While Washington has some of the best civil-rights protections for transgender residents of any jurisdiction in the country -- or the world, for that matter -- those protections don't always insulate the community from the realities of transphobia. Youth who veer from gender norms still face bullies and other added pressures that may drive them to drop out of school, and some potential employers may be eager to find excuses not to hire transgender people. It's a disturbing cycle that leaves local groups such as HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) reporting that their female, sex-worker clients are much more likely to be trans women than biological females, according to Outreach Director Jeffrey Chubb.
It's all the more reason to welcome the upcoming Transgender Career Day, Saturday, Aug. 18, sponsored by the Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs, Transgender Health Empowerment (THE), the Transgender Education Association (TEA), Different Avenues and other community-based organizations.
''When they walk out, they should be able to write a résumé, know what to expect in an interview and know how to 'dress for success,''' says Christopher Dyer, interim director of the city's LGBT Affairs Office, adding that the city sponsored a similar effort in 2006. A lesson learned at last year's event, which acted as a conduit between transgender job seekers and employers, is some basic job-skills training would be needed first. ''The event was great last year,'' says Dyer, ''but no one was actually hired. Some people are just not there yet, in terms of being able to get jobs, so we're having the skills-based training on the 18th, then the job fair Sept. 29.''
Ruby Corado, a local trans activist who works with Whitman-Walker Clinic, THE and the GLBT Latino community, is also helping to organize the upcoming career day and job fair.
''We want this, more than anything, to be a motivational experience,'' she says. ''Whatever obstacles are out there, we want them to know we're doing everything we can. This is like a dream for us, to see people and employers coming together. That's our dream, to get people hired.''
Corado grants that the motivation that she hopes attendees leave with will need to be strong enough not only to give them confidence in job interviews, but to overcome transphobia.
''We have a strong community dedicated to this, to getting transgender people hired,'' she says. ''This is a tool that we're giving transgender people to make a change. If people get prepared on Aug. 18, they'll have a better chance of getting a job on Sept. 29.''
The Transgender Career Day will be held Saturday, Aug. 18, from 1-6 p.m. at the Reeves Center, 2000 14th St. NW, in the second-floor community room. There is no cost to attend, and registration is not required. For more information, visit http://lgbt.dc.gov, or call 202-442-8150.