Additional Writings

Marking the "F" Box

Having been recently erased from the list of the gainfully employed (laid-off) and subsequently thrust into one of my more detested personal arenas (looking for a job), I find myself repeatedly forced into making a choice.  Should I mark M or F?  Now, I have always wanted to mark the "F" box, but until recently it just didn't seem like an option.

I know that I am female.  God knows.  Everyone who knows me, knows.  But the state of Kansas has a different take on the situation.  In Kansas, a person's gender is determined at birth.  It is a process which involves subjectively executing a less than adequate survey of the information available at the time.  The results of this process generally influence the selection of a name.

If you are transgender, you may eventually choose to legally change your name, which requires a court order.   The same court order can allow for gender reassignment on documents such as the driver's license.  I regret to report that I have not yet accomplished this less than monumental task.  It turns out that the art of procrastination is not necessarily affected by the introduction of an estrogen regimen.

Anyway, my first thought on how to approach the name versus appearance issue, as it relates to job hunting, was with absolute honesty.  If it's going to eventually come up anyway, why not just get it out of the way up front?

I composed a very nice cover letter for my resume explaining the whole thing.  The problem with this strategy was that it failed miserably.  I did get some of the nicest "thanks, but no thanks" letters.  It would be a great strategy if I were trying to remain on unemployment as long as possible.  I could apply at as many places as I needed to, without the fear of actually getting a job.  Sadly, I am truly sincere about wanting to go back to work.

I should say that my friend Scott, who happens to be an HR Manager, suggested that I not take this approach.  Rather, that I should focus on my qualifications.  Being a transsexual woman is apparently not one of them.  Imagine that years of post-secondary education and practical experience, in a field which is completely related to my situation, would yield a better solution  than my opinion, based on never having done this before.  At least not as Stephanie.

That said, after a few set backs, I decided to go to the local workforce center for assistance.  A very nice man was helping me enter some information into the computer when we got to the M/F box.  He put me down as female, but I told him to change it.  He got a confused look on his face and then suggested that I might be mistaken about my gender.  I thanked him for the compliment and explained that Kansas and I are not in full agreement on the subject.

Then I met my career counselor.  She looked at me, looked at my resume, and said, "why complicate things"?  She advised me to make several changes.  To my resume, that is.  It really doesn't look at all the same.  Even the name has been changed, which suits me just fine.

Now, it is unlawful for places of employment to require that you disclose whether you are male, or female.  This protects you from being discriminated against on the basis of gender.  They do ask you to voluntarily fill out that little section, solely for government purposes, which includes gender, ethnicity and favorite food, but that information is not used for hiring purposes.  No, really, it says so.  These days, I mark the "F" box.  It seems to be OK.  No one has objected.

I still don't have a job, but I did get all the way to the "proof of identity and eligibility to work" phase of an interview with a staffing agency.  No one called the gender police when I presented my documents.  My interviewer was not disturbed by the revelation.  If she was, I don't believe I would want to sit across the table from her over a hand of Texas Hold-Em.  Seriously, my being a trans-woman did not make any difference to her at all.  I may even get a temporary assignment.

Things are looking up. Even though I haven't quite reached the goal, I believe that I will.  Of course, when a prospective employer checks with my previous employers, or runs a background check, it may initiate some interesting conversations about my name.  Still, I must say, marking the "F" box, is everything I always hoped it would be.

© 04/15/2009, Stephanie Mott

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