Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Inappropriate Job Interview

Today, August 23rd, I went for a job interview in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. The company told me over the phone that they help unions administer their benefits plans. I hoped that that was the case.

So this morning I put on my suit, drove all the way down to Blue Bell, and arrived at... an insurance company.  My heart sank a little.  I suspected that this would be a pyramid scheme... or "multi-level marketing."

I didn't have to wait long for my first interview.  The person doing so was a younger guy- maybe in his late twenties or early thirties.  He said he was a manager.  We went into a small room, and he asked me the usual questions.  Some of the questions were variations on the usual questions, but were easily answered.  That is, until the final question.

He looked at me and said "So how long has it been?

I looked back and said "How long has it been since what?"

He said "Well, you're... Transgender."

I paused a moment.  I almost left.

I said "Yes, I am.  I didn't expect to be questioned about this.  I have been living as my true self for almost 3 years, and I'm a little uncomfortable that I'm being asked about it."

He said "Well you look very nice."  I thanked him.

Post- Interview Selfie

The interview process was in three stages.  After I finished with this manager, he led me into a larger meeting room.  I was one of eleven people in that room, and old one of only three women.  There was music playing in the room- dance music- and it was rather loud.  There was also a camera array mounted centrally on the ceiling.  This part of the process would be us filling out a couple pieces of paper, and then listening to two different people describe the job to us.  After that, we would turn in those papers.  We were told that only three of us would be called for the third interview, which would be the next day.  Those three would then be interviewed by a "hiring manager."  An offer would or would not be made at that time.

The first person was older; perhaps my age.  He was well tanned, and had two earrings.  He said he had just come off vacation, and he used a lot of sports metaphors as he spoke.  He made it clear what his politics were by the statements he made.  He thought that, despite all the indicators, the economy was still going down the tubes, and he left no doubt as to who was to blame. He told us the history of the company, and about what the job entailed.  We would go to the provided Union members' homes, sit down with them, and sell them supplemental insurance.  He then introduced another person.  This woman has been with the company for 9 years, and was a "regional manager."

Her job was to explain the "compensation structure."  When I saw that, my heart sank.  It was a pyramid scheme (or "multi-level marketing.")   You're expected to sign at least four policies per week.  After six months, you would then start training others, and you'll get a piece of their action, and so on and so on.  Oh, and since this was selling insurance, we would need to be licensed.  The company would help with that process, but would only pay for part of it.  So, if called back, the applicant would have to bring $75 with them to cover the licensing.

During the presentations, two of the people left.  I thought about leaving, but I wanted to hear everything they had to say.  I tried to keep an open mind.  In the end, the woman again repeated that only three of us would be chosen, and called somewhere between three and five o'clock that day.

After the interview, I drove home change clothes, and then went to pick up my roomie and bestie Linda to go into the city.  We needed to pick up our prescriptions at the Mazzoni Center.  On the way back, at approximately 4 o'clock, the expected phone call came. Well, I didn't exactly expect it- I hoped for it.

At the Mazzoni Center

The person offered me the third interview the next morning.  I was very polite and businesslike on the phone. I thanked them for their time and for the presentation.  I then told them I had to refuse their offer, and that I would tell them why.

I told them that the first person I spoke to brought up that I am transgender, and that it made me very uncomfortable.  I also told her that, in some states, it is illegal to mention my gender identity.  I then said that I don't want to work for a company that feels uncomfortable with me, and where I would feel uncomfortable, so therefore I could not accept the next interview.

The woman on the other on the other end of the line apologized profusely, stammered a bit, and asked if I was sure.  I said I was, and then we concluded the call.

I can't say I'm surprised that the first person brought up my Gender Identity: after all it was my first real interview as a Woman, and I'm not exactly passable.

Is this what I am to expect from now on?

I need to find a job with a living wage, and so far I have been turned down, usually before even being interviewed.  That includes a job as a Transgender Advocate.  I really thought I had a chance for an interview there, but... nope.  Not good enough.  I guess they wanted "young and passable."

I don't know where to proceed from here.  I have people looking at my resume to see if there are faults in it.  I don't know, but in any case I must say that I am more than a little discouraged about what happened today.  I'm glad that my bestie Linda was there to help assuage of the pain of it.

I also spoke to Wife.  She was a little upset as well, and not a bit surprised.

I guess that's the lot of a Transgender person, especially a Transgender woman, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Maybe someday that will change.  I hope so.

I may even find a job before then, but I'm not holding my breath.

Be well.


  1. It is not what to expect from now on, no. I have a lot more to add, but we'll save that for a private discussion. Suffice to say it can get much, much better.

  2. You should just stick to looking like Bruce Banner's after picture.

    1. I really hope you, Anon, are treated negatively about an aspect of your life you've had to fight for. And when that happens I'd stand up for you, too. Because no one deserves to be treated that way. Even if they are born an ass. You keep on Sophie. You are an inspiration, even to us hiding in the shadows.

  3. I am not the previous 'anonymous' who is obviously an ignorant jerk. Nevertheless I am surprised that your reasons for not accepting this job opportunity involved the fact that despite being, (as you describe), a non-passable trans-woman, they were still willing to hire you. Is not being offered a job, despite being non-passable trans, better than not being offered the job?
    I do not understand why you describe yourself as non-passable. You look perfectly fine to me. Could it be your voice? That is always a sure give away but something that can be remedied.

    1. You tell me.


  4. Sophie,
    First we know each other and like you I am transgender. I am not sure how to react. Putting myself in the same situation I do not think it would have bothered me if I was asked about my transition in the same context that you outlined. There is a major difference in how and why people ask and by your description it sounds like the question was asked out of simple human curiosity which is understandable. This is the impression I have especially after they called you back for the final interview showing that the question had NO weight on their decision to want to work with you. Looking at it another way it might even have helped. Also putting myself in this situation going in for a job interview for me means I would need a job and therefore I would most likely be looking to get it to at least pay my bills until I get a better one. Survival is always at the top of my list.
    I support you in every way possible and want to see you succeed. Things are changing and getting better for the trans community very fast and I know it is NOT fast enough for a lot of us, me included but I am sure in time society will see transgender expression as just another social norm and I feel in my heart it will happen in my lifetime certainly in yours (I am older than you). Until that happens we have to do what we can to shift peoples perceptions. For now we adapt and work to expend those perceptions.
    I wish you good luck and happiness.

    1. Sophie
      I think that this Anonymous offers sage advice. Have you considered that you may have made the cut down to the final three in part because you were transgender. During the 1990s I had a major role in hiring for my outfit and we were very interested in all sorts of diversity. More recently we have started a diversity team and as part of that initiative we have an LGBT sub team. Over the past decade I have hired two gay people to work with me directly. I did not ask either about their sexual orientation during the interview process but the clues seemed evident to my personal gay-dar. Both became friends and co-workers with me. I am now interviewing for another hire. I had one offer turned down by a young man who I think was gay. I recently interviewed another and I hope he does take the job.
      In all my hiring decisions I look for the best applicant for the job regardless of race, gender or sexuality. My guess is that the people doing the hiring judged you as the best qualified for the position. I would not rule out that being TG may have been more of an asset than and drawback.
      I cannot do anything to prevent you from pushing for a place in the class of people whit chips on their shoulders. I can suggest that talking yourself into a positive approach may be beneficial.

  5. If I don't push for equality, who will?

  6. Sophie -

    I wouldn't have worried about being told you are "different". What bothers me more is that the organization was a pyramid scheme.

    Your lack of interviews is likely hidden age discrimination at work. I suffer from that too. Not much we can do but keep fighting the odds.