Entering the world of work can be nerve-wracking for any first-time worker. For teens who are trans and nonbinary, concerns about getting misgendered or facing disrespect can make the job search even more daunting. If you’re worried about finding acceptance at work, YES is here to help!
How do I find trans and queer-friendly jobs?
The first thing you should know is that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression is prohibited in the workplace under New York State human rights protections. It’s illegal for an employer to ask you questions about your gender identity, sex assigned at birth, or other sensitive topics relating to gender if you don’t choose to disclose that information (although employers will need information like your legal name for certain official purposes). It’s also illegal for an employer to refuse to hire someone because of their gender identity or to apply different conditions to their employment.
However, even though outright discrimination is prohibited, some employers and workplaces will just feel more comfortable and accepting than others. There are a few things you can do to help identify those workplaces:
- Ask around. Ask friends, family members, and/or mentors if they know of any local businesses that they’d describe as particularly accepting. If you have trans/nonbinary friends who are already working, or if any of your friends have trans/nonbinary co-workers, ask them how they feel about their jobs and the people they work with. If you’re applying through the YES summer jobs program, YES reps can recommend worksites that were good fits for past trans and nonbinary YES teens.
- Take advantage of the job interview. Once you progress to the interview stage, use it as an opportunity to learn more about the company. You could ask if the company has specific policies relating to pronouns or trans-inclusivity, what kind of support they can offer their gender-noncomforming staff, or anything else you’d like to know to help you decide if the job will be a good fit.
How do I talk about pronouns on the job?
Let's say you’ve started work and things are mostly good, but some of your co-workers keep using the wrong pronouns for you. Maybe you’ve tried correcting them and it hasn’t worked, or maybe they’re just making an assumption and you’re not sure what to say. If this happens to you, here are a few strategies you can try out:
- Ask someone you trust to correct them on your behalf. Having to correct someone—potentially multiple times—can be tough, especially if you don’t know them well and aren’t sure how they’ll react. Sometimes, having another person jump in to correct them and set the record straight can really help relieve that burden. This can be a co-worker you trust, or a superior like a manager or the employee who trained you. Even if you’re totally cool with correcting your co-workers, it can still be helpful to have a second person around to back you up.
- Wear a pronoun pin. If your workplace has name tags that don’t already have pronouns on them, ask your employer if they can add pronouns. If you don’t work somewhere with name tags, consider bringing in or making your own pronoun pin.
- Come up with a script in case you have to continue correcting your co-workers. Being misgendered can hurt and catch you off guard, and it can be hard to respond to that in the moment. It might be helpful to think through some hypothetical scenarios and plan out responses so you’ll be prepared if your co-workers slip up again.
If these strategies don’t seem to be working, or if you experience any misgendering or invasive questioning that seems hostile right off the bat, it’s important that you take things a step further and let someone know.
What should I do if I run into problems at work?
We here at YES certainly hope you never experience pronoun or gender-related harassment or discrimination at work, but if an incident does come up, it’s important that you talk to someone. Identify people at work that you can trust. This could be a shift supervisor, a general manager, an HR representative, or simply a supportive co-worker who can help you with next steps. If you’re working through the YES summer jobs program, your YES rep can also provide support and help you report the issue.
You always deserve to feel safe and respected at work. You’re entitled to a workplace free from gender-based discrimination, and if someone you work with isn’t taking that seriously, make sure you bring it to the attention of someone who will.