Posted by: aronmwrites | September 4, 2008

Awful or awesome: what do you think of the NYTimes article on transitioning in the workplace?

According to a New York Times article that came out yesterday, it’s become a lot easier to transition in the workplace. I don’t disagree.

It’s nice to see the folks over at NYTimes spotlighting these kinds of hurdles that transpeople encounter in the working world. Plus, stories about positive culture change are warm, fuzzy things to hear.

At the same time, I would have liked to see them mention the troubles that Diane Schroer is having with the U.S. Library of Congress. Since Inclusive ENDA lost, protections for transpeople (much less the larger gender variant community) really don’t exist in the workplace – at least for those transfolk that don’t want to work at a gigantic corporation, like the Fortune 500 companies mentioned in the article. The Department of Justice attorneys working against Schroer’s case even get that:

The Library of Congress, represented by Justice Department attorneys, has argued that Schroer cannot sue because the Civil Rights Act does not protect transsexuals or prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

They’re not arguing that she doesn’t have a case. They’re not even arguing that she wasn’t discriminated again. Just that she, like all other gender non-conforming people, is not supported or protected in the eyes of the law. I’m the first to agree that any progress is great, but when an extremely qualified transwoman can have a job offer rescinded by our federal government purely for disclosing to her boss that she’s in the process of transitioning, I just don’t feel like it’s appropriate for the media to paint such a rosey picture.

Even more interesting is the the image (shown below) that accompanied the NYTimes article. It was… Offensive? Inappropriate? Sensationalizing? Attempting to prove that transpeople really can’t “fit in” and will be a distraction in the workplace?

Take your pick. I’d love to hear some readers’ thoughts on this. Maybe it’s just me and I’m feeling sensitive because I’ve had a rough week. What do you think of the article? Of the image above? Personally, although the HRC’s Corporate Responsibility Index has clearly made a dent, we have a long way to go.

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  1. Well, I agree with you about the article, but while I understand your interpretation of the image as “sensationalizing” I also have some amount of sympathy for the artist. The image doesn’t really say anything about the appropriateness or lack thereof of trans-ness; I read it as the artist attempting to depict an essentially un-depictable feeling (the sense of being a “woman in a man’s body” or vice versa) and situate it in the workplace. Viewed from that perspective – the idea that a person is forced to straddle the genders in a way that almost splits them in two in order to function in our highly gendered workplaces – I think it’s less troubling, especially in context of the article (which is not particularly transphobic).

  2. It’s a hard call. While I do agree that it IS easier, I think this is the kind of thing people read and then believe that discrimination doesn’t exist anymore. Many of my family and some of my friends have questioned my activism citing articles like this and wondering why I still persist in claiming that lgtbiq folks don’t have equal rights.
    I was also kind of put off by the way they painted transition, as if it happened all of a sudden or in one day. In some ways, that’s easier for people to accept, because they don’t have to deal with uncomfortable in-betweenness. But that inbetweenness is a part of accepting and supporting trans and gender-variant folks. There is a difference between accepting a transitioned person and accepting a transitioning or variant person, and that isn’t given any space in the article.
    In the end, it’s as good a picture as I could possibly expect from mainstream media, and I applaud them for doing an article like this, something NOT precipitated by a crisis. It shows that they view trans folks as a segment of the population worth covering, and their tone was totally positive. Go, NY Times, go!
    At the same time, I think it’s incumbent upon us as activists to point out the gaps and to be mindful of what isn’t said, because what’s pushed to the margins is just as or more important as what finds its way to the center.

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