The media has given a signifigant amount of air time and column inches to the transgender community in recent months. While it is refreshing to see the positive coverage, it does very little to impact the immediate needs of most transgender people around the world. Few of us are aiming to grace the cover of a magazine or build a media empire. Not that I have an issue with that, but the reality for most of us is that we are not even able to find substantial employment, let alone fame and fortune.
Over the course of business history in America, there have been several people groups that were seen as a liability to the workforce: women, African Americans, gays and lesbians, just to name a few. In each case, the fears that marginalized them proved to be ill-founded, overstated and misguided.
I do not consider myself an activist and I do not presume to speak on-behalf of any group of people. I am compelled to publish this letter because the issue has personal implications on me as well as those I am responsible for and who look to me for provision and care.
What I would like to call to your attention are the disturbingly low hiring and interview rates of highly qualified transgender people.
There are prevalent misunderstandings in the marketplace that appear to be hampering the ability of transgender individuals to secure work that is consummate to their education and expereience. These need to be cleared up and retired.
1) Transgender people are a liability
Much of this misconception is the belief that we require more than average medical attention resulting in more time off and increased medical insurance costs. On the contrary, companies that have more open hiring practices have found that we cost less than employees with issues such as chronic smoking or obiesity.
2) Transgender people are disruptive to the workplace
In reality, transgender people on the average do not wish to draw attention to themselves. Disruption in the workplace comes from individuals who would impose their ideologies on others. Blaming transgender people for workplace disruption is akin to blaming a victim of sexual harassment for the actions of the harassar.
3) Transgender people are mentally unstable or ill
Taking the steps we have taken in our lives has required a great deal of courage, commitment and self-awareness. Most of us are more healthy, open and honest now than we have ever been. We may have trust issues that we need to overcome as a result of a lifetime of marginalization and either subtle or overt discrimination and bullying, but such issues are also present in a large portion of the general population.
4) Transgender people are sexually deviant, making use public of facilities an issue
There are no documented cases of actual transgender individuals using access to a public facility to carry out a sexual asualt. In fact, we are much more likely to be the victims of assault than the perpetrators of such actions.
Much like the rest of your workforce, we are less motivated by sex than by other more socially acceptable conventions such as positive affirmation, financial reward and public recognition of our work.
5) Our names can give us away
We are often “outed” in the screening process because our names have changed. Not disclosing this change puts us at risk of not being properly vetted and disclosing it opens us up to needless discrimination. The fact that our names have changed really presents no more practical issues than a woman who has changed from a maiden to a married name (or visa-versa).
Ask the questions you need to ask. When did we change our names? Why did we change our names? What name did we go by (and if there are obvious gender differences in the two names, you really don’t need to ask any more details!)
In contrast, here are some truths you should be aware of when you come across a transgender candidate:
1) We represent a highly motivated, intelligent segment of the workforce.
Judge us on our education, skill sets, experience and produced results rather than our gender identification.
2) We represent an opportunity for you to effect social and economic change in our culture. As progressive thought continues to gain ground in the marketplace, acceptance of transgender people will only continue to increase. You have an opportunity to be a leader on this front rather than a follower.
Every legislative session, state governments across the nation entertain bills that either promote discrimination of the LGBT community, transgender individuals specifically, or seek to legislate the same protection for our community that is enjoyed by our professional and intellectual peers.
The resources spent on these legislative tasks could be redirected if significant social and economic changes renders them pointless. You have the opportunity to effect that change in your hiring decisions.
3) We bring a very unique perspective to the table. Our ability to relate to people regardless of gender, social class, economic status, age or other traditional dividers is driven and informed by our own experiences of being discriminated against, harrassed, misunderstood and otherwise marginalized.
4) We will recognize the opportunity you present and reward that with our hard work and loyalty.
Laura Beth Taylor