Trans Employment

Posted by – February 28, 2013

CNN ran this article on trans people and employment and economics a few days ago and it occurred to me that perhaps this is new news to some people. It’s a known problem within the trans universe, although of course I know plenty of well-employed, well paid trans people as well – at universities, of course, but also at Google and Twitter, and there are quite a few like Babs Siperstein (in the video) who decided to go their own way and so not worry about discrimination from a manager or boss.

But as with all things the intersectional issues are huge: education, previous employment, the visibility of a job; ethnicity, race, language skills; support from family, faith community, and work — all of these aspects of a trans person’s existence are highly variable. So much can be the luck of the draw; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many trans people are in tech because there is so much more of an emphasis on being excruciatingly smart and capable in very demanding and specific ways; someone, for instance, who has had a life in sales is not going to be as likely to keep a job — although of course a good salesperson shouldn’t have to rely on gender normativity to be able to sell a product.

(I do, as ever, feel the need to point out that it’s pretty cool that CNN is covering issues like this, and not in the “shocking expose” bullshit kind of way.)

Thoughts? If you’ve got a story to tell, feel free. Also, if you need a job or have a job, post those here too.

6 Comments on Trans Employment

  1. jessmink says:

    I’m a technical person who works for the federal government in an academic situation and realize that I am in a pretty good place for my own transition, but I have a lot of friends who have had or are having a hard time working and transitioning. Employment problems tend to be part of the program if you’re transgender, and even if they’re not, you worry that they could be there behind the nice words.

  2. milylasouris says:

    I’m one of the lucky ones and have kept my career going (though it did stall quite a bit as I transitioned). I’ve even been able to transition out of the IT industry and am still finding quite a bit of acceptance and enjoying fairly senior roles.

    That said, the problem is that it just takes one person to derail you. It’s happened once in the past few years where I had a manager who just couldn’t/didn’t want to handle having a trans team member and it was a dead-end for my career in that organisation.

    I once again have the feeling that things are progressing but I still feel I can’t plan for a career progression and am always concerned that some member of senior management will have a problem with me (I’m already concerned about one person).

    It is possible to be trans and have a good career, but there are a few more minefields to stumble into than others face. Corporate non-discrimination policies are a help, but don’t help if it comes down to a single person having a problem with you since there are so many ways to discriminate without making it about being trans (and a smart bigot who can find his way around discriminating openly is still a bigot who can derail ones career).

  3. divadarya says:

    I work in the oh so “liberal” world of Hollywood, where trans people are deeply stealth, closeted or Lana Wachowski. In the below-the-line world, it’s tough to even be openly gay unless you are in wardrobe, makeup, hair or art direction.

    All jobs in Hollywood(even union jobs) are temporary, and gotten through networking. One little whiff of perceived unacceptable “wierdness” and you simply don’t get called.My International, IATSE, has given what I think is probably sincere lip service to being more open to LGBT members, but we all fight that phone that doesn’t ring, and there are lots of older male members(still about 60% of IATSE) who really “don’t get it”.

    I have one friend who heads a highly respected industry association who is a deeply closeted trans woman, another who works in visual effects on set and one who is a dolly grip.

    Strangely enough, it’s the dolly grip who is the most “out”. Younger grips seem to roll with the outlaw nature of fluid gender. I know one or two grips who are female on their driver’s licenses only; they really are rough and tumble trans boys.

    It would be ironic as hell if this industry became more open to LGBT people organically from the bottom up.

  4. I’m another of the fortunate transgender women that transitioned in job and kept it. In my case, I work in academia, where people tend to be “open minded”. The truth is that I work in a place with very challenging goals and with a well established project where every piece is very important. Therefore, everyone’s capacities are well recognized, no matter their beliefs, gender expression, etc.

    I think that the most interesting part in my case is that all this is happening in Mexico. One might have thought that, in such a conservative country, somebody like me was doomed. It was not the case, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. Nevertheless, I still consider myself as being very fortunate. I would say that, in my case, education was the key of my success in transitioning.

  5. JennL says:

    I wonder how many have opted not to transition because of employment/ money concerns when we work outside of academia or select occupations like IT?
    This gives further meaning to the notion of gender being constructed by society.

  6. diannad says:

    Hi Helen,
    Thanks for bringing this issue up. I have not come out at work yet, while I hope and think everything would work out, it is probably 50/50 whether it will. of the people that I personally know, more than half have experienced negative consequences, from being fired outright to being demoted or reorganized out of a job. The remaining, about half are in tech and the other are self employed. The problem is that no one knows in advance how things will turn out, and I have noticed that corporate policies are often just window dressing and if they want to get rid of you, they will find a way. Plus trying to get a job as a trans person is really hard.

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