The First Canadian Job Fair Geared Towards People Who Identify as Trans and Gender Nonconforming
But why, I ask you, don’t we see, in those same corporate offices, the faces of people who identify as trans, or gender-nonconforming? Why is that?
We in the transgender community face hurdles that cisgender people can’t quite fathom. Society may applaud and praise me for living my truth, but it turns a blind eye to the routine humiliations of the average trans person. The truth is, like most trans people, especially trans women of colour, even I am not immune or shielded from the perills of “living while trans”. To quote the legendary trans shero Laverne Cox, “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”
Many of us would be happy just to have a decent job. If you look at any major corporation today, you will find many out and proud gays and lesbians. Why? Because those corporations have strict policies against harassment and discrimination—which have attracted a talented, hard-working gay and lesbian workforce. Such protections have in turn allowed many gays and lesbians—in the developed world—to become upwardly mobile, have good jobs, get married, raise families, live dignified lives as contributing members of society.
Diversity of trans people can be seen at the bottom, but not at the top, that is not progress. Once you start hiring diverse people and commit to promoting and advancing the careers of diverse people, we shall see progress.
We all know that it was trans-identifying and gender-nonconforming people who ignited the gay liberation movement at Stonewall. Brick by brick, we helped lay the foundations for the freedoms that gays and lesbians now enjoy in that same corporate world. I stand before you as a transwoman, and I am here to tell you that my community has been locked out of the house that we helped built!
The goal of our journey through life, as human beings, is to find ourselves; to try to discover the key to happiness. Well, some of us do find that key, only to be punished for it by a society that robs us of our dignity in so many ways: denying us access to education and obstructing our efforts to make an honest living.
We often are subjected to the most severe forms of discrimination in the workplace—unable to obtain identity documents, bullied by coworkers, treated as “freaks”—if not frozen out of the formal labour market entirely. Extreme levels of unemployment and poverty in the trans community has forced one in eight trans people into sex work or drug-peddling. Many resort to such underground economies just to survive.
We have a lot to get done.
According to a Trans PULSE survey, 71 percent of trans people have at least some college or university education, but about 50 percent earn $15,000 per year or less. Compare that with an average income of $38,099 for the rest of the population who have post-secondary education.
A National Centre for Transgender Equality study found that more than one in four transgender people have lost a job because of bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination, or have been denied a job simply because they identified as trans or gender-nonconforming people.
Let’s put things in perspective: Not that many people would say they’d want to work in a meat-processing factory. The wages are low, the hours long, the tasks less than appealing. But if someone did want the job, that person could have it, even if they were a convicted felon.
Well, not everyone. If I had a Ph.D. in meat processing, and I applied for that job in a meat processing factory, as a trans woman…I would be denied the job. That, my friends, is the kind of firewall that separates and isolates our community from society at large. There is much more to be done.
One of my favourite quotes by Gandhi is, “you must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Which is why on November 20th 2017, I will be putting forth the initiative to hold the Worlds First Job Fair specifically geared toward people who identify as Trans and Gender Nonconforming. A space will be created, where trans identifying job seekers will be able to interact without fear of discrimination, with employers seeking to give equal opportunity to qualified talent.
Today, more of us are comfortable coming out—a sign of progress. That in turn increases the number of us who can bond, network, speak out, become activists. Has the higher visibility exposed more of us to heartache and harassment from a resistant society?
But it is the price we pay to achieve our rights. And I mean rights—not privileges. We demand fairness and equality, not special treatment. We must redouble our efforts to break the cycles of stigma and discrimination.
People of the world, lets come together and shatter this last glass corporate ceiling.
Visit our Facebook page for details and updates for both prospective employers willing to perticipate, and job seekers. We will soon be posting info on how to volounteer plus, more employer announcements.