Transventures In The US Workforce: The Workplace Through The Lens Of A Black Trans Woman

Let Me Begin

I often get asked by cis folks what I do for work, and it’s a sensitive question for me. As a Black trans woman, I find my anxiety rising when I hear those words. Because our society is so centered around work, my mind goes into this state of questioning myself about why I’m not working, even while I know it’s not for lack of trying. Even worse, these questions remind me of all the work-place trauma I have faced. The fact of not having consistent work sometimes weighs on me heavily. It is a gorilla on my back, and I feel it pressing down with full force. It doesn’t HAVE to be this way, but, as most trans people will tell you, it IS. Getting and keeping jobs that provide a stable and healthy environment is a true and ongoing challenge for those of us in the trans community. And when you add Blackness to transness, the hills we climb get steeper.                             

The Application

The Interview

Once an application is accepted, and I have an interview, it can be a grueling experience. When people contact me for an interview, they don’t always understand that I’m a Black trans woman. They often find out during our first contact. These first interviews are always a telling time for me. During one interview, a cis man told me that he was going to struggle to get my pronouns right. He tried to guilt-trip me by saying “I don’t mean any harm and I should get some slack for trying.” Obviously, I didn’t move forward with that job. In another interview, I was asked, by a cis woman, “Are you fully a woman yet, and have you had the surgery yet?” I was put in a situation where I had to explain to her that being trans is forever and does not coincide with body parts.         

Where’s the Representation?

“LGBTQ+ Friendly”

Have you ever seen a workplace advertise itself as “LGBTQ+ friendly,” or “inclusive”? Have you seen a workplace claim that “we thrive to make our workplace as diverse as possible?” I have often come across these promises when applying for jobs. The terminology has lured me in, just for me to be exposed to an unsafe, uncomfortable, or toxic work environment. I’ve found that the workplace in the US, for a Black trans woman, can be cold and cruel.    

Hostile Work Environment

I find it ironic that jobs give out pronoun badges and pins. Why? Because the CEOs of a lot of these corporations funnel money into anti-LGBTQ organizations and political candidates. She/her are my pronouns and I have worn these pins/badges just to get called “he/him,” which is harmful and violent. I’ve worked several jobs in both the apartment leasing and food services industries. I’ve found that, when you work in a place where customers and vendors can just walk in, you run a very high risk of being misgendered. You cannot control who walks in. It does not matter if you have a huge pride sticker or flag. 

There are just some people who will not acknowledge your gender identity. For this reason, every job has negatively triggered my gender dysphoria. Comments about my appearance are a constant thing I had to deal with. I once presented a solution at one of my jobs here in LA, about tweaking the dress code, so that trans women could feel more comfortable in the workplace. They refused to consider any alternatives, and I felt they weren’t willing to hear me at all, because they don’t understand the pain/frustration of gender dysphoria. In some jobs I have even been reprimanded by managers about perceived dress code violations. It felt like they wanted to box me in and not let me express my womanhood.

A “Cis-Tem”

Living in a society where you have to work in order to survive feels like climbing Mount Everest. The United States is plagued by racial capitalism, which sets a precedent for a transphobic and racist work world. There are people in my community who live on the streets and are in dire situations because they aren’t able to find jobs. 

Currently, I am unemployed and still searching for part or full-time work. I have had interviews that are video and in-person. None of those companies has hired me or moved forward with my application, despite the fact that I’m fully qualified and have good references. At the end of the day, the reality is that my job choices are limited. Like I said earlier, many employers won’t hire me because of anti-trans and anti-Black biases. And if I do get hired, many workplaces will not accept me for me.

Equality & Equity

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