Work environment (I): pitfalls for the trans consultant

Just about back up to date…and therefore should be posting “in order” in future.

This one I have been meaning to get back to for some time. It is pretty much how I felt the week before I finally got out and about again, “on site” with a client, doing consultancy.

The last six months, my work has been a mix of writing – journalism and research – and statistical stuff. Both species of work have, happily, been conducted mostly from home. No: not quite true. The journalism has been out and about: but the consultancy has been home-based, drawing down large quantities of client data and crunching it through the machines I have here to come up with insights.

That’s part continuation of an old pattern, part a bit of a block about acceptance.

Because as a journalist – and I may have been just a bit over-sensitive about this – one goes pretty much where one pleases, and are under no obligation to anyone (except the editors on whose behalf you happen to be writing). If some politician doesn’t like my outfit, my questions, pretty much anything about me, tough!

Not so consultancy, where the game is all about presenting well, not rocking the boat. That is an issue for a trans woman. All very well explaining how there is no place for prejudice in modern business: how I SHOULD have the backing of law, etc., etc. But so many trans women have their own tales to tell of jobs denied, doors closed to them, with transition rarely given as an explicit reason.

And of course, one very difficult area, going into a new business environment for the first time is the toilets. I think I sorted that one mentally some while back: the “gents” feels too unwelcoming, too unsafe for me now. You think I jest? No. Far too many instances of trans women suffering abuse, mostly verbal, if they are forced to use the male facilities, seasoned with sufficient instances of that abuse turning violent to allow anyone in my position to even contemplate going there.

As a journalist, I have no qualms about using the ladies: happy to have the argument any time. After all, I have my own privilege: the ear of editors and the ability to get my own back by writing about organisations that discriminate.

As a consultant, though, I suddenly feel disempowered: if someone objects, that means a fuss – and fuss is just such bad form in a consultant, it could imperil future work. So should I ask? Only, if I ask – and by asking, intimate that there COULD be an issue, then that too is fuss of a sort.

Ugh! Damned if I do…and very damned if I don’t.

It may seem a small thing, but it kept me worried for days and almost was enough to make me turn the work down.



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