Friday, April 12, 2013

Through the Glass Ceiling in Reverse – Part 2


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.



Wearing Spiegel.


  1. Well done rhonda and very inspirational. I am slowly getting to the point where I need to think about these sorts of issues myself. I think that working part or full time as myself would be a great way to expand my horizons as a woman. I will certainly be on the lookout for these types of opportunities. Thank you again for your valuable and interesting story!

  2. Rhonda, I would have to agree this is a positive, interesting and up-lifting story. It goes to show (proves) there is still hope for T-girls. Congratulations!

    Stana, thanks a bunch for taking time to post it.

  3. I volunteer at a senior activity center. Retired from the work force over ten years ago. Seems have more going on now than when working ;) I went en femme last Halloween to the activity center and the others who also volunteers accepted my appearance in female attire. Had some friendly banter from them.;) I hope to be en femme again there soon. Or at least in a dress or skirt and blouse. Darn winter does not seem to want to go away. :( Had almost five inches of snow the past two days. Temperatures in the low 30 degree F range and supposed to remain this way for another week! Not skirt wearing weather for me.

  4. Thank you Rhonda. Let me repeat my praise from the other day. You are a hero/heroine to me and I am sure to others.
    We in the gender community come in so many different flavors that even those of us who do pay attention realize that what works for some will not apply to others.
    I like myself as a guy but I also like to get out and about and interact with people as a nicely dressed woman. Your form of daily outreach is wonderful. Hopefully more of us can follow in your footsteps.

  5. Rhonda,
    Thanks for the story. You are doing something that I have thought about doing for some time when I do come to retirement. Of course, getting my wife to the point of being willing to see me dressed is a major hurdle between now and then.
    You implied that at least HR knew of your status once you got a paying job. I am, however, curious as to who else knew of your dual nature? Is your voice one that passes in either mode or have you mastered the switch between a male and female voice?
    Thanks again for such an interesting tale.