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How Being A Transgender Woman Hurts My Job Prospects

Even in Pride Month, it sometimes feels as though one needs to be a superhero to get a job after coming out as a transgender woman.

As I was set to come out at work as transgender, I received some bad news. Shortly after coming home from work on that late Friday afternoon in September, the employment agency called me to say that I was being laid off. It was going to be my first Shabbas presenting female at the Orthodox shul I attend and, as scared and nervous as I was on that front, this was an absolute mood killer.

October was chock-full of Jewish holidays, so my job search was never really able to get into any rhythm because my computer and phone were off for what seems like half the month. I got a callback here and there, which led to an interview or two but no job offers. I followed up with every employment agency that I interviewed with but none of them had any work available.

It wasn’t until December in which I got an interview that led to a job offer. The only problem was that it was contingent on passing the security clearance. As the months passed and I didn’t receive clearance, my anxiety continued to grow.

I’ve been writing about movies and television since 2013. It had been a hobby, but I was still out of work and credentialed for the Chicago Critics Film Festival in May, so I decided to use the festival to launch Solzy at the Movies. Even though the site is growing, it doesn’t mean a guaranteed income as I only make what little money is brought in through ad revenue. Thanks to a few interviews and transgender-related articles, I saw a record breaking weekend for page views but barring a miracle, writing about TV and movies won’t pay the bills.

But the website works because you don’t have to convince a boss when you’re self-employed. And there’s no doubt that being trans is a huge barrier to finding employment. I’ve worked on my voice as much as I can but without being able to afford the vocal lessons, it’s not going to get to the pitch that I need my voice to be at in order to pass better as a female over the phone or in public. I have a BA in Public Relations, a Master’s in Media Communications and a Paralegal Studies Certificate, but if I sound different, I’m at a disadvantage.

I don’t feel comfortable about my voice. I always hated listening to my voice being played back whenever I had to record a voice mail greeting for my phone or whenever I recorded my satirical Pi Day songs for math class in high school. Now that I’m out as a transgender woman, I get misgendered so many times on the phone. It gets old fast, and invariably takes the wind out of my sails.

TransWorks, part of the Chicago House and Social Service agency, is a program that helps transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people with the skills needed to find employment. They’ve been useful in helping me with interviewing skills, preparing an elevator speech, writing cover letters, proving job leads and providing an outlet to vent my feelings and frustration during the job search.

I felt great about potentially starting to work again in April but my anxiety only grew after my unemployment benefits exhausted during Passover. I had hoped that I would be working again before the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo had started. Stan Lee was coming for what was being billed as his final Chicago appearance. No comic fan misses out on the chance to meet him in person. Nothing on earth was going to stop me from going. I only wish that when I maxed out my credit card to attend the C2E2 because of Stan Lee’s visit, I’d arrive to find out that he created a transgender job placement superhero.

Danielle Solzman is the founder and managing editor of Solzy at the Movies is working to develop a sitcom pilot with a transgender lead. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleSATM

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