August 29, 2014

More Thoughts on Jobs

Follow-up to the last post: my copy of my college transcripts turned out to not be in the file drawer where they were supposed to be. So, I have had to ask the university to mail me new ones. Thus no jobs applied for, and with the school semester starting this week and next, likely not a lot of chances for me to apply for last minute openings in any case.

However, I’m still thinking about the larger questions involved in this situation. Because it’s bothering me on so many levels that society demands that I give up my identity in order to make a liveable wage. Could I really walk into an interview with solid credentials, 15 years of teaching experiences, published writing on my resume, clean and neat and well dressed … and still lose a job simply because I don’t conform to the stereotype of men and women? Sadly, the answer is “yes”. That’s the whole reason this is even a dilemma.

This is not a dilemma most people have to face. When most people show up in the interview, their identities are not questioned. They’re accepted as is, because they’re privileged by their conformance to gender norms. Sure, they have to think about their appearance within those boundaries, and even within those boundaries there are some horribly demanding expectations, especially for women. But at least be accepted at face value for who they are and who they represent themselves as, even if that representation turns out to be unacceptable for the employer.

That’s one of the reasons I have pushed back against all the well-meaning advice telling me to go back to being Him. Because that advice is coming from a position that implicitly supports the status quo. By telling me, “You should fall back on Him because that’s how you’ll get employment,” I’m essentially being told, “Your identity isn’t as important as your productivity.” And by following that advice I’m essentially agreeing. How can I insist that this transition is real, that my identity is authentic, if I cast it off in favor of making money? I can’t.

And let’s be clear here: this isn’t just about working a job I would hate. You could give me the best job in the world, one that pays a lot and demands little; but if you told me I would have to work as Him and be called Him and be known as Him to do it, I would resist just as fervently as I am now. And I wouldn’t hate teaching; I would hate teaching as Him.

Further, what if I choose to make the compromise. I apply as Him and begin teaching as Him … and then a month later my legal name change goes through. Suddenly I’m in a situation where I’m teaching under a name that is no longer my own. Do I approach my new employer at that point and then go “surprise”? That would be disruptive and would almost certainly guarantee I wouldn’t be invited back the next quarter. Do I continue teaching as Him regardless? If so, at what point does my whole life become a lie again?

My identity is not something I want to compromise. I compromised my identity for the entirety of my adult life, and I ended up on an overpass in the dark, timing the oncoming traffic. Every day since that bleak moment has been a day where I have fought to get to a point where there are no more compromises. I have had a rule throughout my transition: no steps backward. It’s part of what has kept me strong and it has given me drive to continue on with my transition even when things were hard.

Maybe this is it. This is the hill I stand or die on. So be it.

I think that when I do get my transcripts, I’m going to just apply as I am. I’ll make a brief explanation of the discrepancy in the cover letter, and then I will let the process take its course. If they want my talent, my experience, and my time, then I want something in return: I want the same respect for my identity that they offer every single cisgender employee, every single day. And if they can’t give me that, then that is probably not a place I want to work anyway.


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  • I’m not from your inner support structure, but I actually agree with you. In fact, I was just coming to your blog today to tell you why I disagreed with those who are telling you to apply under your old identity when I saw this new post. While I admit that I have not 100% come to terms with everything that has happened over the last year (not the transition, necessarily, but the way it has played out), I think there is no going back. You just spent the summer convincing your children to call you “Mom.” Imagine their confusion if you were to pick them up from school dressed as “Dad.” If Alison is your true identity, then live as Alison. If you switch back and forth between identities, then you open yourself up to the criticism that you should never have started this process to begin with, sparing yourself and your family the fallout of the past year.

    Of course, being Alison does mean finding work will be harder and probably take longer, but you don’t get to use it as an excuse. Living as Alison may mean taking a less than ideal job in order to support your three children. I’m not saying you must flip burgers, but you may need to expand beyond teaching and writing for now. You said you wouldn’t take the perfect job as Him, but will you take less than perfect jobs to live as Alison?

  • I just read your post on Brian Dunning’s weekly email. I found you so likable, I decided to check our your blog.

    Keep in mind, I have little to no background on you, other than my having read these two posts.

    I work in Berkeley, CA, which is located in the Bay Area. I’m not saying that we are all hip to gender vs. sex, but being in Ann Arbor, it couldn’t be easy to find any kind of job. I have known enough people who don’t fully conform to either that if I were in a hiring position, it would not be an issue. Have you thought about moving?

    By suggesting this, I am not saying that discrimination on the basis of gender non-conformity is okay.

    • Thanks for checking out my blog, and for the advice. There’s a part of me that would love to take up roots and head out to CA, but I have commitments tying me to this area, most notably my children. I am not yet in a situation where I’m willing to move away from them. If I could move, though, the Bay Area and Seattle, WA are both tops on my list. The West Coast in general is a more tolerant part of the country.

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