Applying for jobs for anyone is often a daunting venture. It’s stressful, period. Whether it’s worrying if you got your resume just right or if you even had enough legitimate stuff to fill up your resume in the first place, it’s nerve-wracking. Then you get that call from an unfamiliar number and your heart beats faster. Your face, even your ears turn red, and your hands get clammy and shaky at the same time. You start to answer the phone but it slides out of your hands, hitting the ground. By the time you answer it on the last ring, you sound flustered, not a kind of person someone can rely on to complete a job.
You’re ecstatic that you got an interview, but that means you have to worry even more. What should I wear? What questions are they going to ask me? What kind of interview will it be?
For a transperson there are all these worries and more. We worry if we can be out at work, and if in a customer service position how the customer will treat us. Will being out effect business at all, and if it does will I get laid off? We worry if our gender expression will prevent us getting hired in the first place. If we end up getting hired, will fellow employees respect pronouns?
When I went to the local Boys and Girls Club to fill out an application I had a choice: I could fill out the gender question with female as I had on every application in my life, or I could put down male. I took an even bigger chance and put transgender in parentheses. Honestly it didn’t matter- once I went in for an interview my voice would give me away, and I wasn’t trying to intentionally deceive anyone anyway.
I went back in to do an orientation/interview and understandably I was nervous. I didn’t know if the supervisor would address it, or even if she had seen it or not. I was in for a surprise. Not only did she address it in a polite and knowledgable way, she asked me what my preferred pronouns were and introduced me to everyone we came across as he, him, etc. Without stuttering, correcting or missing a beat or anything. I was floored. To this day she is the only person who has done that well with pronouns and I appreciate it more than she could ever know.
I’m grateful to have that good experience in getting a volunteer opportunity, but the employment arena is still complicated. As a science student, I am aggressively applying for summer undergraduate research programs in various parts of the country, some places more accepting than others. I struggle with the gender section, especially because females are entitled to affirmative action in the STEM fields. By putting it down, I feel like I am lying and in the process getting an advantage that cismales wouldn’t get. But I also can’t put down male because I’m not legally that. What then happens when I show up and I look like a dude? My voice gives me away, and everyone assumes I’m a rather butch lesbian (nothing against them, it’s just that I’m a guy). I get considered a woman and I end up in a vicious cycle of frustration and falseness. I can’t form meaningful relationships if I’m not being authentic!
I have hope that something someday will work out. Until then I can just work hard and do my best.
Have you been in a difficult work situation? How did you handle it?