Job Hunting When Trans or Non-Binary

By: Louis Catania, Patient Navigator, Division of Infectious Disease and medically reviewed by Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

That’s right—we’re here to help get you employed! 💼🤑

We’ll tackle the tricky questions to do with job hunting as trans or non-binary. Are you going to be out from the get-go? How do you deal with a company that isn’t pro-LGBTQ+? What can you do to prepare before the interview? We’ve been there, and we’re going to work together to make this process as smooth as it can be.

So, let’s jump right in with the first key question:

Should you come out to potential employers?

One of the biggest sources of stress is wondering whether you should be openly transgender, non-binary, or navigate the workforce by going stealth if you have passing privilege. It’s a personal question that only you can answer, and there’s no right or wrong decision! 🤗 No matter the path you choose, know that you do not have to “pass” to be successful while looking for employment.

The cool thing is that if you’re out, you’ll quickly know which employers you DON’T want to work for, right? Kind of a litmus test of bad company culture—if the interviewer isn’t going to respect you, then you probably don’t want to invest your time there.

At the end of the day, if you don’t want to be out, that’s totally okay. There are pros and cons to both. It’s up to you.

Allies are out there…

Finding an employer who’s an ally is the key to a safe and welcoming environment. 💪🏾 The tricky part is finding them.

Thanks to the internet, there’s quite a bit of information about employers and their hiring practices out there. Check:

  • Social media: Has the company or organization ever taken a stance on LGBTQ+ issues? What kind of opinions have they shared? Do they do anything meaningful for Pride month? (or are they just slapping rainbows on their products *eye roll emoji*) Maybe more importantly—do they do anything outside of Pride month?
  • Website: Does the site have a diversity and inclusion statement? Are there any articles or staff bios that give a better indication of their company culture or goals?
  • Corporate Equality Index 2022: Check the Human Rights Campaign’s index to find a list of employers with an LGBTQ+ inclusive environment. Hopefully, any employers you’re interviewing with are already on there! 🤞🏾

Don’t forget about health insurance!

Why ask employers about their health plans? Well, employers decide what health benefits their employees receive. Some employers have health insurance plans that cover gender-affirming care, like mental health support, hormone therapy, voice therapy, and procedures like top surgery. Unfortunately, depending on which state you live in, not all employers have to cover these services. That’s why it’s important to check!

To figure out the details, try contacting the employer’s Human Resources (HR) office. They’re in charge of health benefits and can direct you to their insurance provider. The insurance company will connect you to a customer service representative or a confidential patient advocate. This person will know the details of what an employer’s health plan covers. (And remember, you never have to tell any of these people your gender identity!)

Getting this information is a great way to see if the employer has your health needs in mind, and in turn, cares about the needs of all trans and non-binary people. Pretty clever, huh?

Almost time for the interview

When it comes to interview prep, you’re already a step ahead, since you just spent an afternoon researching the employer!

Now, take some time to think about how your skills align with what the company or organization actually does, and what they are asking you to do for them. Take notes ✏️ at home, then do a mock interview with a friend or family member.

Lastly, what to wear? 👔👗👡👞 A common rule of thumb for interviews is to stick to darker, neutral colors. It’s important that you feel comfortable, so feel free to wear whatever type of outfit you want! Your clothing should say that you’re:

  • confident,
  • comfortable,
  • prepared, and
  • professional.

Final checks

Just like you looked up your potential employer, they might look you up, too. 👀
But no stress! First off, you can try searching for yourself on the internet, and going through your public social media posts or tagged photos. 🕵️ Make sure your work history and LinkedIn profile are up to date!

You might also look over what names and pronouns are connected to your online identity. Check in with yourself often! If there is something you see that you don’t like, try to change it, or modify your privacy settings.

Keep in mind that even if your account is set to private, some sites will still allow people to get limited information or images, and search tools might take a while to update these changes.

Remember, you control the narrative during the interview, and you never owe someone an explanation about your identity. You never have to answer a question if it makes you feel exposed or unsafe.

After the interview: Setting yourself up for success

You did the interview and you smashed it. Duh. 🙌🏾

Now, how do you approach documents and references in terms of your name? Say you have a legal name and a chosen name: which one should you give your new employer?

Well, you have a couple of options:

  • Legally change your name: While this is a big decision, it can be helpful, too. Having your name be the same across all documents allows you to use your preferred name, from your employment paperwork to your ID badge! The process depends on what state you live in. Look into resources on your state’s official website for more information.
  • Tell someone you trust: Find someone (ideally from HR, but potentially your supervisor) and make them aware that your legal name might differ from the one you want to use in the workplace. Then ask them to make sure your chosen name is used across all documents and communications within the company or organization.
  • Tell your references: If you’ve recently changed your name, you might want to reach out to past employers or references, so everyone is on the same page.

It’s up to you!

No matter how much we prepare for a job search, we might still run into people that mistreat us.

If people mess up your pronouns, remind them! Repeat offenses are different, of course. That’s when you’ll need to be firm, trust your instincts, and know when to get HR involved. You have the law on your side against discriminatory practices. If you’re being treated unfairly, there are ways to get help.

We know you’ve got this, and any company would be lucky to have you. If you’re looking for support from people that have gone through a similar process, and if you’re eligible to join, reach out in the Positive Peers app—having the right support network can make all the difference.

You got this! 🤗

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