Seven years ago, M. Hauwert was hired as a male correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison. Now Officer Hauwert is transitioning to a female identity.
“I’m hoping that someday it’ll get to the point where we don’t need to make gender identification an issue,” Hauwert said in an interview.
Hauwert, who is 34, began her transition by first growing her hair out and using bobby pins. She later started using makeup. A year before she came out, she got her ears pierced. However, male officers cannot wear earrings, so Hauwert wore Band-Aids over her ears. Since then, Hauwert has legally changed her name and her birth certificate now declares that she is a female.
“At first, I was a transgender woman who was cross-dressing,” Hauwert said. “Then I began experimenting with makeup and clothes for my body type. Some of the outfits were horrendous!”
She first decided to identify as transsexual at age 23, while still in the Navy. Military records show that Hauwert served for eight years and received an honorable discharge from the Navy.
Her next step would take another six years. She didn’t come out to her family and closest friends until age 29.
“My gender dissonance was all-inclusive. It overwhelmed my every thought. I started by wearing makeup and dressing as a woman,” Hauwert said. “When people asked about it, I explained that I’m a transsexual woman. I’m not just dressing as female; I’m living as a woman. It took my family a long time to get used to me being transgender.”
Hauwert said that after leaving the Navy she turned to her uncle, who worked for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He suggested that she apply for employment with CDCR. After being accepted, Hauwert started her career at San Quentin State Prison.
Hauwert said there have been times where people just do not know how to approach her. When people make derogatory remarks, she said, “It’s dehumanizing. Any remarks like that are hurtful and meant to bring you down. You get either angry or depressed. I get depressed and usually keep my head down.”
“Most people don’t mis-gender me out of hate. They just don’t know how to identify me”
Hauwert said mis-gendering for a person transitioning from male to female is when someone uses a male pronoun toward them. “So to mis-gender a woman means to refer to her by using a male pronoun – any word that means ‘man’,” she said.
Hauwert said mis-gendering is “like water torture.”
“Eventually, it drives the person insane, because the person is trapped and has to endure it every time,” she said. “Each time that you mis-gender someone, it hurts the person slowly, like water droplets. Each ‘him’ or ‘he’ becomes a terrifying experience. It’s not that we cannot handle people calling us ‘sir.’ They simply don’t know that it’s been happening to you for years, even decades. People sometimes don’t realize that they’re tearing away who that person is, that they’re taking away your right to self-identify.”
“I’ve given you a lot of information with one word. In the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) Community, labeling is a way to identify one’s self. My viewpoint is that it’s been extremely helpful,” Hauwert said. “There’s a label that tells a little about who I am. If I say I’m not a cross-dresser but transsexual, then you know what I am and vice versa. By giving myself a label, I’m telling you who I am. But, it’s still only a part of me.”
Webster’s New College Dictionary says transgender sexuality is not readily characterized as exclusively male or female. Transsexuals are predisposed to identify with the opposite sex, sometimes so strongly they undergo surgery and hormone injections to effect a change of sex.
The June issue of TIME magazine reported that 65 percent of Americans know or have a family member who is homosexual. Of the 65 percent, 9 percent said they have one who is transgender.
Hauwert added that being transsexual is not a choice. People are born with their sexual orientation and gender identity, she said.
Hauwert said if she had the opportunity to talk to herself at a young age, she would say, “I wish the younger me hadn’t stolen my life. I would tell him to step aside.”