Workplace tips
Transgender Employees

Adapted from:
A. G. Casebeer
General Manager, Video Vault of Okolona


              It is very, very true that many T’s suffer discrimination. On the other hand, if you loose a job, make sure it IS discrimination and not a performance, relational, or personality driven problem. Have someone call or write for a reference check on him or her and see what is being said, then let them know verbatim.

              There are a lot of reasons why someone may get a job and not keep it long. Companies have probationary periods specifically so they can 'check out' a new employee before they become permanently vested in insurance, 401k, etc. Remember, if an employer is following the rules regarding what can and cannot be asked in an interview, plus considering that past employers usually don't give references good or bad anymore, it's very hard to get an honest performance reference on an employee. So, they use the probationary period as a try before you buy plan. Has he or she been doing contract work? This is common in the computer world, and companies will frequently lead employees on in believing that the contract will become permanent, then let them go when it expires and keep that built-in reason.

              Also remember the importance of the need and the weakness of the paper trail. Paperwork must be in order - name changed with social security and state ID, etc. At the same time, never assume that an employer can't or won't find out about your past. With a SS number, your previous name and work history is still out there, maybe arrest record and credit report. That name will be there for a long time. A. G. Casebeer bet a well known transperson who teaches a seminar on the subject of covering your paper trail at conventions, that she could find her male name; she was buying her a Beck's after 15 minutes work on her laptop.

    The Keys to Employment as a Transgender Person

    1.      Honesty about your skills -
      Never take a job you aren't qualified for, never push your luck or lie even a little about your skills. If you can't do the job from Day One, don't expect employers to teach you. They'll ditch you and find the right person.

    2.      Assume that they know you're “T”-

      Just assume it. They probably do. Very few of us are unreadable, and nobody's papers are perfect.

    3.      Make the subject of your gender issue a taboo subject at work -

      Do not discuss it around the water cooler. If someone asks, let them know politely that it is a private issue that you don't discuss at work, and change the subject.

    4.      Be seen and not heard -

      Get to work on time always, do your job perfectly, do not ask off work unnecessarily, don't make any fuss, do not cause any trouble, and work overtime as offered.

    5.      Exceed expectations -

      Take the attitude that you must be better, quicker, faster, more accurate at your job than anyone else there. No excuses accepted or offered, get the work done and on time.

    6.      Document everything -

      If you are written up, get a copy of the write-up. Keep copies of your evaluations. Keep your check stubs. If you work at a job with quantifiable performance, like piecework or data entry, keep reports of that.

    7.      Know the company rules -

      They will be used against you if someone is out to get you. They may also protect you, too.

    8.      Seniority is not in itself a protection -

      Don't assume that time in job means safety, because all it takes is one negative person in upper management or human resources, and you could be toast. I've seen this happen.

    9.      Don’t assume they are "out to get you" -

      Many companies can handle T issues with out many problems. We have many allies, known and unknown. If you are a valued employee, they will want to keep you. Again, your work history and reputation in the company before you transitioned can be invaluable. If another employee has a problem with you, they probably have had problems with many other things in the company. It's that employee they will want to get rid of.

    10.      Dress to blend in -

      Know the dress code, and dress exactly as other employees do. If you're m2f, dress exactly as the other women in the office dress. Being a T does not give you permission to wear skirts, hose and heels to work daily if women don't dress that way in your company. Try to groom yourself as other women there groom themselves, err on side of conservatism, and do not stand out in the style department. You must blend in.

              Most employment issues come down to your actual performance and skill sets. You'd better believe T’s get discriminated against in the workplace, however, it is a handy hook to hang a marginal employee on, and a place to hang blame for our own shortcomings and mistakes. Remember, most employers, particularly small ones, probably have never had a transgender employee. You're the first, and if so, you are responsible for that employer's impression of our community. Make it a good impression.

              That employer may belong to a local Chamber of Commerce, and they'll probably talk about their experience with you. If you're on shaky ground at work already due to performance, and you transition, you'll be even shakier. Transpeople sometimes try to misrepresent their skills when they've been unemployed for long, and that causes short tenures. They'll accept contract labor, which doesn't often have good long term future prospects.

              The worst mistake is transpeople who bring the transissue to work with them. Some TSs can't shut up in water cooler conversation about their upcoming SRS (you don't hear women talking about their upcoming hysterectomies or PAP smears, do you?), who are always late or leaving early, and who don't dress appropriately, then wonder why they lost their job. It wasn't because of discrimination, it's because they were stupid. Don't lose your job because you were stupid, and don't blame stupid on discrimination.

              Also, if a person loses a job, find out why. Have a friend who has a business phone call for a reference check on you. File for unemployment immediately - they have to tell them why you were let go. If you were discriminated against, let others in our community know, but never slag them in future interviews. And, if you screwed up, please don't blame it on discrimination.

              Many of us who are T’s get and hold good jobs in good companies. We have successful transitions where we work. We work hard and have wonderful, fulfilling lives. You can too!


For more information on
workplace transitions and other
transgender workplace issues

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Maple Grove, MN 55311
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dedicated to transgender support,
advocacy and education.

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