As much as I wish that people were clamoring to hire me for a lucrative position at some ridiculously amazing think tank or organization, I have to be real and say that with this shining, stellar economy, pickin’s are slim. I can’t quite figure out which part of my identity is keeping me from landing jobs, either. Is it my skin color? Is it my visible queerness- i.e. transmasculinity? Is it the long list of queer-related or identity-oriented organizing on my resume? Is it the ethnocentric degree? All of the above?
Many don’t seem to realize the additional barriers present when I’m applying for jobs. Some think that it’s about toning something down. As if I could hide my transness, wipe off my brownness or have some skeleton of a resume, missing the last 5 years of the activism I’ve done. (Though you can be sure I've tried these things, unsuccessfully...all but wiping off the brownness, of course).
When did places start asking your gender (they mean "sex") and “legal” name? I didn’t realize how upsetting that can get after a few weeks. I mean…when I show up I’ve already set the stage for being misgendered and they’re calling me a name that hardly anyone has called me this decade. It’s annoying and it makes me feel shame. Shame for not paying the hundreds of dollars to have my name changed years ago. Shame for feeling shame that I don't look the way they expect me to look to call me by the proper pronouns.
Here's a true scenario-
at a four hour interview three girls and I showed up and the recruiter kept referring to our group as “ladies”. “So glad we’re all a bunch of ladies…now I can talk about how proud I am that this company was started by ladies.” “Oh all you ladies get it…” etc. When I came into the back room for the group interview I panicked because they’d put our names on the desk and I didn’t see mine anywhere. I was just about to mention it when I remembered…hey, they probably put my legal name. I didn’t even recognize my legal name. Call it cognitive dissonance. It happens a lot lately.
I realize that I’m at an interesting impasse. As a "feminine-looking", masculine presenting person who has decided not to take testosterone or transition, people tend to just assume I’m a butch lesbian. The fact that I’m a different gender doesn’t really register, I find. I get it. But does the application process have to be so highly set up for me to fail? My cursor often hoovers over M or F. Well, if I say F…I’m lying and if I say M, they’ll think I’m lying when I show up at the interview.
I don’t want to put my legal name but it is still my legal name. I could just put what I go by anyway, but I’ve done that before and it’s been a bust. Prospective employers get upset when their paperwork has to be redone and they feel as if you’ve lied to them over something as “trivial” as a nickname. They don’t realize the gravity of it for trans folks. Sometimes we’ve spent decades trying to get away from a name that traps us in a gender that doesn’t match. I have no love for my legal name. It makes me feel hollow. It hasn’t been “me” in a very long time. Like- ever. So, having to always start there during the hiring process doesn’t make me feel all that great. In fact, sometimes I shut down. Sometimes I won’t apply at all. Sometimes I get really depressed and shame surfaces.
Some folks think that I should just be who the job wants me to be til I get hired. They think I should wear feminine clothing. Be less trans. But for me, that’s worse than just being me and not getting hired. At least then I know that the people who thought I wasn’t a good “cultural fit” were bigots. I remember being in my early 20s and having to dress the women’s dress code during the day and coming home and ripping off those clothes and throwing on an undershirt and basketball shorts or a dress shirt, jeans, and shoes from the "men's section" at night. It really began to mess with my head. Who was I? I didn’t want to keep up the charade so I completely started dressing in men’s clothing daily and I felt so much better. It was such a weight off my shoulders, not having to parade around dressed as a gender that didn’t resonate.
I was more confident and the guys I worked with saw this and respected me more. That’s a whole other conversation, though- being inducted into the boy's club (because I slept with women and then this being further cemented as a member when I started wearing ties). It wasn’t exactly what I was going for and once there, it definitely wasn’t what I wanted. Free lap dances at the strip club after work, hearing about them cheating on their wives or wanting to, hearing about how big so-and-so’s breasts were, all the time. Ah the financial industry! Full of bros and misogyny. Such not so fond times over a decade ago when men took me into their fold and thought they’d try to relate to my masculinity in every problematic way possible.
I guess that's another entry waiting to happen...
Stay tuned for part 2 of the joys of job hunting while Trans...I've still got interviewing to do.