Sexism works both ways

Thursday, March 16, 2017

There were times in my past when being transgender would have been preferable to being a male.

I was teaching a self-contained, eighth-grade bilingual class, all subjects, in America’s fourth poorest city. Consequently, I decided to apply to be an F.B.I.  agent. I was asked to go to Boston to take the F.B.I. test.

When I arrived with others for the test, we were shown a movie about F.B.I. training at Quantico. The film emphasized rigorous physical training with scenes of agents climbing and repelling from buildings. The narrator said training is intensely demanding. The other applicants looked frightened, but I felt excited as it would be easier than teaching eighth grade.

After I took the written test, I was told to wait awhile. Later an agent came out to speak to me. He said, and this happened, that I had a great score, but this year the F.B.I. needed women and minorities. Now this begs the foolishness of asking someone to take a test went they did not want white males. If I was female, my career dream would have been fulfilled.

I once worked for almost a decade as a part-time labor negotiator for the largest union in Massachusetts. I mostly represented low-paid education employees: teacher aides, secretaries, clerks, cafeteria workers, and custodians. Since I was a successful negotiator, I was encouraged to apply for a full-time opening with the union when one occurred which I did.

A short time later my regional supervisor told me that the union had elected a new female president.  She told him that she wanted only female negotiators. If I was female, my career dream would have been fulfilled.

There was another time when being female would have been beneficial. Decades ago, but I hope it has changed by now, I was getting divorced and children were involved. I was told that my rights were limited, and that the law was always on the side of mothers. I have led my life without my natural children and grandchildren.

I once read a study that said that most divorced fathers rarely if ever see their adult children. Being female would have been an advantage in the matter of children.

This essay is based on how one chromosome would have changed my life. However, I understand the difficulties females confront: sexual abuse, poverty, caregiving, raising children, especially while working, menses, menopause, osteoporosis, fearing to walk alone at night, and society’s obsessive emphasis on fashion, thinness, beauty, and youth.

Last month there was an event in Leominster, Mass., where women of different faiths, including Islam, would show headscarves and discuss the reasons why they are worn. I was seriously interested in going because of my interest in other religions and cultures. The organizer of this event told me that I could not attend because I was man.

Sexism works both ways.

Rick Sirvint lives in Rindge.