The receptionist buzzed me and said, “Your 1 o’clock is here.”
I cleared my desk, minimized my screen, printed out her resume, checked to see if I had lipstick on my teeth, and got up to meet my candidate in the lobby.
A woman in a gray suit and pearls was seated demurely, reading an old issue of Fortune magazine. “Audrey? Hi, I’m Maya Walker. It's nice to meet you.” I greeted her warmly.
Audrey stood up and held out her hand. She was exceedingly tall. I’d say…hmm… 6’2” with 2” heels. I’m 5’1” so I had to crane my neck to smile up at her. Her hand dwarfed mine, her handshake limp like a wet noodle. We exchanged pleasantries.
Something didn’t feel right. I had phone screened Audrey at length to determine if she had the qualifications for an Environmental, Health and Safety Engineer. Her experience was solid, she sounded great, and her personality on the phone seemed like she would be a perfect fit for the EH&S and Facilities teams. I was pretty confident that the “guys” would like her, and it was a plus that she was female. We didn’t have nearly enough gender diversity in certain departments and that was a gap I wanted to breach.
Audrey and I walked back to my office and started our conversation. My interviews are strikingly conversational, and after a prior in-depth technical phone screen, my in-person interviews center around personality and behavioral compatibility issues.
Something was off. Audrey and I had hit it off on the phone but in person she was reticent and reserved. Then a light went off in my head, and the “click” was almost audible that I snapped my head back in surprise. Sometimes I can be so dim.
Audrey is an MTF – a Male-To-Female transgender person. When this fact finally dawned on me there was no more mistaking all the physical attributes -- the huge hands, big feet, the 5 o’clock shadow under thick make-up, the artificial formality with which she carried herself. Ironically enough, after I realized this, I began to relax. This is the San Francisco Bay Area, after all, and I have absolutely nothing but total acceptance, tolerance, respect and compassion for people of all orientations, faiths and lifestyles.
When I relaxed, then she relaxed. Audrey was absolutely perfect for the job. I couldn’t wait for Alex, the EH&S Manager, to meet her. I buzzed Alex (real name withheld to protect the guilty) and told him I was coming over to his office with his candidate.
Alex was seated at his desk behind stacks of binders and documents, and rose to his feet as we entered his office. He reached across his desk and shook Audrey’s hand and came around to show me out. As Audrey turned and took a seat, Alex gave me an exaggerated look with eyes bulging out of its sockets, and mouth agape. I knew he knew.
As Alex closed the door behind him, he stuck his torso out and said to me, “Thanks, Maya. I’ll come and chat with you later.”
I knew that was code for “Keep looking.”
Many people, even here in the bay area, are still challenged by transgender phobia. According to some stats, there are about 26 million transgender Americans, and what Audrey experienced is probably a common occurrence in that segment of society.
It behooves us all as staffing professionals to remember that we are prohibited from discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.