31 March 2022
A 2018 Crosslands report found that 1 in 3 UK employers openly admit that they would be less likely to hire an applicant if they knew the person was transgender. As somebody who is very visibly trans online, I have wondered during periods of unemployment whether being so open about who I am has hindered my career prospects. Whilst writing my application for London Youth, I seriously considered trying to hide it and hoping that those involved in hiring decisions didn’t Google me.
Visibility at London Youth
However, I’m glad I chose not to. For one, a hobby of mine is to write jokes about my transition, and I like to share them with those around me. I actually find it very difficult not to be open about my identity. Also, my Gender Recognition Certificate has been granted since working here. I was able to share my joy at this decision with my colleagues, which was wonderful. In terms of my work, I have been able to lead on campaigns in relation to transgender people and I have felt proud to do so. London Youth is not perfect, but it is clear that my colleagues are committed to achieving equality.
Consequences of being visible
But most trans people will have at some point experienced workplace discrimination. I have, in a previous workplace. When sharing my stories of this with cisgender people (whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth), they have often commented that my previous employers have acted illegally. This is true. But it is difficult to enforce the law without considerable capital, which is inaccessible to most transgender people. I would advise any young trans person entering the workplace to consider joining a trade union. Although not flawless, my representatives have been invaluable when I have experienced discrimination.
We don’t only experience blatant displays of discrimination. Trans people also encounter microaggressions in the workplace. The most common one I have come up against is “Wow, I never would have guessed that you used to be a girl”. Although often well-intentioned, it suggests that the person speaking believes they can tell who is trans and who is not by looking at them. This is not true. Young trans people should know that you do not have to accept microaggressions as part of the workplace culture. If you feel comfortable enough to report them, you should.
Visibility in the workplace can be exhausting. Not just for transgender people, but for members of any marginalised group. If you are the only member of staff who has your characteristic, you will be the point of reference for every decision in relation to it. You will also likely be the only one to call out prejudiced behaviour if you even feel able to do so.
However, representation matters. How will young trans people know that they can succeed in a field without proof? There were no trans male role models for me growing up. This had a significantly negative impact on my mental health and what I imagined my future would look like. I choose to be visible today, and every day, for the people who look to me and say “I can do that too”.