Lesbian and Transgender

Unemployment Sets More Traps for Transgender People

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The recession is causing the paperwork to pile up. For transgender people this is particularly tough. Every application for work or government assistance contains the possibility of probing and intrusive questions of sexual identity.

A transwoman surveys the distance between where she sits and the wider world.(WOMENSENEWS)--As the recession takes a deeper toll on jobs, income and wages, more Americans are filling out forms for jobs, unemployment insurance, Medicaid and food stamps.

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It's a labyrinthine process for anyone. But for transgender people, it often comes with a particularly upsetting price: outing themselves.

Riley, a 28-year-old transman working as a teacher's aide in New York, who asked that his last name be kept private, began his on-the-job transition without any grand announcement.

He simply turned up for his first day of work at school looking, he thought, like a man.

The children agreed, but the teacher under whom he was working kept calling him "she." Having to explain to his adult boss something the children understood instinctively was just the start of the small humiliations.

Unemployment brought new ones, when he had to appear in person to apply for his card for Medicaid. His paperwork was inconsistent.

He had recently updated his New York State license to identify him as male, but his Social Security card identified him as female. That's because he didn't meet the federal requirement of having undergone permanent surgery.

His birth certificate also said he was female because his home state of Georgia won't allow him to change it under any circumstances.

'I Knew I Had to Explain'

"The guy who was processing my paperwork was some old guy, so I just sort of threw my papers on the table and stared at my knees, knowing I was going to have to explain," said Riley.

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I just want to add a little more info. What Riley said in the following: "Without an insurance card that identified him as female, he would not have qualified for gynecological services that he still needed. Only people whose insurance cards identify them as female are allowed to have their insurance pay for gynecological services."

is not necessarily true. I find the use of "allowed" to be particularly misleading. Plenty of trans men who are labeled male by their insurers get paps and pelvics covered. It might certainly be denied once, but after resubmitting and explaining that some men actually do need those services, many times it gets paid. The way it is phrased here makes it seem like it's against the law or something for insurances to pay out. And frankly, having being labeled female is no promise that things like paps or pelvics will get covered if the insurance knows the person is trans.

Michelle, a lot has changed since you transitioned in 1995, namely the Bush administration.
You now have to have surgery in order to change your gender marker for Social Security. In addition, the Social Security Administration will send out a gender “No match” letter to your employer if the gender on your employment application does not match what is on file with the SSA.

Not all states change your birth certificate such as Ohio and other states actually draw a line through the gender and write your new gender on top.

While it is illegal to ask personal questions on the employment application, many companies ask question for a background criminal check. One of the questions that they can ask is “Have you ever been known by another name?” In addition, previous employers might not change the employee’s name or college records might reflect their old name. A friend went to a Catholic college and they refuse to change his records and they still show his female name. When I applied to college two years ago after I got laid off, my old college records still had my old name on them and I had to submit my Probate Court order to the college admissions office.

I'm a postop MTF TS, having transitioned in 1995, with surgery in 1996. The social security card does not show a person's gender; all it contains is the person's name and social security account number. Once I had changed my name on my drivers license, Social Security issued me a new card, bearing my new name. When I applied for retirement benefits at age 62, I asked whether they needed evidence of my surgery, and they said they didn't.

Furthermore, Georgia will issue a new birth certificate; you can find details for each state's requirements at .

Furthermore, it is illegal to ask about a job applicant's private life in a job interview. Only questions directly concerned with the job itself are permitted.

There are other errors in the article, but the above three are the most serious and misleading.