I put in my papers to take early retirement from New York City Transit. I’m embarrassed to write that sentence because I barely feel like an adult, much less one eligible to collect a pension. Six years ago, right before July 4th weekend, my boss called me into his office to tell me I was being involuntarily re-assigned. While he was talking I started thinking about retiring.
The demotion caught me by surprise. I had gotten myself into trouble with the President of NYCT; he was making unreasonable demands of my unit (Subway Schedules). I patiently explained why I disagreed with him. I was respectful and on-point. I did not defer to him, but I was not insubordinate. We took an immediate dislike to each other. My queerness did not help matters.
I thought I was safe because I was three levels down the management chain. Usually, Presidents only sack their direct reports, or one level below. They don’t go after technical/professional staff. This was personal. It was ugly. He wanted to make an example out of me. He put a bobble-head in a suit in my place. The guy knew nothing about trains, but knew how to say yes like he meant it.
In private industry I would have been fired. In Transit they send you to Siberia (Maspeth Electrical Shop) and change your regular days off and tour of duty to ensure that you are miserable. It was classified as a non-disciplinary personnel move without cause. I told my boss that if he sent me to Maspeth and needed me to answer a question I would have “no recollection” of anything, but I would support the department if I was given a satisfactory assignment. He perked up and asked me what I wanted to do,
We were starting a project to change over our train and crew scheduling software from a home-brew 1983 Fortran/DOS based program to a state-of-the-art customized scheduling system. We were still in the design and contract phase. I told him I’d head that project up. I could still play with schedules, but under the radar. Last year we implemented the new system. I know it inside out.
I kept hoping that somehow I would redeem myself and get my old job back. I kept up my end of the bargain, but (no offense to Gracie) I stayed in the managerial doghouse. It was humiliating.
I went into a deep funk. I blamed myself for the demotion. If I hadn’t been so stubborn, if I had paid more attention to the dynamics, if I had accepted the policy changes without questioning them, if I had tried to protect my job, then maybe I would have weathered it through.
I felt bitterly uncomfortable at work. My self-consciousness flared up. I withdrew from my colleagues and from political work. My butch armour started to crack. I felt vulnerable and fragile. I was cranky and prickly. I started to remember bits and pieces of my childhood; disjointed and random moments. Moments of being excluded and ostracized. Moments of abuse and of shutting down. I felt like I like I was going to either implode or explode.
I wrote about finally admitting that I was not a girl here, but until recently I didn’t connect the trauma of being demoted to the process of accepting being transgender. The shock and disruption allowed me to wake up and pay attention to who I am. I am still angry about the demotion, but I am glad to have tackled the issues that came up after it.
The good news is I get to cash-out my unused sick time, collect a pension I can live on, hold onto a 401K/457 to hedge against inflation, and I keep my health benefits. The same boss who told me I was being demoted is scrambling to get me an ethics waiver so I can consult on a per-diem basis (capped at 50 days per year). No one else understands the scheduling system the way that I do. If it comes through I’ll still be able to play with train schedules, but I’ll have time to do a whole lot more.
Note: The first thing on the agenda is for us to take a three week trip to southern Italy (archeological ruins, medieval hill towns, and beaches). The trip is being paid for with the sick time cash-out (the rest goes into my 401K/457, and some is put aside for “medical expenses”). I won’t be posting while I am away; it will probably be about a month until I post.