Thursday, November 29, 2018

They Made Me Angry

So, Monday something happened to REALLY piss me off. 

After throwing a pity party for a while, I decided to take action.  What follows is what happened, as I reported it to interested parties.  Names have been changed, and I've redacted some parts for privacy. 


I changed my name legally in October 2016.  After I changed my SS card, passport, driver’s license, etc (all the government and bank stuff) I sent court stamped copies of the name change order to the registrar and the Alumni Association.  I also paid $80 to get my proper name on my diplomas (which are legal documents.)(That money came from friends, and I'm still very grateful!)

When I applied to PSU Harrisburg over a year ago, I created the FOPS [Friend of Penn State] account slk**** to do the application.  No problem.  Application, etc, sent.  (I didn't get accepted, but that's neither here nor there.)

When I attempted to send the application to PSU University Park (UPark), I was locked out.  I submitted a ticket to get it sorted.

And I was all out of bubblegum

Two hours later, I received a reply saying that the account was reset.  I tried it, and it didn't work.  So I called.  First I spoke to a pleasant young woman who told me that the account re-activated was lak***.  That was my account when I was studying for my master’s degree, and when I worked at PSU as an Instructional Designer.  I left PSU in Feb 2016, just before transition.  (That said, PSU HR was in the loop about my transition.)

The young woman didn't know how to fix the problem, and put me on hold.  Then IT Joe, IT consultant, picked up the phone.  He said that the accounts were merged last spring, and, since lak*** was my academic AND work one, they kept that. 

I pointed out to him that LAK was no longer an entity, neither legally nor physically.  Didn't matter.  I pointed out that I am transgender (which I shouldn't have had to do) and if I were to attend PSU for study, and I were stuck with lak***, I'd be misgendered and dead-named (called by my previous name) every time I logged onto a computer.  "To change it would be a long and complicated process, so this is your login."

I'd been very depressed of late , but this really hurt.  I posted the following on facebook:

Ok, so PSU asked me to submit my application for PhD. But I'm locked out of my account. I submit a ticket to the IT Support desk. Couple hours later, I get a reply: they insist I use the lak log in. I inform them that LAK no longer exists legally or physically.

PSU received legal copies of my name change paperwork years ago.

Nope, no dice. To change it would be too much work. I told him I'm transgender, and this would be misgendering, and it didn't matter. So I can go get a PhD and be misgendered the whole time, or just not go.

I told him that I'll be applying elsewhere. I have sent an almost word for word transcript to the people at PSU who wanted me to study there.

So JoeIT, thank you for saving me a lot of work and ruining another one of my dreams.

I can't believe my alma mater is doing this to me. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cry my eyes out for a while.

And so I did.  After a nap, I became very Angry.  I was angry that this happened.  I was angry at JoeIT's attitude.  I was angry that I, as a prospective student, a two time alumni (life member), and former employee was being treated in such a way.  I was angry that, as a human being, I was treated that way.

Before I transitioned, I had a very nasty temper (ask anyone who knew me then.)  These days, it's hard to make me angry.  JoeIT managed to do it.  I was boiling mad.  I decided then, at 11 pm, that I would go up to UPark first thing in the morning and make it right. 

I'd received messages from Dr. F about who to see.  I also received an email from my dear friend Lori, who was the contractor who designed the new PSU system.  (What are the odds?  I knew she worked for Universities, but...) She sent me the instructions for doing what needed to be done- three steps. 

I contacted some other friends in various organizations, and went to bed.

I woke up at 5 AM, and was on the road by 7.  My other friends responded over night that they stood ready to assist.  One (Joanne Carroll, Commissioner on the PA Governor’s Task Force for LGBTQ Equality) contacted the head of the PSU LGBT Center, Brian Patchcoski.  He is on the same commission.  At this point, I was still very angry, hurt, and very determined.

During the morning, I was also in touch with Dr. H and Dr. P (my PSU PhD contacts.)  Upon arrival, I stopped at the LGBT Center in Boucke building, and spoke to Brian.  From there, I went to Old Main to the office of Dr. Marcus Whitehurst, the Vice Provost for Educational Equity.

The assistant there was reluctant to schedule an appointment for me, until I mentioned that I wanted to lodge a complaint, and that I'd already spoken to some organizations (which I had.)  She made some calls, and made a 4 PM appointment for me with Dr. Sonia DeLuca Fernández, the Associate Vice Provost for Educational Equity.  It was, at that time, 11:30.  During the interim, I stopped to see Dr. P to keep her in the loop with my progress. 

At 4 PM I went to Dr. DeLuce Fernandez's office at 305 Grange building.  Also present was Brian Patchcoski. After I explained to Dr. DeLuca Fernandez what had happened, and showing my supporting documents (court order, passport, social security card,) Brian spoke. He'd been in touch with someone in IT (I forget whom) and was explaining about the merger of accounts, and the possible cause of the issue.  As I'm not IT savvy, most of what he said was over my head.  The bottom line was that my having been a student AND an employee was the difficulty.  The three of us spoke for a while.

The crux the solution was that, by eliminating lak***, my record of employment (seniority, etc) would be scrubbed.  Also, some documents in the system, like my previous application, may also be lost.  I said that if that was the price of a solution, so be it.  They did not ask for the paper I had from Lori with the solution, and I didn't offer it. 

Dr. DeLuca Fernandez said she didn't think it was an intentional misgendering.  I begged to differ, and repeated the conversation I'd had with JoeIT, and how my being transgender, and not wishing to be dead-named, made no difference to him.  I told her he needed some training, and that I was still filing a complaint against him.  She'd been taking comprehensive notes during the conversation, and wrote down his name. 

Before the meeting ended, both assured me that the issue would be solved.  Brian said I'd have access within 48 hours.  I contacted Dr. P about the application deadline, and she said it could be extended if necessary, for which I thanked her.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I left campus and drove home.  I did not get my hopes up, but was taking them both at their word.  If it were just me, I wouldn't be so upset.  However, I wondered if this was what happened to other transgender people applying.  That is what made me so angry. 

The next day, Wednesday, I received a phone call at 11:32 from a man from PSU IT.  He kindly informed me that slk**** was now active.  As I was in my car at the time, I couldn't check for myself.  When I arrived home at 4 pm, I logged in, and he was correct.  I discovered that much of the saved application was lost, including the uploaded pieces (resume, writing sample, references.)  My writing sample was my thesis, which is currently on a disc in storage.  I unsuccessfully tried to find it today, but I will try again tomorrow. 

That is the complete story to my knowledge.  I don't know what happened out of my knowledge, but it seems many people helped me, and for that I am profoundly grateful. I thank Dr. DeLuca Fernandez and Mr. Patchcoski for being generous with their time, knowledge, and compassion.

This incident really gets to the emotional heart of the research I wish to do at PSU.  JoeIT had no idea what being transgender meant, nor did he care.  In my opinion, he just didn't want to do the extra work.  Perhaps, if he'd been educated about the transgender experience, this would never had occurred.   As I wrote above, the incident made me very upset, depressed, then very angry.  These are common emotions daily for transgender people.  Another is frustration- why can't we just live our lives?  What is so difficult about letting others be who they truly are? 

As you see, I'm very passionate about this topic, about helping others, and about making the path easier for those who "come up" after me.  If all of my suffering, pain, and tears help just one person, than it will have been worth it all.  Melodramatic?  Maybe, but it is the Truth.  This Truth is why I want to study at Penn State for my PhD. 


With an Old Friend

I was completely exhausted when I got home.  I was still tired the next day, but I had things to do. 

I'm still exhausted.  I've had a lot of friends cheering me on.  My former therapist, Dr. O, said she was proud of me.  That helps, as does that support I received from friends. 

In any case, some people asked.  That's the story.

Be well.


  1. I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. It's a never ending battle that you fight each and every day and I admire that you are being true to yourself no matter the injustice. That's horrible that your own alma mater would treat you so crappily. I'm glad that you were able to get it fixed. Stay strong sweet lady. ����

  2. Hey- Steph here. I'm happy they were able to fix your account, and you're absolutely right "JoeIT" just didn't want to do the extra work. I applaud you for sticking to your guns.

  3. Wow. So many things you should not have had to struggle against. It highlights not just the lack of understanding about trans people, but also that data systems are DESIGNED to be inflexible. There was no reason that you had to sacrifice your earlier history with the University in order to fix an account name and gender.

    But then, it seems that one of the hallmarks of cis society is that anyone who is different must make extreme sacrifices to accomplish what comes to them without effort. Change your name on an account means you must sacrifice your history. Change of ID requires you must sacrifice your reproductive ability.

  4. congrats on finding your voice...i'm sure IT Joe won't be allowed to forget you anytime soon, hopefully he'll learn from his mistake.

  5. So sorry you had to endure that, but trust me that PSU is not the only "company" with issues like that. I have had to deal with several myself. Each time one of us presses those to make the changes I too believe will make it easier for those that follow. So kudo's on you to force the issue. Hopefully it will be easier for the next person who comes along and wants to do something similar.

  6. Sorry this happened. It's particularly unfortunate that Pennsylvania doesn't have statewide civil rights legal protection for gender identity the way, say, Maryland does.

    If it did, you could have sued the university
    and lazy ol' JoeIT for all they were worth. Then they might understand the trouble with misgendering and dead naming.

    I know how much you love activism and making a positive difference. You start the push for those gender identity civil rights.

    I know a lot of folks could really use them.

    PS I love your photos.