I am originally from Puerto Rico, and I live now in Albany. I came to New York in August of 2004 with the hopes of completing a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), in Troy NY. However, I could not complete my Ph.D. Degree at RPI due to financial and other difficulties so I am currently a part-time student at Hudson Valley Community College. I am engaged in activism, do acting with community theatre organizations, fight choreography, whip cracking performances and juggling. None of these activities pay enough to support myself so I have to live with roommates.
At my previous apartment I faced discriminatory and angry comments from one of my housemates after I told him I was transgender. Basically what happened is that I moved into that apartment back in late September where the landlord was renting the rooms individually. I did not know the other two people living there until I moved in. Soon after I moved in I told them I am transgender. Then on October 29 one of the housemates asked me a question using my previous name. That took me by surprise. I told him that my name is Paola and he replied "whatever." The fact that he used my previous name on purpose bothered me. So I told him that my name legally is Paola and that I didn’t like when he used my previous name. His response was "I will call you whatever I want to." I told him he was being disrespectful and then he got angrier and said "you do not have a vagina so I will call you Pedro. If you don't like it, move away."
That day I called the landlord and told her the situation. I also informed my other housemates of the situation because I began to feel unsafe. My housemate became very aggressive. On two other occasions he verbally harassed me, calling me a “piece of shit” and on one occasion he backed me into a wall and was about to hit me.
A few days later I got a phone call from the landlord telling me that the other housemates did not like the "tense situation" between me and the one housemate. She gave me 30 days to move. I told her that she couldn't do that, that this was just plain discrimination and that I was going to write a complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights.
I filed a complaint against her. Because the person that was harassing and threatening me continued living there I did not feel safe and so I had to move out of the apartment. I eventually came to a settlement through the Division of Human Rights and the landlord had to return my security deposit.
This was my worst nightmare turning real. I tried to be honest with my housemates because I was concerned they could have figured out I was transgender, and then how would they have reacted? Maybe in a more aggressive way. I still have fear when searching for apartments. I don't have a job to pay for one of my own, so I need to have roommates to afford living expenses.
Not everything has been negative during my transition process or after. I used to be a pro-wrestler and when I came out to my friends in pro-wrestling they were very supportive. Yet, it is still very important for the government to pass legislation to prevent people from denying us a job or a place to live. And there is still a big need for more education because there are false negative perceptions towards transgender people.