. So, work with an Individual Development Account specialist to start saving up for your business and get matching funds within a year.
It also seems from what I’ve observed that people wanted you to work at a job site instead of suggesting that you could , 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., all or most of which would otherwise be lost or remain undeveloped if working at home or running a business. You still have to look professional when conducting video informational interviews and other things. By the way, since I cannot afford to buy clothes, I was referred by Goodwill Job Connections to visit Dress for Success, which I’ve found to be very inclusive. Plus, getting a job has the lowest risk and highest reward, whereas entrepreneurship requires you to put in a lot of risk and hope for a high return. That’s why feasibility studies exist. Apart from that, many voc rehab agencies won’t support a business that is going to be perceived as a hobby, which is why a lot of clients are almost always told that their goals are not realistic. Like, if I said that I wanted to be a singer, it might not generate a consistent income by hosting concerts and tours than if I said that I wanted to be a voice coach and teach people how to make music. They want something that can be reasonably called a career… something you can make a reasonable living off of. But in ninety-five percent of cases, it’s not the counsellor’s fault. Many of them do want to help, but because some of us don’t fit into their so-called moulds and thinking that we want to work in sheltered workshops, we never really get the help and advice we need for the things we really and truly want to do.
I was once asked if I would be opposed to working for someone, and I said that I would not, as long as the business met my values, particularly when it came to serving queer trans-people of colour with disabilities. 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 that most blind people ignore. Whenever people praise my great coding skills, I inwardly cringe and break out in hives. I don’t want to be that typical blind person who is immediately assumed that they will pursue a tech-based career. I have had my own issues with so-called brogrammers. I simply didn’t want to add any more of that into the pool, as we have plenty of that already. But even if I were to be a coder or web developer, I wouldn’t just do it for anybody. I would only do it with people I truly got along with and felt comfortable working for. So maybe VR counsellors should not only ask their clients what careers they want, but also consider what audience they are specifically wanting to target, based on their own identities and experiences.
Anyhow, I could also work in a music store or somewhere in the amusement ride industry because I have always loved riding various thrill-seeking attractions. And I am also willing to try working as a caregiver or a preteen babysitter 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 how to use those services. Also, many blind people are often sold on the idea that they should treat these opportunities as being their end all, be all source of income instead of adding to what they are already doing. This is because MLM opportunities in general are being offered as the one-size fits all solution for a chronically underemployed community. In most cases, it is just a form of earning side income.
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 last year. I am also a member of the Able Artist Foundation, CommTech USA, and a few other places.
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
- totally blind,
- severely 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 expression 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.
Also, the sad truth is that no matter how much we enforce the ADA and Rehabilitation acts, which is already difficult to do because of lack of evidence, people can, and will, discriminate just because we are blind. I’ve heard people with other disabilities discriminating against blind people, which sounds ironic because you would expect them to be more sympathetic towards us, but internalised ableism can and will happen at any time.
It is not about the leadership, It is about the way our country views visual impairments, and other disabilities. We are considered Third World citizens, and anything that they have to do out-of-the-way to accommodate us is absolutely out of the question. If they can do it with reasonably low cost, limited resources, and people, it will probably get done. If they have to put any major funding behind it, or hire people to write code, it is not happening.
But that can actually happen. Many VR agencies can help employers by hiring coders and accessibility testers on their behalf, and they can also set up a disability awareness training workshop, as well. But it would probably take a massive widespread change for them to truly start caring about us, like a respiratory virus that can cause irreversable blindness or hearing loss. So, in some cases, a pandemic can actually change things for the better that we may not have otherwise thought of before.
Some blind people have also started leveraging this new victory in favour of LGBTQIA+ people having equal employment opportunities without realising that blind people, including those with multiple disabilities, are in a much different plane than those in the LGBTQIA+ community, at least in a fundamental way. Changing your sex, gender, or sexual orientation should have no effect on how well you do your work. With disability, this argument equal ability falls apart because you need reasonable accommodations to be made so that you can do the work as well as anyone else.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know there are several blind and DeafBlind people out there with really great jobs or businesses, have had access to great education, etc, but those people probably had a great support system comprised of family members, relatives, and various entities that helped them navigate the able-bodied world. The reality is that most of us lack this type of support, though I am sure that we can find it if we find people who really believe in what we have to offer the world. The thing is, we all have dreams and goals. But when those dreams and goals merge with an agency that has really strict policies, then there is an obligation to go with the one that will yield the best results, and then you can do whatever you want afterwards.
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. So, I’ve gotten used to this whole physical distancing thing, because I had already lived through it once.
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 deafness) 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 so that my brother will not make messes in the kitchen every night. A professional behaviour consultant will probably help us with that once he’s been seen by a Housecall Provider doctor to make sure there are no underlying physical or mental health conditions that could be contributing to his behaviours. I relaunched my GoFundMe campaign to try to get him more support from HKNC, and you can find that here.
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 latter 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 that they most likely didn’t fit into. 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, without a valid release of information, 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 previous 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, and if I didn’t have an ABLE account. 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 required 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. The supreme court should’ve ruled in favour of adding gender nonbinary options at the same time they ruled in favour of same-sex marriage. Hopefully, with this new landmark ruling and the new Biden Administration, we’ll be getting closer to achieving that goal.
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 and my family should be set for life.
Please take some time to go over the information, and feel free to ask me any questions.