If you are a transgender reality star or an actress, there have been a number of job opportunities recently. You are able to make a living being who you are. Media has embraced these stars, intrigued by their stories and their ability to raise awareness for the transgender population and its struggles for acceptance. Jazz, Laverne Cox and Caitlyn are breaking barriers for this community.
Yet, the road for acceptance in the workplace for a transgender person is far from easy. It is a challenge for most to go mainstream as there is much prejudice against them in the workplace. Much like the gay/lesbian movement who lived in a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” work environment, the transgender community is facing the same challenges for acceptance. If you “pass” as the gender you identify with and have no public record of being a transgender person, it is easier to get a job.
I have two transgender women friends. One is in her 20’s in financial services and the other is in her 40’s and in media. Both have not revealed they are transgender women when they applied for a job. The younger one, who has identified as a female since she was very young, has kept her “secret” from her current employer. She learned her lesson she says when she went through sorority rush in college as a Trans woman and no one rushed her.
She sees coming out as a transgender woman as being a detriment to her career, something she will not jeopardize in her efforts to become a successful financial advisor. To her company, she is just another young woman hire who is looking to make a name for herself in the industry. She is off to a great start as she has the personality and drive to succeed.
My other friend, who has an impressive background, has had a difficult time securing a new job. She has not revealed she is a transgender woman rather has been focusing on what her skills can bring to a potential employer. Her public transformation as a transgender woman occurred later in life and her former male identity can be found out on the Internet. She feels she has lost opportunities because potential employers discovered she was a transgender woman.
Our society is still hesitant to hire a transgender person—it is a fact. Yet, there are many who have broken through the barrier, some transitioning while at their current employer. One individual I admire and have met with is Lori Fox. She is a former corporate executive who now does consulting with firms on their diversity policies. She is part of the group, Out and Equal and was featured, among many other transgender people in a book by the same name. It can be found on Amazon and focuses on those who have been successful in the workplace as a transgender person.
Acceptance of the transgender community in the workplace is going to take time, as this prejudice runs deeply for many. It is easier to watch and emphasize with the transgender stars on television than to employ them because of a pre-conceived notion of who transgender people are. And, acceptance is beyond the laws written to protect this class as it begins with a willingness to embrace others who are different from us and to focus on their skills, rather than their gender.