Alex is a 29 year old living in Kelowna who has identified as female since a very young age, despite being born male. She began the transition process three years ago by dressing in traditionally women’s clothing, growing her hair long, and wearing makeup. In collaboration with her compassionate and knowledgeable family doctor, she takes hormones and is on a wait list to complete the various sexual reassignment surgeries in Vancouver. She has a few good friends who support her and she believes this is all she needs. When she decided to start her transition, Alex told her parents: unfortunately, they could not understand her decision and told her “call us when you have your head on straight again.” She has not heard from them since. Her parents told her sister, Lisa, and while Lisa keeps in contact, she continues to refer to Alex using male pronouns. Lisa also keeps asking Alex if perhaps she is “just gay” and wants to be able to date men “without people staring.” Alex works at a women’s clothing store in Orchard Park mall. Although she has worked there for three years, she does not feel safe telling her coworkers personal details about her life. While Alex was on her lunch break recently, her hormone pill bottle fell out of her purse and was found by a coworker. The coworker confronted her and asked what the pills were for. Alex told her it was none of her business and took them back. A week later, she was fired. Alex’s boss wouldn’t give her a straight answer about why she was being let go, but as she was packing her things, she overheard the boss say, “We can’t have freaks working here.” Alex became depressed in the months following her job loss. She found a lower paying job at a Dollar Store but does not enjoy it nearly as much as working with clothes. She has isolated herself more from friends and is counting down the days until her first surgery. Alex approached a local organization for counseling to deal with her depression: however, after explaining her situation, she was told the services are only for women. You are a hospital social worker and meet Alex in the Emergency Room late one night: she tells you she was considering suicide and needed to come to a safe place.
1. What are some of Alex’s strengths? How might you use these strengths to help her now? 2. What other supports (formal or informal) might help Alex? 3. What are some structural issues impacting this case? How are they relevant to Alex’s experience? 4. What community approaches need to be taken to help people understand transgendered individuals?