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I'm soon to be a college grad, and starting to get job offers. I'm transgender and will be transitioning when I start working. This transition will be obvious. My body and appearance will become increasingly feminine over a matter of months. At some point, I will officially change my name.

My current plan takes me into an industry that isn't great to trans folks on the whole. I want to work in this industry because I love it and I am good at it. I'm trying to decide whether to bring this up before signing on. I have considered the following options:

  • Absolutely mention it: My reasoning is if I do mention it and they're not okay with it, it's better to know upfront before I have signed up for my first job with an unsupportive or hostile group.

  • Don't mention it: In my state, it's against the law to discriminate based on transgender identity. They're not legally permitted to signal any bias. In the best case, they do nothing with the information and it makes no difference. In the worst case, they might feel they've made a mistake. Hence, my reasoning is I should not share information that will only hurt me.

  • Talk to my recruiter after I receive an offer: The advantage is I'm gambling on only one person. I don't need to communicate it to the entire team, so it is less likely to spread. I might be able to ask for a personal opinion, with a little less professional overhead.

When is the appropriate time to reveal my trans status in the hiring process?

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Congratulations on pretty much everything about this!

You may be able to find some kind of employee resource group to reach out to. You could ask if there's any sort of LGBT group, and ask them the actual questions. That does mean sort of vaguely outing yourself, but then you can save the trans-specific questions for the folks you hopefully get referred to. If the company is too small there may be no such group (or not a formal enough one for your contacts to be aware of), but then it's hard to generalize about culture anyways. You might also be able to work toward good contacts for this by asking about things like organized volunteering.

(I know where I work this would be incredibly helpful - there's a great group, and there'd be plenty of people willing to talk to a prospective new employee.)

Failing that, my next inclination would be to try to get a one on one chat with your hiring manager (or maybe someone from the team you'd join), and try to gauge their attitudes. If it's a sufficiently friendly, social chat, you don't necessarily have to out yourself for that; you may be able to work your way into it, e.g. by mentioning a current event, a volunteering experience, or a trans friend or someone you admire. If it's in person and you're comfortable with it at this point, you could also just present a bit feminine and try to gauge reactions.

This is definitely more difficult, of course, because you ideally want to get a lot of information out of gauging attitudes. If it seems positive initially , you may want to progress to more specific questions and try to pin things down. The difference between token and genuine support is generally quite obvious - the former will come with few specifics and often some non sequiturs or flat out mistakes - but the more you ask the more you know! Still, I would try to avoid giving too much personal detail, because while it may be obvious down the line anyway, it's nice to retain that option to let things remain unsaid. For example, I'd ask about gender neutral restrooms, but not say anything about what restrooms I intend to use at what point in my process.

You may also be able to ask about some official policies without revealing anything, for example by asking to see the employee handbook, or health insurance policies. This unfortunately will only be able to tell you things at a very impersonal level, though; there's a big difference between policies on paper and day-to-day behavior.

If it's sufficiently feasible, you could try to do all of the above: learn about the overall company, others' experiences there, and the team you're joining. In the end you'll care about it all: the overall company can provide structural support (restrooms, insurance) while the people you see daily are the ones who can have the most direct impact. And there can be a lot of variation across a company, so an overall good place can have both welcoming and unwelcoming teams.

Overall, in terms of whether to ask, my personal advice would be to err on the side of caution and try to get whatever information you can up front. If the people you'll be working with are kind and understanding about these things, it can make your life immensely better, and if they're the opposite, it can make you miserable enough to leave your job. It is absolutely worth finding a good fit. My team has been solid and my manager has been incredible (thank you thank you!) and I can't imagine doing everything I've done without that support. (You could try to accomplish this by just promising yourself that you'll just leave if it's not working for you, but that sounds much more difficult to me both in terms of emotional burden and job-hunting.)

Ideally I would do all of this once you actually have an offer. Partially that's just to avoid spending time and energy before you know, but it's also about protecting yourself against possible bias from whoever you're talking to. Of course if the whole company has bad attitudes then missing an offer would be no big loss, but it'd be a shame to miss out because of one person.

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    I like all this. I'd just specify that (IMO) one should wait until they have an offer in hand to start sniffing around this - asking the hiring manager, or asking to be put in touch with the LGBTQ+ groups, or whatever. If you've got an offer in hand, you're protected: they can't just say "oh, you didn't pass the last interview" and dump you out of the process. If they rescind the offer after you start asking about this, well... you'll know exactly why, and might be well served in calling a lawyer. – hairboat May 14 '18 at 23:22
  • Thanks, that's a good suggestion, I've added a note to the answer! – Cascabel May 14 '18 at 23:29
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    Another reason for this approach: many people consider themselves "LGBTI-friendly" without having much idea of what issues are involved. One of my friends went to talk to HR at a "LGBTI-friendly" employer about transitioning in the workplace; the person he spoke to didn't know the first thing about what this might involve, confused transgender with intersex and (unintentionally) used a major slur... it was a bit of a disaster. Asking specifics about their LGBTI inclusion will give a much better idea of whether they're genuinely inclusive or just think they are. – Geoffrey Brent May 15 '18 at 0:30
  • @GeoffreyBrent but if they think they are, they should have at least some good intentions? Wouldn't that be a good opportunity to share knowledge and experience? – Summer May 15 '18 at 14:02
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    @JaneDoe1337 If the trans person wants to do that and the workplace is receptive, sure. But trans people (and other minority groups) often find themselves putting a lot of labour into what amounts to an unpaid teaching role. That can get exhausting, and somebody who's already stressing out about the stuff that comes with transitioning in the workplace may not have the energy to volunteer for that extra effort - especially when they don't know if the workplace will be receptive. – Geoffrey Brent May 15 '18 at 21:29
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Having transitioned on the job myself, I know how nerve wracking this is. I know that some of the suggestions in this post may be duplicated from other posters (Cascabel already mentioned ERGs, and hairboat already mentioned waiting for an in-paper offer), but I have put far too much thought into for the "if I could do it again" scenario.

When I transitioned I waited until after I had been an employee for a month to approach my manager about transition. My company was large enough that they had an "Equal Opportunity" office (the company you end up with may have a similarly named office or not). I contacted this office (Anonymously at first, I think), and they helped me through disclosing to my manager (in a face to face), and the rest of my team (during a bi-monthly staff meeting).

While waiting until after you start is an option, you may incidentally lock yourself into a position which is not amicable to you transitioning. In that case you can still search for another job. But you might want to save yourself the trouble by inquiring before you accept the position. You could ask before your interview, but you may invite "silent discrimination". I've heard of far too many trans people getting "passed over by every company they apply to", and even being laughed out of an interview because they did not pass. The most I would do before an interview, if anything at all, is inquire about the company's Employee resource groups or diversity stats or policies. Large companies may even have ERGs listed on their public website (albeit harder to find if you're not a current employee).

I think that waiting until you have an offer letter in hand, is the better time to inquire directly. Whether it is as overt as "how well would I integrate into your team if I were to transition from blah to blah?" (Insert specifics), or "How inclusive is your company of LGBTQ+ people?", would have to depend on the situation you are in. The answer to these questions may even help you decide between two companies which have offered positions, if you end up in such a situation.

Ideally, each employer is looking for the best fit candidate, and should treat you as a professional of whichever field you are entering. Don't let a company treat you as anything less than that.

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I've been supporting someone close to me in her transition for the past year. The work side of things has been challenging, to say the least. Managers and colleagues have for the most part wanted to be supportive, but most people are frankly clueless about the trans experience. I think unless you've been through it on a very personal level, there are so many things you just don't understand.

I would not mention it before you need to unless you are going to need special considerations early on in the position (for example flexible hours to undergo treatments). Certainly not before you have any sort of offer. Even if potential employers aren't technically allowed to discriminate based on that sort of thing and even if they are relatively nice people who would befriend a trans person without hesitation, it will colour their view of you as a potential employee and they will easily justify their not wanting to employ you in some other way. If they are not personally acquainted with any trans people, their understanding of it is likely to be informed by the antics of the loudest trans activists, some of whom are frankly bigots or troublemakers. They may think you will be the same and therefore not a good fit for the company.

My friend had one coworker she was friends with outside of work worrying that she would transition into a humourless activist when she first came out to him. This person was no ultra-conservative whining about political correctness, quite the reverse, but all he knew about trans people was from the most aggressive ones he'd met and so he had a wrong impression of all trans people. Unfair perhaps but I think it's not uncommon. Even if people don't have that misconception, if they don't know you well (or even if they do!) they tend to be nervous about even acknowledging you are trans in case that offends. Whatever else happens, I think you will do better in your employment quest and in your new job if people know you as something other than 'the trans person' straight off. If they see you are a good worker and are on good terms with you they will be less likely to be too afraid of causing offence to have anything to do with you once your transition is something you must share with them.

Further to someone else's suggestion of trying to feel out any LGBTI groups within the organisation, you could ask if there is any diversity training you might be expected to do in the new position. The most anyone should assume from this is that you are gay yourself or an interested ally, neither of which is particularly scandalous these days. If there is no training this could be a red flag. There was none at my friend's job and she has had to fight management to get training going because it really does make a difference. If you know who the company is at this point (I know some organisations operating through recruiters can be a bit mysterious) then you could try to find their website and see if they have any documents outlining diversity policies. You can't necessarily believe that anything you read there actually represents on-the-ground attitudes and behaviour, but if you see they are actively trying to, say, support women in management positions (and not just saying that they should while their board remains 100% male), it's a good sign that there will be people there on your side.

This is only just relevant to your question in that it may inform your attitude towards the position but I feel I need to say it either way: if your transition progresses to the point where you can pass almost all of the time (which is easier than a lot of people think), you may then find you want/need to move to a new job where people don't know about your trans history. My friend did not intend to change jobs, but has changed her mind after this past year. It is incredibly hard to transition and keep the job you had at the time. You will probably want to be treated like any other woman, but people find it hard to do that if they knew your prior identity. My friend isn't one of the guys any more, and has lost some good friendships in large degree, but the women at her company don't properly accept her as one of them either. It's sad but you can't do anything about it at that point. Your coworkers may just never be willing to let go of the image of you as a guy who is doing something really weird. They might think they're "supportive" and that's enough.

At the same time (and this is what's really weird), most people will subsconsciously react to you as female even if knowing you are trans they don't want to treat you as one of the women. Be prepared to experience all the worst aspects of being a working woman - especially if your chosen field is male-dominated. Guys might talk over you or disregard your good ideas or patronise you. You may feel like you suddenly have to work harder to be seen as doing a good job. Some of your male co-workers might find you attractive the first time they see you in clothing that makes the most of your new curves, and this may make them very obviously uncomfortable!

Maybe you won't have these experiences with your set of coworkers, but it's pretty difficult to know until you're actually in the job and you see what happens. I live in a pretty progressive town and I can tell you for a fact that many people say 'LGBTI' without hesitation but so few of them have any clue about trans people. So I guess the point I want to make here is that it's good to be open to just seeing how this job goes, and that you should consider withholding certain information initially as the best thing you can do in an awkward situation to give yourself a chance to succeed.

  • My friend transitioned the day before an event where nobody except one female friend knew her before. The clothes and makeup were all very well done and she introduced herself with an obviously female name. Nobody even suspected. The voice was easy enough to overlook. So if you're not starting for another few weeks, you might want to consider starting as your new gender right away. You would only have to discuss this with your hiring manager and your HR person, right when you get your offer. This way it won't be a big deal for your co-workers because they'll know you as a woman from the start. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica May 18 '18 at 8:44
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It sounds like a reasonable thing to ask but I'd expect they're only going to tell you what you want to hear. Remember as much as you're selling yourself in the interview, they're also selling the job to you. They have a somewhat vested interest to lie emphasise the positive aspects. "Of course we're accepting of transgender people" - no reasonable professional person would say anything else, regardless of their personal feelings.

Perhaps the best way to get the answer you're looking for is to ask them to show, don't tell. "What support do you have available to LGBT staff? What's your policy on discrimination or workplace bullying?". These are questions with concrete answers. You can't BS your way through them.

As with a lot of aspects of a new job, it can unfortunately be difficult to get a true sense of the place until you're actually there. I don't think it applies to you, but you should always try to use any contacts you may have within the company to get an unbiased opinion - a friend, a friend-of-a-friend, an ex-colleague. If there's no one like that, you just have to try your best to get a feel for the company. Perhaps a start-up is more likely to have a younger, more liberal, more progressive view of your gender identity. Perhaps a larger, more corporate place may have more structured support available.

Good luck at the new place and with your transition. I hope it all works out well.

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    You might be extremely surprised the kinds of things people say about trans people, or at how badly attempts to be professional can work out in practice if there are personal feelings beneath. I still wholeheartedly endorse asking about specifics, of course, but it's also quite common for things to be clear (especially to a trans person who's very aware of what matters to them) even before digging in. – Cascabel May 15 '18 at 13:28
  • @Cascabel You're possibly right. I have no experience with it. However, I doubt very much whether someone in a hiring role would last very long if they had a tendency to make those kinds of feelings apparent. – Michael May 15 '18 at 14:00
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Many companies, state clearly that they welcome trans people if they are sincere. That is your clearest indicator. While companies cannot outright discriminate, they find other reasons to get rid of you.

People with disabilities often face similar problems. For example, a friend of mine has MS. He wasn't fired for having MS, but of course, that was the real reason, just not the one that was put down on paper. Company policies can be deliberately vague or difficult to follow for this very reason.

Look for transgender resources and lists for trans-friendly employers and trust those resources over any claims a company may make. Look for any negative reviews online for a company.

I agree with your reasoning for wanting to know up front, as I made that mistake once, and it turned out that the environment was hostile towards autistics and I even got pestered for calling in a flickering light.

It is better knowing going in than to have them fire you later "for cause", and they WILL find cause.

That said. Once you find a list of friendly companies, use your best judgment. Some employers are actually eager to welcome trans people on board, some are friendly to the idea and it doesn't really matter when you let them know.

This is why you research, research, and then research again. See if you can network with anyone in the target companies, and if you use a recruiter, ask them when they think a good time to come forward would be.

Good luck in your search.

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Just a tactical suggestion: Don't ask about the company’s attitude, but tell what you plan to do and let them react to it. The first sounds like criticism. It sounds like you’re asking because you expect something substandard. Or you might be some social justice warrior who is going to cause trouble. When you tell your plans, it sounds a lot more reasonable, and it is not about abstract policies but about a person.

And many companies have no experience with the subject and have no attitude at all. Asking about something they have never thought about isn’t going to get a good answer. Coming out with your plans will more likely tell you what to expect.

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