I'm sitting here packed the night before I have to be in D.C. to fulfill my role as a reviewer for a highly respected and reputable organization. I can't help but to feel sometimes alone in my fight with life, and at times I feel extremely spoiled and selfish. I have been open about my HIV status and have gotten to be a part of something that is so much bigger than me. Yet, at the end of the day, I don't feel as though I have that one somebody who is able to relate to most of what I am going through. I say that only to say that this ideal person hasn't been found in Arkansas. I face adversity and system oppression at so many intersections of my life. I am an African-American Transgender Woman Living with HIV, and sometimes I have to choose which battle to fight. With the onslaught of attacks on transgender women of color this year, most of whom have been African-American, I have been compelled to stand in solidarity with transgender women all over the country and do my best to bring much needed national attention to these horrific crimes against humanity. I had to focus on being Trans and Black, while simultaneously remembering to take care of myself because I have HIV. I have been working diligently seeking out other Trans people living with HIV here in Arkansas, yet it hasn't happened. It has not been because my status is hidden from the world. I, and this is where I may sound selfish, but I wish I had someone to discuss my issues with who is Black, Trans and Living with HIV.
Dealing with the fact that I am Trans, I face ostracism at work because people think they have all the facts without checking them first. People whom I thought loved me and were truly my friends have repeatedly mis-gendered me at my job, jeopardizing my livelihood. Arkansas is a state with no legal protections for transgender people in employment. People can deny jobs and housing based on religious beliefs, which in essence is targeted to members of the LGBTQ community. Losing my job would put me in a position of possibly losing my apartment and having to do what is necessary in order to survive. I am working hard to make my own path in this world, but I have people who hate me simply because I am Trans. When I made it clear to everyone that I wanted to be respected as Tiommi Jenae, it became clear who my real friends are. I wish it wasn't that way because these people can attest to the fact that I have always been there for them when they needed me.
I want to say that I regret the choice to disclose my status to these people. They obviously try to use my existence against me, and they also know that I am a person living with HIV. After I got over the initial shock of diagnosis, I committed to my higher power that I would become an educator about HIV. I continue to live in that truth and that promise. Yet my status can definitely be used against me in ways other than criminalization. I could very well lose my job if they decide to take their verbal attacks upon me any further. I take precautionary steps to safeguard my status at my job, yet it may already be a topic of conversation and I am not privy to it yet. I can't help but feel alone when I go through things like this. I can talk to my mom, but she doesn't understand being Trans nor being a person living with HIV. She offers the advice that a loving, concerned parent has for her child, and I still walk away feeling empty.
Being Black is no easy feat. I recognize all kinds of systemic privilege at my job, and I do not benefit from any because I am Black. As hard as I work, I feel undervalued and overworked. I am not guaranteed any job security, and I see that I have had to use my femininity to my advantage. I feel as though I have to pimp my womanhood in a work environment enthralled by testosterone. I face chauvinism and unwanted sexual advances at every turn. Some of the things I hear should be reported to the proper authorities, but these are my life's circumstances right now. I am amazed that I have survived an anniversary at work because it is at times the most depressing and most stressful part of my being. A manager most likely followed me on social media and decided to disclose to some of my coworkers that I am Trans, but it was a failed attempt to assassinate my character because I'm still there. It would only stand to reason that she had disclosed my HIV status as well. So, as I am sitting here thinking about the intersections in my life, it became apparent how resilient I truly am. I'm well, having the knowledge that I am a conqueror through divine intervention. There are forces working together for my good.