I received a message yesterday which made me stop and think about how external influences could affect my transitioning timetable, and potentially speed it up or even stop it from happening indefinitely.
The message was on everyone’s favourite random invitation generator LinkedIn, where I am a member (in male guise) for work. I received a message from a recruitment agency stating something like “Hi Bob, a major client has just advised me of a vacancy for a (Bob’s job title). If you are interested in learning more, please give me a call”. I work in a fairly specialised area of financial services, so new vacancies for people who do what I do are relatively few and far between, but the flip side of that is that suitable candidates for those vacancies are also few in number. And while I’m reasonably happy where I am, who wouldn’t be interested in getting paid more for doing the same thing? And then the brain weasels kicked in…
Is it fair to apply for a job in a new company without mentioning that I am transgender and intending to transition? I’m not sure. And if I do mention that I am trans then am I scuppering my chances of getting the job? If so, why would it ruin my chances? Am I in fact just projecting assumed transphobia on to persons or organisations unnamed? Or perhaps, even if they are not overtly transphobic, they might feel that dealing with a transitioning employee is hassle they can do without, and then find another reason not to give me the job. And there is the added consideration that if I turned up at an interview and said, “Hi, I’m Bob but in a year or so I’ll be Kirsty”, that I would be outing myself in professional circles much earlier than I had intended. I fear that news like that would spread like wildfire around our industry, and my current employers would learn sooner rather than later and before you know it the bush telegraph would have informed everyone of my trans status. I would have lost control of the narrative, which obviously is something I want to avoid.
So what would happen if I didn’t mention the fact that I am intending to transition and then got the job? In a year’s time I turn up at work and say “By the way I’m now a woman”. How’s that going to go down? Could it be viewed that I omitted a very pertinent piece of information when applying for the job? If so, why? A company can’t legally base its hiring and firing decisions on gender, so why would it be an issue? It shouldn’t be. But at the same time I think it would be hopelessly optimistic to think that it wouldn’t be. Trans people are relatively unusual. Most people these days will know a few gay people, but most will not have encountered trans people on a personal basis. Almost everyone will have seen and read a non-passable trans person while out and about (it might even have been me!), or will have seen a drag queen or the like, but not that many will actually have a trans friend. So when suddenly confronted with a transitioning woman, it’s going to be a shock. It’s bound to be. Some will embrace the change, others will recoil. But is it grounds for dismissal? No, it can’t be. The NI Equality Commission (of “gay cake” legal action fame) would come down upon them from a great height. But if I was a relatively new employee, potentially still in a probationary period, I fear that other reasons could be found. Convenient excuses. Excuses that had nothing to do with my being trans. What Douglas Adams and John Lloyd would have called a Brisbane, being a word from their book “The Deeper Meaning Of Liff”, a dictionary of things that there aren’t any words for:
BRISBANE(n) A perfectly reasonable explanation, such as the one offered by a person with a gurgling cough which has nothing to do with the fact that they smoke fifty cigarettes a day.
So my belief is that if I were to successfully apply for a new job, and within a fairly short space of time announced that I was about to begin my transition, then I wouldn’t have that job for too much longer. If required to justify my dismissal in terms that didn’t include my transition, a Brisbane would be swiftly produced. One that couldn’t be disproven.
So in summary, I end up with three options:
1. Don’t apply for any new jobs. The advantage being that I’m fairly happy where I am, I have been here a long time and I know for a fact that my employer has a very strong diversity policy. The downside being that I lose out on a fairly rare opportunity to increase my income.
2. Apply for the job and say nothing. The advantage being that I’m judged entirely on my CV and interview, and I don’t have to rely upon the acceptance of the interviewers. The downside being that when I do transition, I’ll be hit with a round of “Don’t you think you should have told us about this?” which may even lead to me ending up out of work, excused by a Brisbane. It could also lead to me delaying my transition until I feel that I am well enough established in the new workplace.
3. Apply, and tell them about my plans. The advantage being that if I do get the job I can feel secure in that transitioning won’t be a problem, and indeed may make it a little easier. The downside being that I can’t help but think it would make me less likely to get the job, and I could end up being outed much earlier than I would like and still not getting the job.
In fact, there is a fourth option. Apply as Kirsty. But that’s just crazy talk, isn’t it? Well yes, it is, because that’s not my legal identity and I’m not legally female yet. Also, if I’m concerned about option 3 outing me much sooner than I would like, this would be even worse. It would involve going full time almost immediately and possibly waving goodbye to what slim hope I have of keeping Mrs K on side by giving her a long lead-in to that day. On the plus side it would mean that my new colleagues would never know me as anyone but Kirsty, but it’s just not feasible yet. If another vacancy comes up after I have begun to live full time as a woman, then the problem evaporates. In fact, changing jobs to somewhere where nobody ever knew Bob would certainly have its appeal. However that may be wishful thinking, I’m probably going to have to be satisfied with keeping the job I already have.
So bearing all this in mind and without having made any decision about how to proceed, I called the guy who had sent me the message. Turns out the job doesn’t match my skill set at all. It’s the same job title that I have, but a completely different job. So I’m staying where I am. Until the next vacancy comes up.
As a little aside, I received a “Happy Anniversary” notification from WordPress today. “Kirsty’s World” is two years old. Wow. Thank you everyone who has read my ramblings.