As the current semester comes to a close, it's gotten me thinking about my job recently.
I consider myself lucky to be part of academia. Not only has it given me the opportunity to explore my gender and sexual identity and to speak to others about being transgender, but it is also one of the few careers where being transgender could actually be considered an advantage instead of a disadvantage.
I appreciate the opportunities that being an academic has given me and recognize the other advantages that I have. As a White American, I know that I do not face the oppression that my minority sisters face. Being in academia also gives me a lot more financial stability than many working class people face. A friend told me recently about a prison guard who made the decision to transition and was harassed by her fellow guards to the point where she threatened suicide and was quickly fired. I don't know if I could continue to be open about being transgender in the face of that level of harassment.
I guess I will find out for sure how much of an advantage or disadvantage my transgender identity will be in a couple of years when I finally finish my PhD and head out into the job market looking for my first professorship. I want to do as much writing and speaking about being transgender as I can between now and then. I want to make being transgender something I get hired for instead of something I'm hired in spite of. That of course assumes I'll get hired at all. With the economy the way it is, even colleges and universities may decide to hire someone who is a "normal" male or female, whatever that means, than have to deal with the issues related to hiring an openly transgender person.
Something that will help the employment of all gay, lesbian and transgender Americans is the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). While the bill has had a topsy-turvy history, the passage in October of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act that updates hate crime law to include disability status, gender or sexual orientation (Femulate) gives many GLBT activists hope that ENDA may be passed soon. I just hope ENDA actually improves the work-lives of GLBT people and employers don't just start firing GLBT people for other reasons, such as being late to work too often or random layoffs, that aren't directly related to their gender/sexual identity.
For more information about ENDA, go to Pass ENDA Now. One thing that does bother me is that the first result that comes up in a Google search for "ENDA & transgender" is this 2007 post from Americans for Truth. This is the kind of rhetoric that continues to make life difficult/impossible for transgender people in this country.