Finding work mid-transition [2007]

A reader notes:

I’m a 22-year-old FTM who has been transitioning for about four years now.  I’m full-time but not taking hormones, which as you might guess affects my ability to pass as male consistently.  My voice pitch is a bit uneven and my voice overall is a bit squeaky (I’m working on those things), which I think makes me seem younger and less professional than my appearance would suggest (I look mid- to late-twenties).  My facial and body hair is also sparse, naturally.  Overall I would classify my looks as pure androgyny—most men tend to think I look female, while most women think I look male.  I’d say overall that when I’m in business attire I pass about 80% of the time (conservatively).

My question is this:  How do I tell employers that I’m transsexual and in transition, or should I at all?  I have a good resume and am looking for work, but I’m concerned about how to broach the subject of my transition with prospective employers (or if I should at all).  I tend to get overly nervous and fidgety during interviews because I’m worried about how prospective employers see me and if they think that I’d be a bad fit for their company.

My state of residence considers transgendered people as a whole a protected class, which should theoretically protect me from job discrimination.  Since I’m looking for a job in web development and design with progressive companies I have faith that it will go reasonably well (what can I say, I’m an optimist haha).  I think I’m spared somewhat because I’m going to go through a staffing agency which will handle all of my insurance and paperwork that has my sex on it (application, license etc).  So to all prospective employers I’ll be seen as male before I even interview.

I’ve tried looking online, but everything I find has to do with coming out to an existing employer—which doesn’t help me at all. 😀 And I find it disturbing how many FTMs try to dish out work advice when they’ve been on disability for a decade, so I long ago learned not to participate in FTM boards.

My reply:

Work issues are indeed a little complicated. If you have a legal name change and a government issued ID in that name with a male designation, you might acknowledge it if it comes up in an interview but not volunteer it.

The place where things can get tricky is if they do a background check. If you have not changed federal IDs, have student loans in your old name, or have not updated your credit reports, your old name and information will probably come up. There’s also a question of references. If your school has updated your transcript and you have teachers or former employers who will give recommendations without divulging your past, you should be OK.

Another thing to consider is how public you are. If there is information online that connects you back to your old name/old life, they may find that as well.

Common concerns are insurance and litigation. They sometimes worry that you will drive up premiums or sue them for discrimination. These are generally unfounded, but it’s good to have that in the back of your mind.

Bottom line is that it’s getting to be less and less of a big deal. Some places actually see it as a plus, since our community tends to be a little smarter and more focused than most. Focus on the work in your portfolio and your performance, and you should do great.

This is talk, not advice. See Terms of Use for details.

[note: this page was ported verbatim from and is presented for historical purposes. It may not reflect current views of the author or any people and organizations mentioned.]

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