By Career Advice

Nathan Nguyen, he/him/his

Some states may give transgender and non-binary folks more reason to hide their pronouns than others. Nguyen says that only 22 states so far have protections of sexual orientation and gender identity in both the public and private sector. Michigan is not one of them.

For transgender and non-binary people, sometimes the choice is between affording rent and disclosing pronouns/identity. Those with a financial safety-net have the freedom to be more selective about finding inclusive employers. Those without that security have to take what they can get. 

However, Nguyen says the decision to sacrifice being upfront about your identity for financial security can be hurtful long-term.

“It’s a lot having to hide a part of yourself: Not being allowed to talk about your family life, or your partner, or have photos of your family in your cubicle,” Nguyen said. 

Along with pronouns, Mattix says navigating gender expression in the workplace is something to consider. Though everyone’s experience is different, Mattix says their time working in food service included making compromises on how to express themself. Though Mattix generally prefers to wear a full face of makeup, they were unable to do so while working in food service.

“In those places, I honestly just end up presenting male,” Mattix said.

Dealing with a high volume of people at work meant that Mattix was addressed with incorrect pronouns often. Considering the effort it would take to correct all those people, usually Mattix just chose to ignore it.

Even in that environment, Mattix found ways to feel like themself. Mattix would wear wacky earrings to work, and customers loved seeing what they would wear next.

Mattix’s experience is just one example. Gender expression is also something to think about when preparing for a job interview. It’s difficult to anticipate how authentically ‘you’ to be when it is unclear how inclusive a potential employer is. To avoid giving job applicants added stress, Nguyen suggests a few ways for employers to show their support for transgender and non-binary identities in the workplace.

“Make sure that nondiscrimination policies include gender identity and expression and that the language is inclusive,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen says inclusive language means deleting outdated phrases that don’t leave any room for non-binary identities, like “he or she,” instead of “individuals.” This also includes making sure that gender norms aren’t enforced in the company dress code, by not attributing items like makeup, jewelry, or certain clothing items to one sex. 

Normalizing sharing pronouns is another important step to make. It is becoming more common to see pronouns in email signatures. The next step, says Nguyen, is to normalize pronouns on company name tags and business cards, and during in-person introductions. 

Making changes like those listed above could help decrease job search anxiety for transgender and nonbinary identities, Nguyen said.

“You don’t know who is listening,” Nguyen said. “When someone is listening and they hear that someone is introducing themselves with pronouns, or enforcing pronouns, this lets them know it’s a safe space.”

This content was originally published here.

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