Tackling trans unemployment: GLBT Community Center’s Courtney Gray
March 14, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 3:36 pm)
Courtney Gray, a transgender community leader and the new Transgender programs Coordinator at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, is eager to dive into a top issue facing many trans people: employment.
“For obvious reasons there are many people who have an issue with hiring trans folks, or anyone who’s different,” Gray said.
The Center’s Transgender Career Advancement Project is hosting a May 5 job fair to connect transgender job-seekers with trans-friendly employers. Heavy-hitters like Lockheed Martin, Kaiser Permanente and Miller-Coors appeared at a previous job fair and have been vetted to make sure they have nondiscrimination policies promising fairness to trans employees.
“I feel really fantastic about (my) role and the inclusion of the transgender community in The Center’s effort,” Gray said.
Issues trans job applicants face are many-fold; Gray said she’s seen employers skip trans applicants for individuals with equal qualifications, and trans job applicants face complicated situations when their job history and references knew them by a different name before they transitioned.
And while Colorado law protects employees from discrimination based on gender identity, employers can often find a way around them, Gray said. She highlighted one case she’s aware of – when a woman who worked for a company for twenty years was fired after failing to show up for work just one day.
Because of those and other obstacles, transgender people in Colorado face a 16 percent unemployment rate, double the state average and nearly double the national average, Gray said.
The May 5 job fair will be a regular recurrence, followed by one in October and more in future years.
“At the job fair, employers already know they’re expecting trans people” and are ready to hire based on qualifications, Gray said.
The Career Advancement Project also helps employers write nondiscrimination policies that protect trans employees.