Everything I’m doing for Pride month at work was inspired by a trans woman that hired me to rewrite her LinkedIn profile. See, at the end of our session, I offered to answer any questions about the job search. I wasn’t expecting what she said next. She broke my heart.
“What do I do when they see me?”
𝐈’𝐦 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐫𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐰𝐞𝐫. 𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐟ew weeks 𝐭𝐫𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐧𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈’𝐦 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐞𝐜𝐡𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬.
There’s nothing I can say that justifies people deciding every day that another human is not enough because they exist outside the binaries of gender spectrum expectations.
I did figure this out. There is something we can all do during Pride month as a human, and especially if you work in talent.
Let Me Tell You Her Story.
Her name was Sarah. Sarah grew up in the MidWest in a military family that sounded like mine: very Catholic, military, and narrow-minded. She hasn’t spoken to them since the first time she put on a dress for a family function. “They’re just jealous of how good I looked,” she said with a smile and signature sarcasm I instantly recognized as a broken heart. I know. I have a joke like that, too.
After getting to know her by drafting the LinkedIn summary, I asked if I could answer any questions about the job search. I wasn’t expecting what she said next. She broke my heart.
“What do I do when they see me?”
She explained that while she has flown through every assessment and assignment, she keeps getting to a video interview, then nothing. “I know it’s because they see my long hair and hear my deep voice. They don’t know what to make of me.”
I felt this pressure in my chest because I know what she means. It’s the sum of all the weird looks, the pronoun mess-ups, and the questioning comments in trans hiring. A million signals that you can’t belong, and you should assume the worst – not because everyone is terrible, but as a safety mechanism. It is hope performing a disappearing act when hope is all you have left.
When Headlines Hurt: Anti-Trans Legislation
Simultaneously, I know she’s watching the same headlines I am. State laws are trying to edge trans people out of equality everywhere – at work, in healthcare, sports. How do I help her keep going when the headlines are so full of hate for her simple existence?
Weeks later I’m still speechless.
There’s nothing I can say that justifies people deciding every day that another human is not enough because they exist outside the binaries of their expectations. I hate how knowing who you are is defined as wrong if knowing who you are means understanding gender on a dimension that’s not outlined in the popular books or belief systems.
Unfortunately, all we can do is keep living, praying for people to come along that fill us with hope and offer opportunities where others have considered our existence a risk.
Pride Month At Work: Your Responsibility This Pride.
You have a place in creating this hope when you work on talent and HR teams, but it doesn’t start with pride month or celebrating Trans Visibility Awareness Day. It starts with training hiring managers. It begins at addressing bias head-on, having hard conversations during hiring manager intake, and being uncomfortably honest.
Most people aren’t trained to take on hard conversations or to tell the truth in the hiring process. It is important. It can open doors for people who walk this earth with a constant fear of not fitting in, not because of their egos but because statistically, they have never been given an advantage. Even more so, I hope every day we will do what it takes to open the door a little bit more for someone.
That’s what I am doing this June and the rest of this year. I’m not looking for perfection and I don’t expect any transformations in an hour. But if you feel 1% more comfortable to speak up, to ask that question, and to understand others? I know that I’ve done my work here on this planet. That’s why I’m speaking with companies and ERGs – to connect these statistics with stories that make it real and actionable recommendations that prepare them to be there for others.
If you want to talk more, book a meeting here. The link to my calendar is at the bottom of the page. Remember, this promise doesn’t start and end in a month. Let’s have these conversations year-round.
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.