For many of us who are transgender, there comes a point in our transition where it is either time to come out as who we are at work or try to move on in a new place where we can just be ourselves. If you decide to come out at work, it can be a roll of the dice. In many places, you can still be fired just for being transgender. If you are lucky enough to work in a place where the company will accept you for whom you are, you still then have to deal with a period of adjustment. You go through the process changing your information on all the company’s systems, and of course dealing with the reactions of your peers. You will most likely be faced with a lot of misgendering and many uncomfortable moments. Either way it won’t be easy. You may be willing to work through it all. There are both stories of success and horror stories when it involves coming out at work, but for some of us, we may decide it is time to move on and start a new life as who we were meant to be in a new place.
In general, interviewing for a new job is stressful enough. Going on an interview as a transgender person adds a whole other level of stress that most people often don’t have to worry about. Contrary to what some may believe, there is still a huge gender gap when it comes to employment. Depending on how you identify that can be either a benefit or a detriment when seeking a new position. Either way it will be an adjustment for you. For someone who is non-binary it can be even more complicated. Even if you get through the interview process and are offered a position, you may still have to deal with outing yourself to HR if your legal documentation differs from your actual gender identity. The outcome depends on how forward thinking the company you are applying for is. Either way it can be a nerve-wracking experience.
"MY FIRST THOUGHT ON THE SUBJECT IS THAT THE FACT THAT I AM TRANSGENDER IS NOBODY’S BUSINESS."
My first thought on the subject is that the fact that I am transgender is nobody’s business. In a perfect world, I should be able to leave it at that. I want to be judged on my level of experience, and I would hope that my interview is based on my credentials, personality, and my ability to handle myself, but the truth is that at some point my being transgender could possibly come into play. As someone who is out and public with their experience, I know that there is a good chance that this is something I will have to eventually deal with at work. I am certainly not living the stealth life, so it is to be expected. So this raises the ultimate question; do I just come out with it during my interview or do I just avoid it and see where it goes?
Unfortunately, passing plays an enormous role in all this. The problem is that even if a thousand people tell me I pass, I still don’t believe them. No matter where I am or what I do, being clocked as a transgender person is always on my mind. It is not as though I particularly care if people think I am transgender or not, for me it is a matter of safety and awareness that it will somehow affect any situation I am in. I am always on guard about it and prepared to deal with the possibility of it being an issue. It is the defense mechanism that I have built up over the years. Regardless of whether I just came out with it or not, my being transgender would be on my mind throughout the interview, and it may possibly be on the mind of the person who is interviewing me.
I had reached the point in my own transition where I felt it was time for me to look for a new job. Though there were many struggles with the process of coming out at my previous employer, things ultimately worked out for me. The problem was that I still hated the work I did. There was also the fact that I ended up there based on the poor decisions I made as a person who wasn’t living the life they were supposed to. I decided I was going to throw it all to the wind, take a break, and then find something new where the baggage of my past would no longer be there. Eventually, I got my resume together, went online, and started to apply for some of the available positions I found.
I immediately realized there is a huge difference between applying for a position as a woman and applying as a presumed male. Though the only major difference on my resume had been a name that was feminine in perception rather than masculine, I wasn’t getting the responses to my resume that I was used to expecting. This is most likely due to the fact that I was applying for jobs that were certainly considered male dominated, but eventually I got a few bytes. It could be a coincidence, but in all cases where I received a response, the recruiters happened to be female.
Things progressed rather quickly over a matter of days after I received a particular response that I was really interested in. It was going great. I spoke with the recruiter and passed through two phone interviews. Next up was an in-person meeting with the man who could end up being my new boss. Up until this point, things couldn’t have gone any better, and that is when the concern started to creep in. It was the realization that my being transgender, whether I told this person outright or it was their perception, would now come into play in this interview. My mind began to race, and I wondered if I should just tell this person. That was my problem, it is not really anyone’s business, but yet I don’t necessarily have a problem with it either. On one hand, I prefer to be totally honest. On the other, I want to be judged on my abilities and not have my being transgender play a part in this consideration. So I made my choice.
"I DECIDED I WOULD NOT MENTION MY BEING TRANSGENDER AT ALL."
I decided I would not mention my being transgender at all. My legal documents all reflect my true identity. There was nothing to explain. It is a certainly a privilege for me to be in that position. Many of us don’t have that luxury. If the person interviewing me were to clock me as transgender, it would just be their own perception whether if it were true or not. If perceiving me as being transgender was to affect my getting this position, then I wouldn’t want to work for a company that saw it as a problem anyway. There is also a flip side to it all, perhaps they are forward thinking and were looking to be more diverse? It could go either way, so I decided to just go and be myself. If anything came up I would just be prepared to deal with it.
So I had my interview, and my potential new boss seemed like a pretty great guy. He was down to earth and upfront about everything he spoke about. Throughout the meeting, I did my best to seem like I had it altogether, but to be honest, my being transgender was on my mind the entire time. I answered all his questions on autopilot as I wrestled with my own thoughts about whether this guy was clocking me or not, and if it even mattered to him. It was very possible that he didn’t care at all, with these thoughts just being in my own head. I finished the interview, and for the first time during the whole process, I was unsure about the possible outcome.
Luckily, after a few days of waiting I had been contacted and they made me an offer. I ended up accepting the position, but I know there will still be a point during this employment that my being transgender will come up. Eventually, someone will find out somehow, and I will have to be prepared for when that day comes. Hopefully, it will be a point after I had already proved myself as capable of doing a good job for the company. No matter what happens, it will still always be n the back of my mind.
What I learned through the experience is this; no matter who you are there will always be perceptions that come into play when you are interviewing for a new job. Your race, gender, presentation, and many other factors can play a role, even when they shouldn’t. Though we all should be judged based on our qualifications and experience, we live in a world that assigns privileges where there shouldn’t be. What matters is that if an employer sees any of these markers as an obstacle to hiring you, then it is probably a place where you wouldn’t want to work anyway.