the philosophactivist

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Genderqueer Job Applicants or Cross Dressing for a Career

Folks, today I am 2 steps closer to a respectable career doing something that will pay some bills, somewhere. I, Toi, after months of looking for jobs across the nation- ok, in three or four states... have now advanced my job applicant status and possibly furthered myself to a third interview by...

get this...

purchasing a suit. And not just any suit my friends. This suit was purchased...
in the women's department of JCPenney by a beneficent benefactor who told me in not so many words that it would lead to actual success during my interviews. And I don't doubt it. Recruiters (in the South,especially) want to see you match your clothes to your proposed gender. Psshh...I'm not into "matchy matchy."

My mother and two aunts have asked me in the last month...what do you wear to your interviews? Well, a nice pair of (men's) pants, a (men's) dress shirt...(and sometimes a tie). Oh! And my natural hair, suitably tamed for their viewing pleasure. (Wouldn't want to be too "ethnic"). this is all wrong if I want to actually support myself this lifetime. I've got to fool them my mother implied. She said...just wear this to the interview and who cares what I wear after I get hired. Hmm...Granted, this has definitely worked for me before- though I didn't exactly plan it that way. In corporate america I just got so tired of wearing these femme clothes because that's what was designated in the "girl's dress code". I started to feel really weird wearing these feminine clothes for 8-10 hours and then coming home only to rip them off and throw on basketball shorts and a muscle tee. (flexes, grin) Yea. That's what I said.

So ...there I was in the ladies section of JC Penney...not "doing it right". (Is that even still there slogan? anyway...) . I felt mad weird. My mother says..."What size are you?" I give her a "No you didn't" look...and she assumed somewhere between a 6 and 8. Actually she said my butt was probably an 8...(blank stare). Soooo I grab the first andro-looking 6 that I saw after wading through some truly horrifying women-ly outfits designed for some stuffed-shirt dinner party and made a dash for the dressing room praying that this thing would a)not make me look too feminine and b) fit, so we could get the heck out of dodge.

So, there I am standing in the dressing room with my corn rows and nicely flattened chest under my undershirt and some men's boxer briefs...slinking into this women's business suit and delicately zipping with this ridiculously small zipper on the side of the pants. And my mind drifts off to that Office episode where the manager is wearing a lady's business suit. Yes, that's one of my favorite episodes. And then there I fit. I was elated. My flat chest was accentuated by the ridiculous women's cut they put on the chest of these suits to ...lift the breasts? Show 'em off? I have no idea. It did a bad job.

So I saunter out to my mother who is waiting to assess...and she says it looks good...and says it's not too "girly". I look straight at my flattened chest and say "yea...well I don't like that women's suits have this cut right here to accentuate the boobs I don't have." My mom shrugs...I go back in the dressing room to strip out of this clown suit that is going to be my ticket to some career somewhere...and juuuuuuuuuust as I'm snapping a picture in this outfit to send to my boo thang...*trying to look as masculine as possible *ahem*... my mother comes with another friggin women's suit that I have to try on for some person  I'll be sitting down with at some point who can't accept my gender expression. Great. So, I try it on...pants are too baggy...blahblah we buy the other pin striped andro-ish suit which makes me look like a negative AAA cup. Yea. That's not going to draw attention at all...

So, fellow andro and genderqueer folks...I'm going to say that it's imperative for us to start making some andro suits with neither a male or female cut.  I got close today but I'm afraid the chest area is a fail. Sigh. In my head I'm picturing the perfect vest and slacks and I'm looking so dapper accepting my next job.
Don't get me wrong though, I'm super appreciative of my mother's support. She's only telling me like it is. Basically, that these southerners don't want anyone who looks odd or queer gracing their halls if they can help it. Yeah, I know that it's not just the south...

And now I'm sitting here thinking that even if some of the LGB constituents of the employment discrimination policy (ENDA) hadn't thrown us gender non-conformists under the bus not too long ago, that recruiters would have still been able to discriminate by not letting us through to the next interview. Who can prove that you weren't hired because of what you're wearing (and even if you could, would they agree that it should be legal to discriminate based on an outfit?) Who can prove that it was your gender expression that kept you from being hired or promoted? It's all "conjecture". But even my mom knows that it's a factor in me not finding employment and a facilitator to me going to some job some place and being hired by someone.

Sigh. I know that some of you are thinking... well of course you've got to dress differently to get a job, we all do. But, I want to stress that I am having to cross dress. It's not that I want to wear sweats or booty shorts (see *Awkward Black Girl). I want to express my gender in the way that I feel comfortable and I'm not able to. Me wearing a woman's suit is certainly going to make me feel a tad uncomfortable during my interview. Shake it off, you say. But you men out would you feel doing an interview in panty hose and lipstick and maybe a nice little skirt suit? Yea, awkward. I know that there are so many trans and gender non-conforming folks out there at their jobs feeling really,really awkward because they are not able to express their true gender. It can really make someone feel helpless and defeated. A lot of us accept jobs where we can feel comfortable but don't get paid nearly what we're worth and others of us can't get a job at all because they can't "pass" as their true gender or fall somewhere in between. I just want people to realize that this happens frequently and urge people not to be so harsh in their judgment against trans folks who want to get surgery and "pass". We just want to be who we are...this policing of our gender has to stop in all arenas.



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