February 16, 2017

Career (search) stories: trans and entering the job market

Collins Hilton ’17

So, there is this local children’s theater group. The director, known for her eccentric and involved theatrical style, was looking for an assistant. I was thrilled to get the job.

At one of our first meetings I casually brought up my trans-ness. Relieved, she said, “I saw your trans-ness on your resume. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to be the one to bring it up.”

Close-up of a ticket stub

Embedded in what I’ve done

While my being trans is not a feature on my resume per se (that is, it’s not under my education and above my relevant experiences), my trans-ness is very much embedded in what I’ve done.

If I were to remove everything on my resume that might hint that I’m trans, it would be stripped nearly bare. As a soon-to-be graduate of this women’s college, being a trans person has massively influenced my education and experiences.

I am a trans man. For me being trans means I was female-assigned at birth, but am a man. Mount Holyoke accepts applications from “any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman,” including those who are biologically born female and identify as a man. I am trans and I belong here. Mount Holyoke agrees.

A rainbow of highlighters

Asset or reason to discriminate?

As a theater maker and educator I’ve been told that my trans-ness is an asset — something I should highlight and bring up in interviews and conversations. It makes me unique and gives me an edge over my cisgender peers — those who identify as their sex assigned at birth. (The Trans Student Educational Resources website has information about LGBT terms.)

I’ve also been told that talking about how I’m trans may give people a reason to discriminate against me. Gender can be awkward to talk about socially, let alone in a professional setting. It is illegal to ask someone about their gender in a job interview. But that doesn’t mean that gender doesn’t help or hurt a candidate when applying for a position.

Turmoil: widespread across identities

Feeling turmoil over how and when to reveal one’s identity during a job or internship search is not at all unique to the trans community. People across marginalized identities face uncomfortable situations and microaggressions, or daily commonplace slights, especially when applying for jobs.

This issue is not going to change without conscious deliberate work. For example, a recent study shows that, ironically, minorities may be likely to experience disadvantage when they apply to an employer that presents itself as valuing diversity in hiring.

A camera with manual focus

Career Stories, through the lens of different identities

The Career Development Center is starting a new, ongoing program designed to address the needs of Mount Holyoke students with marginalized identities as they start their job and internship searches. Each session of the Career Stories program will focus on a particular identity.

Prominent members of the surrounding community will come to talk about the intersection of their personal identities and their professional lives. The goal of these events is to create — through the lens of different identities — genuine, open and honest conversation about career choices, planning and decisions.

Join us!

The first event, “Career Stories: Individual Experiences of Transgender Professionals,” is Friday, Feb. 17, at 11:45 a.m. in the Stimson Room of the Mount Holyoke Library. Pizza will be provided and gluten-free options will be available.

Open to people of all genders, majors and departments, the event is designed to open the conversation about what it’s like to be a trans person in a professional community. The two speakers who will share their experiences as transgender professionals are Perry Cohen, founder of The Venture Out Project, and Liv Wyatt, a design/construction administrator with Kuhn Riddle Architects.

For more information about Career Stories, please contact Karen Miller at millerka@mtholyoke.edu.

You belong here. Learn More

Collins Hilton ’17 studies Africana studies, education and theatre arts in a self-created major called theatre for social transformation. He currently works in the Career Development Center as a peer career advisor and he is a student facilitator of the MoZone Peer Education Program. Originally from South Orange, N.J., he came to Mount Holyoke because of the value the College places on striving to engage in important, yet difficult, conversations around relevant social conflicts.
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