Last Wednesday, my friend Rhonda wrote about her life as "A Working Woman." Her story generated a lot of questions and I am pleased that Rhonda offered to answer them here. The second part of her answers follows; part 1 appeared here yesterday.
Part 2 – Paperwork
So how did I handle the paperwork involved with employment as a woman?
First, let’s go back to the volunteer jobs. Typical small organizations are so happy to have the help that they require little or no documentation --- maybe just a sign-in sheet. They are not going to ask you for identification to help fold chairs and clean up.
Be friendly and helpful. If you feel uncomfortable with overzealous questioning, say "no" and apply your efforts somewhere else. Nothing lost, nothing gained. Non-profit organization always need and love volunteers.
Full-time employment is different.
Here are some of the issues I have faced and suggestions for working around them (your mileage may vary).
On the first day of the job I provided a letter of disclosure. When you provide disclosure, assume that the hiring manager knows nothing about being transgender. Choose your words carefully and define terms as they apply to you. Very few outside of our transgender community have any feeling as to what motivates us.
I also provided a brief rationalization with some humor. Here is an example:
"High-level computer and management consulting positions became nonexistent after outsourcing and the great recession. It was obvious that resourcefulness was going to be needed (1) to use my existing skill set and (2) to find an interesting and motivating position. What began as exploration into gender expression, evolved into a desire for full-time utilization. Not wanting to travel exclusively as I had done in the past and seeking stable employment, I decided to seek non-profit work locally. The skills are the same; I just decided to do a little different packaging."
I prefaced my disclosure document by describing it as medically-sensitive information. Savvy hiring managers/personnel offices understand this terminology and will keep the information confidential, thus, they will not share it with either your direct supervisor or peers. That is your best-case scenario and did happen at one job where the organization was large.
Be aware that you will have to give you full legal name, show your legal Social Security card, state driver’s license and in some circumstances, proof of auto insurance and a birth certificate. Larger organizations are under strict requirements to obey the law. Unless you have had a legal name change, surgery, and have full new documentation including college transcript, be prepared to provide full disclosure.
Provide disclosure only at the time of a formal offer, thus limiting your exposure if they are not going to hire you under any circumstances. Up to that point, let them assume whatever they like and hope that their “needs” exceeds their prejudices. Hiring is so subjective that there is little else you can do. Stealth is not much of an option unless you are fully transitioned and your paperwork is impeccable.
So has it all been worth it?
Absolutely! After two years as an administrative assistant, I moved on to a database job at a well-known regional art museum. The director of fundraising left during my third year there and went on to another fundraising position. Shortly thereafter, he called and asked if I would like to be the office manager at his new organization. (A great vote of confidence!) I accepted and have held that position for two years.
Yes, dreams can come true. “All dressed up and somewhere to go.”
And I wish you "good luck" making your dreams come true, too.
Actor portraying Miss Texas on stage in Pageant, The Musical.