Ally Moeller looked around the room during the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s annual Transgender Job and Resource Fair and liked what she saw.
There were more than 50 potential employers who had set up booths inside West Hollywood Park Auditorium on November 9 to chat with potential job applicants. There was also an area for resume advice and a photo booth complete with a volunteer make-up artist.
“I’ve been to other job fairs but this one that is specifically for the trans community is really awesome,” said Moeller, a 24-year-old college student. “I don’t even have words to describe it. Going to a job fair is stressful but I look around here and I don’t see any stress or frustration. Everybody is welcoming here.”
The annual fair aims to make the path to employment a bit easier for transgender and gender non-conforming people who nationwide experience a 15% unemployment rate. That is three times higher than the overall U.S. unemployment rate.
Lyric Joseph moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles less than two months ago to make a new start after a divorce and the death of her son. She came to the fair looking for work in the mental health field.
“It’s been really hard because where I’m from people still have to hide a lot,” she said. “I’ve been kicked out of restaurants, been run out of bathrooms and businesses. They have the ability to look at us and tell us they can’t hire us just because of who we are. Being able to come to a state where everything seems to be okay.”
Joseph is far more optimistic now that she’s living in Los Angeles.
“Coming into this job fair and seeing all these businesses has been amazing,” she said. “I’m here to start my life brand new and being able to be who I am. It’s been wonderful. So many of us have to still hide who we are.”
Brianne Pituley came to the fair hoping to find a permanent position in Information Technology after more than four years of independent consulting and contracting. Before transitioning, Pituley had been director of I.T. for an investment firm.
“Lots of people are taking resumes and I’ve had some good conversations,” Pituley said. “I’m hopeful. I ran out of resumes so that’s a good sign.”
Fair benefits employers too
Before the start of the fair, employers receive diversity training which includes how to address people, what questions are appropriate and information on the challenges transgender people face in seeking employment. They are also updated on the latest employment laws in California.
“I think it’s really informative and a great way to get up to speed,” said Bank of the West’s Hector Sanchez, who was recruiting at the fair for the third year. “I think I’m pretty fluent with the terminology, but it’s always changing.”
Six Flags Magic Mountain participated in the job fair for the first time as the theme park gears up to be open 365 days a year.
“We currently employ transgender people and are actively recruiting more,” said recruiter Bethanny Bohannan. “We employ more than 3,000 people in our community. We hope to make some matches today.”
The Southern California Gas Company’s Raelynn Franklin said they have an employee who transitioned while on the job.
“It’s a constant learning curve for us to make sure we are doing our part to make sure we are welcoming to the transgender community,” Franklin said.
Paying it forward
Rachel Andrus is opening the Mexican food eatery, Bae-ritto, next month in Long Beach and was at the fair looking to hire some employees.
“I’m transgender and wanted to provide other transgender people like myself with an open environment, one that is very loving and caring,” Andrus said. “I want them to feel like they can work safely and be confident.
“In my past, I’ve had problems with employers and decided I want to create my own environment to help others like myself. When I transitioned 10 years ago, my workplace made it very difficult for me to work. I ended up having to leave my job and transfer myself and my three children. It took me about seven years to get back into the workplace again.”
The fair is presented by the Center’s Transgender Economic Empowerment Project (TEEP) with community partner the City of West Hollywood.
Throughout the year, the Center’s TEEP offers a wide range of services to help transgender people find employment and to help make workplaces more welcoming to trans people. Among the services are legal name and gender change assistance, career development support and counseling, resume preparation, leads on jobs with trans-welcoming employers, and access to interview appropriate-attire.