Trans* on the Job, Part 1: Working While Pre-Name Change and/or Pre-T
Getting a job or working can be difficult when you’re trans*. Many times the law does not protect us from being fired or discriminated against at work due to gender identity, and there are few resources for helping us navigate the workplace. This instillation of “Trans on the Job” specifically focuses on advice for people who have not yet changed their name and/or are pre-T and may or may not have trouble passing.
Applying for Jobs
-Know your rights in the state you’ll be working in (or the country) and the non-discrimination policies of the companies/places you apply to. Most larger companies list their non-discrimination policies on their websites or even physically post them somewhere conspicuous at the workplace. Having an inclusive non-discrimination policy is not a sure-fire assurance that you will be hired there or that you will not face any kind of discomfort or discrimination on the job, however it does mean that someone at the company is aware of transgender issues and that you would likely be listened to by the higher ups if you report discrimination you face on the job. You don’t need to limit yourself to only applying to places that include “gender identity” in their non-discrimination policies, but it certainly can help your chances of getting hired and being happier at that job.
-If you do not pass regularly, consider how you wish to present yourself. There are plenty of trans* people out there who live as one gender and work as another, and there is nothing wrong with working as female unless the idea of this is uncomfortable or unbearable for you. An option for you in this situation is to apply for the job and interview as birth sex and gender conforming and then once on the job you could change your expression and identity to be more comfortable for you. There are also plenty of trans* people who do not pass 100% yet work as male and have their identities respected and affirmed at work, it unfortunately just can be difficult to find these types of workplaces sometimes.
-If a form asks for your legal name, you need to give your legal name. If it doesn’t specify “legal name,” feel free to put down your preferred name. Even if you put down your legal name, you can still put your preferred name next to it or let your potential employer know that you go by a different name. Presenting as a gender contrary to the one that you are most often read as or one that is different than your legal name implies (or being open as trans*) may hurt your chances of getting hired. This is extremely unfortunate, but also the truth. Keep this in mind while making decisions about how you will fill out applications or present yourself during interviews. You may not want to work at a job that wouldn’t hire you knowing that you are transgender anyway, or you might need a job so much that you don’t have a choice to take a risk of hurting your chances of being hired. These are all difficult decisions and there are no easy answers.
-Keep in mind that most jobs in most fields require their employees to dress fairly conservatively, and even if they do not it is usually expected that job applicants will dress conservatively for interviews. Unfortunately the typical job interview attire is very gendered, which can be difficult, particularly for those who are genderqueer. When dressing for the job interview, consider how you plan on presenting yourself on the job if you are hired, and dress one step up but in that direction.
More information on applying for jobs as a trans* person, including deciding whether or not to out yourself during the job interview and dealing with human resources can be found here.
Transitioning/Coming Out on the Job
-This can be difficult, and you should weigh the pros and cons before bringing it up with your supervisors or just going for it. If you’ve been at your job for a long time and you love it, than it could be well worth it for you to try to stick with it and transition there, however if it is a short-term job that you hate anyway, it may be better to just quit. With this economy, it can be difficult to find work, and so this is something you also need to take into consideration. Also, many people can’t afford to do the bulk of their physical or social transition while between jobs (or to switch jobs due to transition related issues).
-Try to find an ally at the office/workplace, particularly someone in HR or higher up. Feel them out to see if they are accepting, and explain your situation to them if/when you feel comfortable. Once again, it’s important to know your rights at the workplace.
-Decide how you want to deal with your transition or trans* status at work, and discuss a game plan with HR, a trusted coworker, your supervisor, etc. before you come out to everyone or explain your transition to everyone. Do you want a memo to be sent out about your transition? Are you going to announce it at a meeting? Are you going to be open to discussing it with your coworkers or answering their questions? How are you going to deal with bathrooms? It is good to work out all of these things early and have an idea of how you are going to deal with things so when they do happen, you’re prepared.
More information on transitioning on the job can be found here, though the article was written specifically for trans* women and is a little older, it still might contain some helpful information for some of you out there.
Dealing with Misgendering or Discrimination on the Job
-Even if you are out at the office as trans* or generally known as male, some people may still insist on using female pronouns for you or your birth name. In this case, it really helps to have a strong ally in the workplace who uses the correct name and pronouns and will influence others to do so as well. If not, a firm yet gentle reminder can help, either verbally or in the form of a memo. If the misgendering persists and you feel there isn’t anyone higher up who will help you deal with the situation, try talking to individuals who are giving you trouble one-on-one and calmly explain your feelings on being misgendered and how inappropriate it is.
-If you experience discrimination at work, make sure to keep detailed records of what is happening to you (what was said, when it was said, what you were doing, etc.). These can be used as evidence when you file a complaint with human resources or your higher ups. Keep in mind that even if the law doesn’t protect you against discrimination based on gender identity, it still protects you from sexual harassment and it is still illegal for them to treat you like less than a human being. For more information on dealing with discrimination at work, check out the Equality and Human Rights Comission.
This obviously isn’t comprehensive, but hopefully can be a good starting point. Other resources for trans* people and employment are the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Transgender Job Bank (which helps transgender people worldwide find employment), Transgender At Work Project (which focuses on issues facing transgender people in the workplace), and the Human Rights Campaign (problematic as many people find it, it does actually have a good page of resources for transgender employees).