A D.C. Office of Human Rights report published Nov. 3 found that transgender citizens in Washington, D.C., face significant barriers in seeking employment amid discussions regarding transgender discrimination on campus and at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
The data revealed that transgender individuals are less likely to be hired than cisgender individuals. The OHR conducted its research by filing two groups of applications with a variety of D.C. employers, the first with applications perceivably from transgender women and the second perceivably from cisgender women. The first group of applications had more work experience and higher college GPAs. Researchers controlled other perceived differences in ethnic, economic and academic backgrounds.
In 10 of 21 sets of applications, employers contacted at least one or more less-qualified cisgender individuals over more-qualified transgender individuals. Employers tested in the study included universities, groceries, hotels, retail stores and restaurants.
According to OHR Director Monica Palacio, transgender individuals face particular challenges other minority groups do not because of changes in their physical and legal identification.
“They have to go through long difficult medical procedures and sometimes don’t have health insurances to cover this procedure,” Palacio said. “Their legal names change and that can create difficulty.”
In 2011, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for through the collaboration platform. Transgender Equality reported that the unemployment rate for transgender individuals was 14 percent, twice the national level of 7 percent at that time. Unemployment rates of transgender individuals who are Latino, black or of mixed race were 18, 28 and 18 percent, respectively.
Bobbi Strang, a transgender woman who is a member of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, said it is common for individuals to go through an extended period of unemployment after gender transition. In her own case, it took more than a year for her to find a new job after transition, even with 10 years of management experience, a master’s degree, fluency in Spanish and a teaching certificate.
Strang recounted an experience where the interviewer suddenly stopped the conversation immediately after she revealed her transition and never followed up.
“[Employment discrimination] is much worse for transpeople that have limited skills and education and experience,” Strang said.
Palacio emphasized how discrimination occurs not only in employment but also in housing, medical benefits and legal protection for partner privileges.
“We are still binary when we think about gender: boy and girl, male and female,” Palacio said. “I don’t think that we are culturally ready to adapt to [gender nonconformity], even though D.C. is one of the most LGBT- friendly [areas] in the United States.”
Even with the OHR’s findings, D.C. provides the nation’s strongest districtwide employment discrimination protection for the LGBT community. The D.C. Human Rights Act explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations and educational institutions.
As of 2015, D.C. joins only 18 states that have statewide legislation outlawing employment discrimination against both gay and transgender individuals. Many states do not provide full protection for both groups. For example, Massachusetts ensures legal protection for all LGBT individuals in employment and housing, but not for transgender individuals in public accommodations.
According to Lexi Dever (COL ’16), a transgender student who works at the LGBTQ Resource Center, Georgetown provides support to LGBT students in the realm of employment. After Dever’s transition, she held four different jobs on campus without experiencing problems.
Transgender students may also request to use a chosen first name in lieu of their legal name through MyAccess.
Dever stressed that it is still difficult for gender nonconforming students to find gender-neutral residences under the current housing policy, which requires that students live only with others of the same gender.
“When you’re the third gender that the university does not recognize, that makes everything much more difficult,” Dever said. “While some people might not find this as discrimination, I do. They definitely inhibit one’s ability to work and live in Georgetown, in D.C., in the U.S. or in the world.”
According to GU Pride President Campbell James (SFS ’17), there have been several incidents this year in which Yates Field House employees removed students from locker rooms based on their perceived gender identity. James also added that there are no gender-neutral restrooms in several older buildings on campus.
“There are always issues in bathrooms and locker rooms where people may not look how others would expect them to,” James said. “So that ends up leading to a lot of discrimination and discomfort.”
In terms of university policy, Dever expressed the belief that increased student engagement and transparency would contribute to future changes for LGBT students.
“[The school needs to ask,] ‘What are your experience as students? How have you struggled or thrived? What is working and not working? What do we need to fix that?’ And [the school should be more] open about the process ongoing,” Dever said.
Transgender patients accused MedStar Georgetown University Hospital of denying treatment to multiple transgender patients in June. One of the patients filed a complaint to the OHR about the hospital’s alleged refusal to treat transgender individuals. The case is still pending.
MedStar Director of Media Relations Marianne Worley maintained that the hospital does not discriminate in an email to The Hoya in June.
“We see and diagnose anyone who presents to us,” Worley wrote. “Quality always drives our decision in determining what is best for patients and we continually evaluate our services and programs to ensure the highest quality outcomes. A gender transition program is very complex requiring an array of specialists with expertise in hormonal therapy, surgery and psychological services, to name just a few. Our conclusion has been that a high quality gender transition service is best delivered in the context of an integrated program rather than in a fragmented manner.”
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