A few days ago, a San Francisco ABC news affiliate reported on a local Goodwill store’s campaign to fight inequality that transgendered people face in the workplace. For several years now, the economy hasn’t been very stable and the job market has been extremely tough for Americans to find work in. However, for transgendered individuals, that market is even tougher. The news station reported “an estimated 70 percent of transgender people in California face workplace discrimination.” According to the report, even in San Francisco a city that has always been known to show strong support/tolerance for the LGBT community, it is extremely difficult for transgendered people to find jobs.
So why in even a more open-minded community such as San Francisco, is such blatant job discrimination against the transgender community occurring? Well, an interview with local Mia Tu Mutch, helped to elaborate on the phobia and ignorance of many employers when it comes to hiring transgendered individuals. She states, “As soon as I started transitioning with my gender and playing with that and changing with how I looked a little bit, it was very hard to find work.” She goes on to say that all she was looking for was an equal opportunity and acceptance, but all she was rejection. The discrimination was so pronounced that in job fairs where everyone was interviewed, she was still turned away. To her amazement, it took her six months of searching to finally find a place that was willing to hire her.
The job that Mutch finally did find was at the Goodwill store that everyone is currently talking about. Although the store is only temporary, and the space will eventually be rented out to a permanent business, it is still giving transgendered individuals in San Francisco a reason to hope; they finally have a place to work at that won’t discriminate against them. The area’s supervisor where the store sits, Devan Buffy, decided to take a chance and bring together the Goodwill store with the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative or TEEI. According to TEEI’s area rep, Claire Farley, the people that they hire aren’t just being hired to work in a store, but they’re also being trained to handle unique workplace situations. Farley claims that the store isn’t just about hiring trans people for this current job, but rather it’s also helping to improve their futures as well. She states, “We help them kind of traverse that water that ‘Well how do I call my reference from two years back and say now my name is…’.” In other words, even though the store is temporary, it will be giving a much needed boost to the transgendered community professionally. Mutch agrees by stating that this store will give the workers a chance to prove that they are good and capable sales people in order to gain the trust and respect of other store owners and customers alike.
The decision of this Goodwill store to reach out to the trans community and to rise up against the blatant discrimination that many workplaces in San Francisco are displaying is commendable. However, could the efforts of the store hurt the trans community as well? Could other San Franciscans decide that trans people should just work together and should not integrate with non-trans people? Will they develop a stereotype that trans people can only work in stores like the Goodwill instead of in all professions, no matter the degree of difficulty? Only time will tell; however, for now just maybe the gap of inequality was lessened a bit by one store’s tremendous effort.