Yesterday I was honoured to be given the opportunity by Gunner Scott and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition to tell my story of employment discrimination at the Trans Lobby Day event at The Massachusetts State House.
It was a truly marvelous gathering of Transgender people and our friends and allies including legislators and members of the clergy. I was humbled to see so many of us turn out to represent our community by working on direct action to pass a much needed Transgender Rights Bill.
It was wonderful for me to have the chance to share a podium with so many other fine speakers. Below is the complete text of my own speech, telling the story of my long search for employment in Massachusetts and the discrimination I faced while I was engaged in it.
Transgender Lobby Day Speech
Hello. My name is Lorelei McLaughlin. I am a Transgender Woman and a native New Englander. Although I’ve lived all over the country, I was born in Northampton, grew up on Cape Cod, and graduated from Barnstable High School. I currently live in Holyoke.
About a year and a half ago I returned to Massachusetts from Southern California. I had lost my job, which I held for several years, due to my transition. I moved back because I felt my physical safety was at stake, but the main reason was because of the rapidly declining health of my Nana. I had decided to come home to Massachusetts to help take care of her.
When I moved back to Massachusetts I took to finding a job as if it was a job. I had several differently targeted versions of my resume. I scoured craigslist and any other local job boards I could find. I picked up the local classified sections. I sent out scores of applications and wrote a sheaf of cover letters for all occasions for months on end.
I could fill out all the applications I wanted and no one turned me away directly, but I could never actually talk to a hiring manager or have an actual interview. I would walk into a place with a help wanted sign IN THE WINDOW only to be told that, well, they weren’t actually hiring right now but would be happy to put my application on file. I couldn’t even get anyone to LOOK at my resume.
There is for me a happy-ish ending that illustrates just how bad the discrimination we face is. I did not let myself become discouraged. While I was looking for work, I also volunteered to help with various non-profits and community organizations. I networked like crazy, asked everyone I met if they knew of someone that was hiring. I was asked to serve as a Board Member of Northampton Pride but still could not even get a job bussing tables.
Finally a local psychologist, Dr. Shelley Janiczek Woodson, put out that she needed an Administrative Assistant for her expanding practice. I jumped on it. We exchanged emails and she asked me to come in for an interview. She was the first person to actually interview me in the 1 1/2 years of looking. The first person to treat me as a potential employee and actually look at my resume. She hired me practically on the spot.
Even so, she was warned by her colleagues against hiring me. They said it would hurt her practice to have a transgender person at the front desk. She took a chance though and her business continues to thrive.
I found the one person in a thousand willing to look at me as a person, but I was lucky. We need this law to help the countless other transpeople even to get their feet in the door, to be given not special opportunity, but the same opportunity as anyone else.
For more information on how to get involved, please visit the MTPC website and support the fine work they are doing. Also please contact your local legislators to urge them to support H1728/S1687 “An Act Relative To Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes”. And if you don’t live in Massachusetts yourself but know someone who does, ask them to contact their own legislators and do the same!