I Love My Job: Transgender Uber Driver Victoria Miller
She's completed nearly 8,000 trips in just two years and has the most decked out ride you'll ever see.
When I stepped into Victoria Miller’s Mazda two weeks ago one Saturday night, I had no idea I’d be stepping into the most relaxing Uber ride I had ever experienced to date. The ambiance was set by pink lights underneath the seats and smooth jazz music that was connected to the car’s TV screens. Though I was preparing to fall into a comfy slumber, Miller’s story kept my attention. She transitioned then became a driver, and now she’s nearing 8,000 trips in just two years. Here’s how she’s turned her ride into a decked out classroom:
I grew up in… Blackwood, New Jersey.
I currently live on a boat because… I’ve always had a dream of retiring and living on a boat. I was forcefully retired one day when I was found in front of my office in a puddle of vomit in a diabetic coma. On the way to the hospital, I developed heart issues and laid in the ICU for a little over a month.
I got a very large medical bill that I couldn’t pay, which then caused a bankruptcy and then a foreclosure of my property and my business. I lost everything I owned. I became homeless. I had enough left to sell everything I owned and buy the boat. It’s down near the airport, near Tinicum Island in Essington.
I’ve been driving with Uber and Lyft since… 2016. Between the two, I’ve done close to 8,000 rides. I’ve driven 140,000 miles in that time.
Before this I… owned a commercial printing and signs company for 40 years. It was in Turnersville. And in a previous occupation I was a rescue diver and underwater crime scene investigator. I still do that sometimes.
I typically drive… from Thursday to Monday. I’ve done as many as 40 rides on a Friday. On Friday, I typically start real early at about 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning and drive until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. I take breaks in that time — naps, stuff like that. The Uber app will actually shut us off if we’ve been driving too long.
On my first ride I… was nervous as hell. Being transgender, I didn’t know how people would take it. It was kind of an experiment. My purpose with starting was to get people to interact and to get to know me and to know a transgender person because a lot of us, we’re misunderstood by a lot of people.
When customers step into my SUV they… are surprised by how decked out my car is with the colored television, the lighting under the seats. They compliment me on the retractable charge cords. It is kind of funny when they look at my rearview mirror, and they see themselves in the video cameras. They’ll ask if they’re being recorded. I tell them, “yes.” I think that helps stop the riffraff. People are pleasantly surprised all the time, and they like it.
Some elements in my ride you likely won’t find in any others are… cable TV. I don’t think any other car in the city has that. The stereo is a little bit ramped up and is tied into the television. The security cameras, the lighting, the bright pink that kind of glows at night. Sometimes you’ll hear the ham radio go off, and a lot of people don’t really know what that is. It’s fun.
Many things are pink because… my two favorite colors have always been pink and purple. What’s really funny about that is growing up, I always told people — because I was born as a boy — that my favorite color was blue. That wasn’t true. It was always purple. [Laughs]
In my car people have left behind… everything from a cash bag with a whole bunch of money in it, to cell phones, to shoes, umbrellas and thermoses.
My Uber account was once temporarily suspended… on the day of the election. When our present inhabitant of the White House got elected, I was on my way to a rider, and the phone rang. The GPS was taking me to the back of a shopping center. The rider called me and she questioned my identity on the phone.
She said, “Is this Victoria?” and I said, “Yes, ma’am, it is.” And she said, “You sound like a man,” and I said, “Well, I’m transgender and I have a deeper voice — that’s why.” She chuckled and said, “Donald Trump is gonna get your ass.” She hung up, canceled the ride, took it a step further and filed a false driver report with Uber. They deactivated my account. I had to fight to get my job back for two days. The Philadelphia human affairs department said they were going to take the case against Uber but never acted on it. I never got reimbursed for lost wages. That incident cost me $400.
To make my experience as a driver drastically better, Uber and Lyft could… not always take the rider’s word for things that happen. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, riders lie; that’s why we have video cameras now. I had complaints before I had the cameras, and now when they notice the cameras, they behave better. They act differently being videotaped.
Also, the pay rate. Uber went from an 80/20 pay split to a 50/50 pay split. Uber is taking a lot more money than Lyft. But Lyft don’t pay claims either. I had a rider do $500 worth of damage to the inside of my doors and they refused to pay for it. So it’s either I take them to court or accept the damage.
Coming out as transgender was… well, before coming out it was very nerve-wracking. We get to a point where we’re either gonna do this or take our life. That’s how bad it gets.
My situation was a little bit different since I had just filed for bankruptcy because of my medical bills. I was losing everything, virtually becoming homeless. I had just made the deal on my boat and was having it transported to Philadelphia. I kind of looked at it as “If I made it, I would be living free. If I didn’t, the right name would be on the tombstone.” That’s kind of the way it played out.
My first day, it was very nerve-wracking that morning. I went to my old local town diner in Blackwood, New Jersey, and everybody treated me fine. The owner of the diner, Maria, she had heard about it through a couple of friends on Facebook, because I announced it on Facebook the night before. When I walked in there it used to be, “Good morning, Bob. How are you?” It was then, “Good morning, Victoria. You look lovely today. How are you?” Maria really set the tone for a lot of people that were there because she was so supportive.
I chose Victoria because… I love the Victorian era.
I transitioned when I was… 53. When people transition they tell you to get your financial house in order, to make sure you’re stable and things are lined up. I did it absolutely the worst way you could do it. My life was a total train wreck. I didn’t have a choice. It was literally, “I’m going to do this now or never” and I did it.
The best part of my transition has been…the amount of friends I have. I have a hundred times more friends. Those friends are genuine friends because they love me and accept me for who I am. They’re very understanding. Most of my guy friends went away, but my female friends are there. The dynamic of female friends is far different than the dynamic of male friends.
Something I could do without is… hair removal. It’s painful, expensive, and I wish I didn’t have to go through that! I was literally like a teddy bear — I had hair all over the place.
My preferred pronouns are… female pronouns: her, she.
The bathroom situation… was pretty nerve-wracking the first week. Though I had my license to pee — a letter from my doctor saying that part of my transition involves using things any other females would use including the bathroom — I was worried about what people would say. Only one woman said something to me. I went in, I did my business, checked my makeup at the sink, and she said, “What are you doing in here?” I attacked it with a little bit of humor: “Well, I’m just doing my business and checking my makeup. Speaking of which, damn you ought to try some!” The other women busted up laughin’, and I walked out of there.
My family thinks I’m… nuts! My oldest brother fully accepted me. My next brother doesn’t accept me at all, and his three sons threatened to kill me when I came out. They weren’t gonna have a faggot in the family. I have a no-contact order with them.
I no longer live in South Jersey because… it’s a very Republican town with conservatives that hate people like me. The city here is very liberal, and I was welcomed here with open arms. I was here for about three months, and I met Jim Kenney when I was playing for the Philadelphia Freedom Band. He wasn’t the mayor then. Mr. Kenney was so open and warm and welcoming. I found out how much of a supporter he is of our community.
I spent last Thanksgiving with… one of my Uber riders. She asked me when I was going to stop driving for the day and have Thanksgiving with my family, and I kind of chuckled. I told her my family rejected me. She was very sad about that, and she literally shed a tear. In the course of the conversation, she handed me a piece of paper with her address on it. She said, “Dinner is at seven.”
Over the last six years, I’ve had many of my friends invite me to Thanksgiving dinner because they know the situation. I’ve also hosted. I don’t have a fear of being alone on holidays anymore. That’s always a very sad, depressing time for trans people. That’s actually when many suicides occur.
My secret talent is… I’m a musician. I play brass instruments like the trumpet and euphonium.
My favorite place in Philly is… Bridget and Foy’s, which burned down. I know they’re gonna rebuild. Right now, my favorite place is Tria on 12th and Spruce.
I’m afraid of… the police and getting arrested. I’ve been harassed by policemen just for being what I am. Police have told me that my license looks fake. I was wrongfully arrested once because my one nephew that threatened to kill me filed a false criminal complaint against me, which was rough. They discovered the truth, but even still, typically trans people get abused in jails. When you’ve been harassed and abused by police, you’re just afraid of them. You’re afraid of the system. Rape in jail is a bad thing for trans people.
I’m really proud of… my two children. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them in six years because the courts took them away from me because I’m transgender. But the next thing I’m most proud of is making it where I am and becoming who I am as a person.
I’d best describe my style as… [Laughs] Trans women have to go through this evolution of style in a short period of time that you did as a woman your whole life. So we’re crammin’ it through. We didn’t have anyone to teach us how to put our hair up in a high ponytail. So we’re looking at other women and trying to mimic other women, but I’ve always been one to not care what people think of me. Doing things outside of the box has always been something that is part of me. I am kind of a “glammy girl” I guess is what you would call it.
The best part of my job is… the people — getting to just meet and know people. One of the coolest things is that I know I’ve helped at least a half dozen people who wanted to transition and didn’t know where to start. I guided them to the proper help that they needed. I break down and start crying in my car. I had a woman with two twins, and one insisted that he was a girl. A lot of times people just ask me questions about being transgender, like when did I know. So I’m educating people on my community. I know the people who asked me questions left with a better understanding of us.
My new business venture will be… a bed and breakfast inn. It’s going to be a lot different than any other bed and breakfast inn because it’s going to be on a 44-foot President motor yacht. I’ll be doing wine and cheese cruises, dinners, and people can stay over in the master stateroom and get served breakfast in the morning. I just bought the boat a week ago and am studying to get my captain’s license. I’m in the process of setting it all up, and I’m gonna start deciding on trade names and go from there.