How do you tell if a job is going to be an OK place to be trans at?
March 8, 2019 4:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm trans, and have experienced a lot of transphobia at work. When I'm next looking for a job, what should I look for or ask about to lower the chances that I'm going to walk into the same type of situation or worse?

Respectfully, I am pretty much only interested in hearing from trans people on this one. I think a lot of my colleagues, who are all cis and straight, think our workplace has been welcoming to me, a trans person, when it's actually been kind of a hellscape.

I work in the nonprofit world, in Canada, but am interested in responses from other locations and fields as well.
posted by ITheCosmos to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just changed jobs, so I just went through this. I don't have a solid answer, but I can tell you what I looked for. (I'm in the US, so some things won't apply)
  1. (Probably US only) Insurance. What's their transgender care coverage like? If they aren't taking this seriously, than I don't trust them to take anything else seriously.
  2. Did they talk about diversity on their website? On their careers page? It's no guarantee, but if they do (and what they say makes sense), they're at least thinking about it.
  3. The interview. How do the people there seem? There's really no substitute for personal judgment. On the other hand, sometimes otherwise decent seeming people can turn out to be transphobes.
  4. Networking. I suck at networking (or any sort of communication where I have to reach out), but I made myself do it, and ended up in contact with a trans woman at my new job before accepting the job. What she told me encouraged me to come here.
It probably makes a difference what industry you're in, too. I'm in the tech industry, and in this sector a lot of this seems to correlate, at least somewhat, with company size. The big companies are realizing the importance of diversity and inclusion. The company I ended up at (one of the biggest) devotes a significant chunk of onboarding time to it.

If you want any more specific details, feel free to memail me. (We're in Canada, too!)
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:41 AM on March 8, 2019

The thing that made me feel okay about working with my current team was that, during an extended day of interviews, people consistently did things like give me directions to the women's room when I asked for a bathroom. It wasn't just the first-step allyship things that everyone vaguely liberal has been told they're supposed to do, like "use her preferred pronouns," it was stuff that doesn't show up on a 101 list but they got right anyway.

The thing that made me feel okay about HR here was when I said flat-out "I will not take this job until you give me in-detail information about coverage for these specific transition-related procedures" and they rolled with it. The standard rule here was "We have a basic coverage document we'll show to anyone, but the detailed million-page version with specific criteria for specific procedures is only for employees." But they bent that policy real quick when I said I had trans-specific health needs I needed to know were covered that weren't mentioned in the basic document.

I don't think either of these is usable as a litmus test, because they're things that just happened to come up in my hiring process. But I think if I were job-hunting again, from a secure enough position that I had the luxury of turning down an offer, I might well take the attitude "It's on them to impress me with some sort of actively good experience of that variety."

(I also live in a very liberal city. What counts as "impressive" or "actively good" would have been different if I was still in my hometown.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:54 AM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Definitely ask to be directed to the restroom in interviews. I originally got that advice from a women-in-tech group, but it turns out to cover trans people too.

Ask trans people/email lists/Slacks/etc in your region what awesome, typical, unpleasant, and illegal look like in your area - I know that my state has required health insurance to be trans-inclusive for a few years, so that merely moves prospective employers out of "illegal." Similarly, building codes and industry norms vary, so "has zero gender-neutral restrooms" could be anywhere on the scale from "legit trying their best with weird municipal ordinances, non-binary trans employees are happy" to "not quite managing to comply with relevant labor laws."
posted by bagel at 8:07 AM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding the networking. I’ve been the point person for friends at various jobs, asking these questions about coverage with HR on their behalf, both for some before they applied, and after they were working here.
posted by tilde at 9:23 AM on March 8, 2019

I would ask questions in your interviews about work culture like:

- What kinds of diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives are you most proud of/excited about?
- How does your team make decisions?
- What are three words you use to describe the culture here?
- What kinds of things do you do to foster collaboration?
- What is the culture of feedback like here?
- How would you describe your management style?
posted by brookeb at 9:25 AM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

There was a transwoman on my hiring committee who also works in the department, gender-neutral bathrooms, and everyone I emailed with had pronouns in their signature line. This is in private higher education, so I think, at least for departments that work directly with students, they are pushing into better and more consistent inclusion. Problem areas: hr & business office use the wrong pronouns; no one knew or could legally ask my pronouns during the interviewing process which led to some confusion since I wasn't aware of that and didn't offer my pronouns.

Which I suppose come to:
1. Representation (are there queers? people of color? disabled people? in the offices, in their advertising, on their homepage, etc.)
2. Check the bathrooms
3. What kind of visible office/corporate culture do they have?
posted by carrioncomfort at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2019

If you're someone who can use the men's room without raising eyebrows, the presence of tampon and napkin machines in there is a cheap way for a company to signal they give half a crap about the trans experience. There's basically no reason not to do this if they provide them in the ladies' other than transphobia.

One non-signal is how they label rooms designated for pumping parents to express milk during the work day. My very trans-friendly workplace debated this for months and ended up leaving them as "mother's rooms" because the concerned parties couldn't agree on a replacement.
posted by potrzebie at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2019

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