A new Goodwill store in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco is opening, and it will provide jobs for the transgender community. “Activists say only half of transgender people in California have full time jobs, even though they are twice as likely as other workers to have earned a bachelor’s degree” (KTVU). Furthermore, seventy percent of transgendered individuals have experienced discrimination and harassment in employment. Activists hope to create partnerships with other Goodwill stores in order to provide a positive work environment for members of the transgender community.
Many will consider Goodwill’s cooperation with activists in creating opportunities for gender-variant people an admirable deed, but I must question this view. Individuals that consider this an “act of tolerance” are not considering the depth of the situation. I would consider this an act of subtle discrimination. (I should note that this is not a criticism of Goodwill employees or salesclerks in general.) We are glorifying a company that is willing to provide low-skill positions to an educated community; whereas, we should be condemning the employers that are discriminating against transgendered people.
These employers are discriminating against the potential employees based on identity. The United States outlawed racial and gender (as long as you were in line with the binary) discrimination in 1964. If a man were to be denied a position on the basis of his race, an entire civil rights brigade could step forward and knock the employer down. Yet, we see mirror-images of this form of discrimination towards gender-variant individuals, and the public turns their cheek to the injustice. Activists for the rights of transgendered individuals fight against the discrimination, but their struggles are muffled by popular media’s representations of gender-variant people as clowns.
I am happy that members of the transgender community will be able to pursue life and sustenance through these new employment opportunities, but Americans must stop condemning gender-variant people to low-paying, immobile positions at the bottom of the economic food-chain. The American public must come to realize that transgendered people are just as, if not more, capable than any other person in the country. We must accept them for who they are without questioning them or pitying them. They are people. They are brothers and sisters and moms and dads. They are individuals that deserve the same opportunities and respect as any other person.