From Houston to DC, Ending Transgender Discrimination
More than 1300 miles separate Houston from the District of Columbia, yet last Wednesday I woke up heartbroken knowing that Houston voters rejected a measure that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in their daily lives. The results were especially jarring given my agency, the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR), on that same day released a groundbreaking report showing what appears to be an extremely high rate of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming job applicants who are applying for employment. It was the first known government-conducted resume testing to focus on discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming job applicants, and the findings were upsetting, although unfortunately not surprising.
Among the key findings from the report:
• 48 percent of employers appeared to prefer at least one less-qualified cisgender applicant over a more-qualified transgender applicant;
• 33 percent of employers offered interviews to one or more less-qualified cisgender applicants while not offering an interview to at least one of the more-qualified transgender applicants; and
• The applicant perceived as a transgender man with previous work experience at a transgender advocacy organization experienced the highest rate of discrimination among the applicants (69 percent).
While these numbers alone should be a call-to-action for governments, advocates and voters, the reality is they almost surely understate employment discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming applicants. To control for gender identity in our study, the tester applicants had to be perceived as white, young and well-educated, and there is little doubt transgender applicants of color and older applicants would experience even higher rates of discrimination. Additionally, the study only tested employers in the District of Columbia, a jurisdiction with strong anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. It is not difficult to imagine a higher discrimination rate in a jurisdiction without those protections, such as Houston.
Tuesday was a difficult day for those of us working to ensure transgender and gender non-conforming people are protected from discrimination, and this report is a reminder that it will take more than laws to achieve full equality for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Yet my hope is the report can also be a catalyst for conversations across the nation, and can inform governments and policymakers of the tremendous injustices being perpetrated against transgender and gender non-conforming people looking for employment. The nation is moving in the right direction, but there is clearly much work to do.
By Monica Palacio, Director, District Columbia office of Human Rights.
Download Qualified and Transgender: A Report on Results of Resume Testing for Employment Discrimination Based on Gender Identity, here: ohr.dc.gov/page/QualifiedAndTransgender.