Monthly Archives: October 2015

Transgender Employment and Job Seeking

Transgender Employment and Job Seeking

Transgender people comprise 0.3 % of American adults, or about 700,000 people, according to a 2011 study by the Williams Institute.    Transgender unemployment is  2X the rate of the general population and transgender people are 4X more likely to live in poverty according to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, (n=6,450.)      The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that discrimination based on gender identity is sex discrimination, triggering Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  President Obama has also signed Executive Orders protecting federal employee and federal contractor transgender workers.  Some states and localities have passed laws protecting transgender workers.    Despite this, many transgender people struggle to find work.

Aside from the surface issues of presentation, (how you look) there is the issue of legal identification.   Almost all job applications ask for legal name, social security number, and past references.  If you haven’t changed your name yet, you face the ugly requirement of putting your legal name on your application instead of your gender conforming name.   You may also have to check the dreaded M box instead of the F, or vice-versa.    Macy’s, no doubt as a result of the Macy v. Holder decision, has adopted a very trans friendly application that adds a space where you can put down the name you prefer to be called by, in addition to your legal name.   Companies can’t get around the legal name issue for obvious reasons.     Even if you have changed your legal name you have to deal with all of your references knowing you as you former self.    So many transgender people wonder, often with some level of desperation, how they will find gainful employment other than the local street corner.  Below is some advice to help you land a decent job.

LGBT Job Fairs

Hey, if companies have tables at these, they are looking to hire you.  That should give you a great confidence boost.   Even if they are looking for the L or G component, at least you know your odds are better than a blind interview.    Affirmations in Ferndale, MI has a LGBT career fair, and many large cities  host LGBT career fairs.  You may have to travel, but you hook up with some local girls and make a day out of it while you are there.   Getting hired will take some effort; be prepared to put some mileage on your car and be prepared (and willing) to relocate.


I have to admit, I’ve been a bit disappointed with this one, but it is obligatory that you at least have a good profile there.   Most HR departments will look you up online, and LinkedIn is one of the first places they look, so you need to have some good info on your publicly accessible profile.   You can also search for jobs and network there, and it is good for at least seeing the ebb and flow of local jobs in your area.


As transgender people enter the workforce we have an obligation to help each other.   Flat out, yes we do.   In the same way that there is an old boy’s network, there needs to be a “former old boy’s network,” (or former girl’s network.)  Affirmative action, regardless of your political views as to the fairness of it, helped African Americans, and employee support groups, both company led, and privately formed definitely helped move more African Americans into the professional workforce.   We need to help each other in the same way, and this includes those closeted individuals who aren’t ready to come out themselves, but can definitely help a sister (or brother) out.

Be That Much Better

You need to be stellar awesome in your communications, interview, and preparation.   The cards will be stacked against you, not only from being one of hundreds of applicants potentially, but realistically because of your transgender status.   You need to be that much better than everyone else.  Proper research on the company you are interviewing with is essential.   Preparation, such as practice interviews, and presentation (dressing) skills are essential.   Record yourself in a practice interview.  You can learn a lot about what the interviewer sees; then work to correct any mistakes and perfect your responses.

Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index

This is a great resource to quickly check up on how LGBT friendly companies are.   Companies are rated on a score of 0 to 100.   The higher the score the more inclusive the company is.   You should also check out the company website and find their diversity and non-discrimination language.   If they have transgender listed, then it is an indication that at least someone in HR is aware of transgender people.

Be Confident

Act like you will be an asset to the company, not that they are doing a favor “to condescend” to hire you.   Be upfront about your status, don’t hide it, but don’t volunteer it unless something is asked.   You may also have to walk the fine line between being a “crusader” and getting hired.   Some questions that you are asked may be illegal, but remember your goal is to get hired.   Grace and gentle education can go a long way.    Finally, always follow up.   Proper manners and etiquette are always appreciated.

Take Acton if You are Wronged

If you are definitely discriminated against you are unlikely to sue as that is very expensive, but you could file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.   You can also inform national and/or local advocacy groups, such as the afore-mentioned Human Rights Campaign, or your local LGBT organization.   At the very least, it will help inform others about how companies treat transgender people.

Hope this helps.

Jenni Contrisciani, MBA