S. Bear Bergman makes an intriguing case for why being trans should be considered a job skill in “Sing If You’re Glad to Be Trans,” from hir excellent The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You:
I think we approach job interviews full of dread, full of fear, hoping that someone will “see past” our trans histories or our trans identities and hire us anyway. The hell with that. “Listen,” you should say to your prospective employer. “Listen, now. I was born Louise, in Missouri, in 1971. Between then and now I undertook a substantial process of internal review, identified all the steps required to achieve my goal, including research and investigation of local, state, and federal laws and statutes. I created a budget, managed a financial plan, engaged in medical research and literature review, created a support network for myself, undertook a rigorous program of education and training, negotiated substantial reworking of existing agreements with all constituent parties, and completed all portions of the plan on schedule. My name is now Phil, and you should hire me — if not because I did all that, then because when am I ever going to say to you that something can’t be done? When am I ever going to tell you that a task is too complicated?”
Yes. Absolutely. I love that passage. Is that actually a realistic approach to job interviews? Perhaps not, but I love the idea behind it — that being trans isn’t something that needs to be excused, that transitioning (culturally, mentally, socially, emotionally, and/or physically) is a complicated process worthy of respect. We shouldn’t just be hired in spite of being trans (or genderqueer or otherwise gender-variant). Far from being negative — or even irrelevant — transition should be viewed as valuable experience (and by “transition,” I mostly mean the process of being out to oneself and others; I’m not referring solely to physical transition and am not intending to privilege one kind of identity over another).
Of course, I’m also most definitely not trying to write off transition and/or being trans as merely a job skill, something to put on the resume. Being trans is far more important than that, and the value of transitioning is not in how it can be leveraged in a job interview. I also recognize that trans folks face immense discrimination in employment and that while it sounds great to claim that being trans is a reason to be hired, doing so may not work out as well as one might hope.
But I just think it’s such a fantastic way to reframe it. I was also reading this essay for the first time around the same time that I was preparing for my five-year high school reunion. I was stressed about what I’m doing with my life and how I’d answer the inevitable question of “So, what are you doing?” “Transitioning” didn’t seem to be an option, but as I read the section of “Sing If You’re Glad to Be Trans” I’ve excerpted above, I realized that it’s a more valid answer than I’d previously given myself credit for.