An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

July 15, 2010

Trans Job Discrimination: Now With Numbers!

Two trans members of Make the Road/New York’s LGBTQ Justice Program were turned down for fast-food jobs in 2008, six years after the city banned gender identity based job discrimination. Which is hardly news, in and of itself–job discrimination against transgender, transsexual and gender-nonconforming people is tremendously common, and looking at the statistics for POC or women, it’s not hard to figure out that simply outlawing employment discrimination doesn’t end it.

But anything resembling hard facts about anti-trans discrimination are hard to come by. When their members got passed over for jobs, Make the Road decided to work on that. The end result is this recent 22 page report, aptly titled Transgender Need Not Apply, which details their DIY trial of a sociological technique–matched pair studies–to get some numbers to show the rational-fetishist crowd. You can guess how that turned out.

How it Worked

They picked two pairs of their members who were similar in as many ways as they could control for–one team was composed of Asian-American women in their late 20′s, the other of white men in their mid 20′s. The experimental difference was that one member of each pair was cis and the other was trans, and the the trans applicants disclosed their status on applications and in interviews.  They were outfitted with made-up resumes that gave them similar backgrounds and experience, with a slight advantage to the trans team members. And they underwent serious training to match their demeanors and interview behavior as much as possible.

The pairs then set out to apply for jobs at high-end retail stores–J. Crew, Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Brookstone, etc. 24 different stores in all, for a total of 42 applications for each experimental group.* The cis testers got 14 job offers. The trans testers got 2. The way the numbers shake out, that totals to a discrimination rate of 42% against trans applicants, which is, well, pretty freaking high as discrimination stats go. How does 14:2 equal only 42%? The employers were saved some by that fact that many stores didn’t offer anyone a job, and a single store (the Virgin Megastore) picked the trans applicant over their cis counterpart. Once.

What Does it All Mean?

In their report, MtR were careful to point out that their study is too small to tease out intersectional discriminations, which they assure us they’ d like to do in a larger study that could measure the degree to which race and class factors interact with transphobic discrimination (I’d put my money on ‘multiplicatively’ or ‘exponentially,’ if anyone at the Radical Scientist Gambling Parlor were dumb enough to take the other side of that bet)

Personally, I’d be curious to see how trans men fare vs trans women, as there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that transmisogyny (that is, the particular cocktail of misogyny and transphobia aimed at trans women & other male-assigned trans people) is a huge, huge magnet for job discrimination, even compared to the transphobia-served-neat (and often with a chaser of male passing privilege)** faced by trans men. Unfortunately, with only 2 freaking job offers going to the trans testers, this particular study isn’t going to help there. You can’t study intra-community differences in hiring until someone hires some more freaking trans people. Like, a statistically significant number of trans people. Sheesh. We may be waiting a while for that one.

Thanks to Questioning Transphobia for picking up this story before me.

*Note that an experimental group is made up of the all subjects sharing a variable. So, the two cis testers are one experimental group and the trans testers are the other. Meanwhile, we also have two teams, one of a trans woman and a cis woman, and another with a trans guy and a cis guy. I know it’s a mess, but obviously, it matters how you divvy up the data.

**No more liquor metaphors, I promise. Not till we get farther into the weekend, at least.



  1. Thanks for sharing this story, Ethan.

    Comment by Samia — July 16, 2010 @ 7:03 am

  2. Thanks for breaking this down. I had seen the results, but hadn’t read how they did the study. I also would like to see how non-binary folks are affected by this. I know for myself, while I will never deny my trans-ness (or rather, I hope not to be put in a position to have to deny it), I do not want to be open about being non-binary as I feel it will up the discrimination against me even farther.

    Comment by nome — July 16, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  3. Nome, thanks for dropping by & commenting. I am a reasonably-big methodology geek, and I’m always grateful when other bloggers describing studies tell you how the researchers came to their conclusions, and that goes double for advocacy group’s research.

    As for job discrimination and (openly) non-binary people, that would be a really interesting follow-up. I’d guess that, broadly, the numbers would be fairly similar to what we see here, with the trans researchers disclosing every time. Not because those are similar situations to come from, but because I have near-zero faith in employers to know the difference.

    Certainly plenty of trans people find good jobs. But I’d guess your (generic ‘your,’ not you in particular) chances for discrimination are pretty closely tied to being able and willing to have an employer assume you are cisgender and cissexual.

    Comment by Ethan — July 17, 2010 @ 12:33 am

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rose Fox, Adrian Zimbelman. Adrian Zimbelman said: what? trans/non-gender conforming ppl get discriminated against? NO WAY! good article: [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Trans Job Discrimination: Now With Numbers! An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles -- — July 19, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  5. [...] In NYC, where discrimination on the basis of gender identity is illegal, a team of researchers proves that transgender people are still being refused work. [...]

    Pingback by Christian A. Young's Dimlight Archive | — July 20, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  6. it was very interesting to read.
    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

    Comment by a_fedotov — July 21, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  7. [...] gotten a couple random bursts of increased traffic here lately, mostly thanks to last week’s post on trans job discrimination getting passed around the intertubes. I’m beginning to suspect some people may even be coming [...]

    Pingback by Welcome New Readers! Let me Drive You Away! An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles — July 23, 2010 @ 10:48 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress

2 visitors online now
0 guests, 2 bots, 0 members
Max visitors today: 5 at 12:20 am UTC
This month: 8 at 04-22-2017 10:26 pm UTC
This year: 13 at 01-09-2017 02:46 am UTC
All time: 66 at 08-17-2016 06:01 pm UTC