Being a transgender woman in America is hard. But being a transgender woman in Charlotte, North Carolina, the same state that passed House Bill 2, is even harder. The possibility of hearing a slur as or experiencing the threat of violence is the tape playing in my mind as I navigate an empty parking garage alone, keys in hand.
Looking and securing employment can be just as difficult. You experience that pit-in-the-stomach anxiety anxiety when you walk into an interviewer’s office knowing you have to explain your gender transition. Perfect makeup or a good suit is no guarantee that you will be treated equally. Someone asking about your gender transition is none of their business.
With these challenges in mind, I was inspired by the #TransAtWork campaign that was started by the Trans Employment Program at the Center. The Program, in its 10th year, is the first one in the nation. While this campaign is not officially associated with the center, it falls within the same context. Transgender people are talented and hardworking people and deserve to be compensated no matter what city they live in.
Trader Joe’s Crew Member
“Trader Joe’s is very open to diverse people. I have kids who ask their parents "is that a girl or a boy" out loud. Kids will be kids but it tells me that parents do not open their children's eyes to diversity. We are who we are as humans and individuals and those that have to hide it -- well that is sad for them. I am not going to hide who I am.”
Dr. Laura Levin
“We need transgender people in every industry so people can see that we are able to do the jobs that are given to us. It's also important that kids have positive role model.”
“This work is important because black and trans liberation depends on it. I don't think of the work I do as representative of people. I hope that the work is representative of histories and traditions of black queer resistance. Learn from others. You don't have to reinvent the wheel.”
“I imagine a day where the word transgender isn’t met with so much afterthought. We are not sex objects or science experiments. We are people just like anyone else.”
Project Coordinator for Blueprint NC
“My work is very important to the queer and trans community. I work everyday to make sure we have the ability to be heard, to amplify our voices, to build our community, and to advocate for the changes we need to make our lives safer.”
Operations Manager - Home Collection
“I feel like they're should be more companies looking for transgender employees. Transgender unemployment rate is double that of the general population: 14%. Almost half of the transgender population are underemployed. Furthermore, a lot transgender people are forced to come out at the very early stages of job applications given the current (binaric) hiring system we have. For example, having to answer the question - 'previous legal name(s)'.”
“Charlotte, NC is my home and my family is here. I’m proud to be a part of such a strong community. When our communities lives are under attack, we stand up and fight back. Being a paramedic means protecting the lives of my community. “
Dr. Andrea Pitts
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
“When I was younger, I studied jazz music pretty seriously. I loved how musicians would riff on the past to create something new, and locate themselves in relation to prior traditions by complicating, dismantling, and reconstructing those traditions. In graduate school, Latina feminist theory and philosophy of race allowed me to locate myself within a complicated history of ideas and develop a creative relationship to the past. Now, as an educator, I seek to encourage students to similarly riff on previous interpretations of the world and find new ways to challenge the normative structures in which we live.”
“We live in a society that doesn't value trans and queer lives, especially when those folks are brown and black. That's not stopping all of the amazing queer POC leaders in Charlotte that are working to dismantle this system that oppresses all of us. I am not a leader in this movement, I'm a white accomplice organizer. My organizing focus is to bring more white, trans, bisexual ashkenazi jews into the movement for black lives. Together we will destroy white supremacy and this capitalist society.”
Server - Tupelo Honey Café
“I feel like if we can’t express ourselves freely then we can’t bring our full selves to the work. I’ve worked in spaces where I have to tone down my gender expression and I found myself more distracted and less open. Today was the first day I wore a dress to this job and it’s opened up a whole new world. I feel like now people actually know who it is that they’re working with. “
To learn more about the Trans at Work Campaign by the San Francisco LGBT Center visit this address: http://transemploymentprogram.org/