The past few years have been stellar for the transgender community, and from Janet Mock to Caitlyn Jenner our visibility has skyrocketed. For the first time in my life it seems like we are being "seen." It's really great. The problem, though, is that while we're waiting for society to legitimize our existence we, who are not as privileged as Caitlyn, have to contend with such issues as unparalleled harassment and job discrimination.
Interviewing for a job while trans is one of the more discouraging experiences. Let's discuss the facts. I have over 15-years of experience in the hospitality industry and I've worked in virtually all aspects of operations. I have opened seven restaurants for a corporate restaurant chain; I've been everything from host supervisor and key employee to training and banquet manager. In short, my resume is pretty damn impressive, so that's why it feels so odd that I have difficulty finding a job, even one that's not in a supervisory position.
Don't get me wrong, I've been plugging away. Hitting the streets. Applying online. I've interviewed for several jobs and just can't seem to get beyond interview number one. Why? With my resume one can only assume it's because I'm trans. This form of discrimination is more subtle than others I've experienced.
One major example happened to me seven years ago. I'd just begun the transition process. I looked a bit like a butch woman most of the time. It was a very strange place to be. I wasn't quite ready to present female all the time and I would have felt really insecure doing so, but I also didn't quite present as male. I get it ya'll, it's very confusing sometimes. The truth is though, all I wanted was to be able to get a job and participate in society. I was out every day looking and when I wasn't out I was at home filling out online applications.
I went to a popular brunch spot in West Hollywood where a friend of mine worked as a server. I submitted my application and interviewed on the spot. It was an amazing interview. I went to my second interview, it was a great interview. I was used to getting the job pretty much on the spot as my experience was substantial. Several days went by, then weeks. I finally asked my friend if he knew what was happening. He told me the story of how the guy from corporate office who'd interviewed me asked if I was trans and then made a face and left.
If you've ever felt discrimination, it really sucks. I was denied a job based on the fact that I was transitioning. Although I have exceptional qualifications and am always professional when caring for guests I was denied a job based on who I am and how we, as a community, are perceived.
Once I was able to change my name and documents it's been quite a bit easier. I've worked for another major corporate chain restaurant with complete acceptance. I've worked for several hospitality companies in the middle of the country and they welcome my input based on my experience and expertise in the industry, never questioning if it was the right decision to hire me, a trans person.
But last fall discrimination hit again, and this time quite unexpectedly. A friend of mine who's boyfriend is a well known chef all the way from the West Coast to Wisconsin was staffing for an event. My friend told him about me and my experience. The chef said "She's not the image I want to present." This was based solely on the fact that I am transgender. Once again, my experience, professionalism and appearance weren't even a factor in the process. A person who'd posted pro-equality subject matter on his social media, who was part of the community in which I belong was refusing to even consider me for a position because I am trans. I, again, find myself with no recourse due to the fact that my friend is caught in the middle. It's infuriating.
Now, I'm faced with the same issues. I just moved to a new city and I'm trying to find work, and the only reason I can think that I'm not being hired is because I'm transgender.
This begs the question, how many of us are denied jobs, not even considered for jobs or are blatantly refused employment for which we are perfectly qualified?
The facts are that Transgender & Gender Nonconforming people experience "double the rate of unemployment" and are likely to experience "debilitating negative outcomes" if we are unemployed according to a survey conducted by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and National Center For Transgender Equality entitled "Injustice At Every Turn." The economic disparities we face are unthinkable in the 21st century.
How do we combat these daunting truths? Will we ever be welcomed to the table? These are the questions I ask myself daily. It has been my duty to advocate for our community. I work with companies to educate them on transgender issues when it comes to employment. I advocate on behalf of my brothers and sisters to increase awareness and work with companies to change and tweak policies that help us, but the harsh reality is that there are many of us who just can't get a job despite how perfect for a job we are.
This is in no way meant to be a "gloom and doom" op-ed piece. If you are an employer you should know that WE are qualified and well motivated. Also, according to the aforementioned study, when we feel comfortable at work our productivity and performance improve. Therefore, if you hire a trans or gender nonconforming person and create a positive work environment for us you are getting a far better employee, and probably one that values their job highly and is willing to put in 100 percent every single hour of the day.