I’m Sorry, it’s Not Me–It’s All of Us: Truth Told by Transmen in the Workplace

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By Joey Konrad

Have you ever pointed out a troubling gender pattern at your work, only to have it explained away in personal terms? Maybe it sounded something like this “I think you’re overreacting, he’s a jerk to everyone,” or “oh, that’s just how we do things around here, you’ll get used to it” or my favorite “it’s just a joke, why are you being so sensitive?”

If only there was a way to find out if it really is about gender, rather than the person! Of course the best way to do that would be to change a person’s gender, while keeping the actual person the same, and that would be impossi….wait, maybe not.

Transmen are individuals who were assigned female sex at birth but whose gender identity aligns with men. Many transmen transition from a women’s to a men’s identity while a part of a workforce. That means this group of transmen understands what it’s like to work as both a woman and man.

So what happens? That’s exactly what Kristen Schilt asked in a 2006 study in which she interviewed 29 transmen that transitioned while working.

What did she find? Many of the men interviewed noted an increase in the amount of respect given to them during professional meetings and conversations. Some men felt their thoughts and ideas were given a sense of authority and competence that they did not experience when they were women.

Want to hear something really absurd? One man interviewed recalled a moment when his associates applauded their boss for firing a female coworker for being incompetent, and pointed out the new man hired was skillful. They did so not knowing that both people in question were the same person with the same abilities, education, and experience who had transitioned their gender.

These interviews confirm that those comments women often face in the workplace are, in fact, due to their gender. Chances are you’re not “overreacting” and if it’s the office culture, your culture might be a sexist one.

So you’re not wrong. Even if your co-workers can’t see what is going on.

Male privilege is the widespread favoring of men’s ideas, voices and personalities because they are men. Women are treated as uneducated and incompetent often by people who don’t even realize they are doing it. The result: women must constantly prove their competence.

So Really. You’re not overreacting.  This male privilege thing is ridiculous–and it’s real.  

And since someone should do it,  we just want to say we’re sorry.  It sucks that you have to work so hard to for people to see how valuable and skilled you are.  

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