“That used to be a guy, that’s a strange one to work with”

Posted on March 2, 2017 by Ellen Defrancq

Jolanda Claeys, 2pass Clinic Resident
When one considers the attention paid to transgender people in general, my proud little transgender-woman’s heart tells me me that over the last five years we’ve made gigantic strides. In just about all media, films, and on the political forum, our existence is no longer suppressed, and one even senses some form of respect.

I sometimes get the impression, however, that our “being different” is often used to exploit the spectacle-value of the subject and to help satisfy the typical human hunger for curiosity. It still is so fascinating for many people to read why people would wants to change their sex, how his or her community reacted on it, and how successful the surgery was. But about how we are really doing in everyday life and how we financially and mentally keep our heads above water, one hears and sees very little.

Transgender people in employment

This brings me to one of my pet subjects: Transgenders in the labor market. Why is it so difficult for transgender women and men to get jobs?

I imagine an employer would reason like this: “We will scare off some of our customers … this will inevitably cause tension among the rest of the staff, … she is very likely to be emotionally unstable, … she is is too involved with sex … she is undergoing medical treatment and will be often be absent … “

Transgender people in employment
I could go on supplementing this list for quite some time, but one can actually summarize it in one key phrase: “That used to be a guy, that’s a strange one to work with”.

Now I would like to know how the fact that I wear a dress and not a costume could affect the quality of my work. Does it make me lose my skills? I am actually convinced that I will perform better if I can be who I am!

Transgender women on the phone

Some minor discomforts may well occur. It is unavoidable that people will call you “sir” during a phone conversation. This old aunt will have none of this. It actually is better not to react to this at all. You may even be able to largely avoid it by clearly stating your first name at the start of the call. Moreover, specialized speech therapy for trans women can help make the resonance of your voice sound considerably higher. After   Several sessions with Katrien at 2pass, I already being addressed as “ma’am” on the phone

When asked about which toilet you have to go to, the answer is quite simple: be consistent, as a trans woman, you go to the ladies!!

To employers, I would like to give the following advice: A company with self-respect will check out social trends and in this respect as well, diversity amongst your staff will mean an enrichment. Moreover, staff who feel comfortable in their skins and are respected by their superiors, will be an absolute asset to your business.

Jolanda Claeys
2pass clinic resident

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