Thoughts on discrimination

Folks, let me tell you a story about how discrimination touches the lives of transfolk, and how almost no one knows about it.

I was sitting in the office of an employment counselor a couple of months ago discussing what barriers I face in finding employment. I listed off things like daycare, my health, my lack of education and so on. After the counselor wrote these down, they turned to me and asked if my being trans was something I had considered as a barrier to employment. I actually paused for a couple of moments to consider the issue because, as some of you may know, I’m generally not one to make a big fuss about not being accepted for who I am. By and large I figure if you don’t want to know me because of one facet of my wholeness, I’m likely better off not knowing or working with you. After some thought, I said that it would not surprise me in the least if I had not been hired on more than one occasion simply because I’m trans.

The largest reason I don’t bother making a big fuss about the issue is simply because it cannot be proven that it’s happened. I mean seriously, how are you going to prove a negative? It’s not like I could go back and say convincingly that I was NOT hired because I was trans or because any of their hiring practices are inherently discriminatory. All any company worth their salt has to say is that they’d found a candidate who was more suitable than I was.

Fast forward to this past Thursday; I was at the local office of a national company interviewing for a sales position. As part of the interview process, they require the candidate to fill out paperwork to submit to a third-party company in order to conduct a background check on the candidate. This wasn’t even your standard first interview; there had been no summons from this company. All I had to do was show up at the job fair. If the company decided I was a suitable candidate there would be a second and more in-depth interview. No what bothered me was that in the course of filling out the paperwork, I was immediately outed as trans and had to explain myself as such.

I will say that the only reason this came up at this point is because I haven’t had the money to apply for a formal change of name. After all, it costs money to do so and to get money one needs a job. You can see where this would be an issue if I truly am facing discrimination because of my gender expression. The whole process struck me as quite discriminatory in that even if I had gotten a legal name change, the company conducting the records check asked for any previous names. As I am not one to lie (as I know some trans folk do), I would have put down the name I had been given at birth. No matter how this was to play out, I would be outed as trans; and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

You see, if I refused to fill out the paperwork, I would simply be discarded as an unsuitable candidate. If I complained about the paperwork, same result; my application would end up in the garbage. With some of the luck I’ve been having of late, had I simply lied on the paperwork it would have been found out and I would be terminated for providing false information. So at the end of the day my only choice was to fill in the paperwork, out myself as trans and watch as a potential job evaporates in front of me and have no recourse but to watch it happen.

Yes, you could say I’m a little frustrated. Wouldn’t you be?

So I invite your opinion……….how would you have responded?

    • Andrea
    • May 20th, 2011

    I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read your blog! Your writing is fab, Wes. Can’t wait to read more.

    The situation sucks – there’s just no way I’m going to sugar-coat that. But, I can’t fathom you going about this doing anything other than being honest and fully-disclosing. It’s kind of like a relationship, isn’t it? If you start out honestly and they don’t like the honest-you, fuck ’em. It wouldn’t have been a good match in the long term. If they take the time to listen, jackpot.

    I know it’s so much more complicated than that, and I wish I could provide wiser words. In the absence of that I’ll provide the most supportive voice I can đŸ™‚

  1. Andrea, you’ve hit it right on the money. Disclose up front is my default policy. When I worked for your company, that’s what I did in the first interview and I was please at how supportive the entire HR staff was.
    I’m glad you like my blog and welcome to the subscription. I hope you enjoy what you read and please feel free to comment and/or pass on links.

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