Tough times prompt transgender job fair in L.A.

Fri Jun 5, 2009 9:39pm EDT
 
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By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sydney Dupree came to Los Angeles because, as a young male-to-female transsexual, she found Memphis hostile. She came to the transgender job fair because jobs are hard for her to find, even in Los Angeles.

Dupree has been frustrated by discrimination and employers who turn skittish when confronted with documents identifying her as male, both typical reasons why the transgendered struggle to find and keep jobs, especially during a recession.

Until now the 23-year-old, who came to the job fair at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center dressed conservatively in tan slacks, a beige top and heels, has supported herself largely through adult films.

"I did what I had to do to survive," Dupree said with a shrug. "I had to get out of Memphis. I just left on a bus."

The fair featured 17 public and private employers willing to reach out to the transgender community, held in the center's small courtyard after a morning rain cleared.

It was organized as part of the center's annual Trans-Unity Pride celebration, billed as the nation's largest, and began with a seminar educating employers on the legal rights of transgendered employees and such tricky issues as restrooms.

"Some questions are not appropriate for the workplace," Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, instructed a group of managers at the seminar. "For example: 'Is your surgery complete?' or 'Do you have a penis?'"

Drian Juarez, manager of the center's Transgender Economic Empowerment Project, said young people who are transitioning to another gender can't get work because they don't quite "pass" yet and a background check by employers won't match their identity.   Continued...

 
<p>Sof&rsquo;a Mac&rsquo;a (L), Human Resources Specialist with the City of West Hollywood, California, talks with Sydney Dupree (C), 23, and Jaklyn Fior (R), 24, both transgenders, during a job fair held by the Transgender Economic Empowerment Project (TEEP) at the L.A. Gay &amp; Lesbian Center in Los Angeles, California June 5, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Redmond</p>