I have been looking for work for the last 2 months and the same thing keeps happening. I will have one to two phone interviews, followed by a video interview, and then get rejected soon afterward. I have gone through this cycle over a dozen times and it is getting quite discouraging. Unfortunately, I believe that my physical appearance plays a substantial role in my being rejected.
The problem is that I currently am in a liminal state where I don’t cleanly pass as either a man or a woman. This makes it difficult to present as “professional” when so much of what constitutes proper workplace etiquette is just conforming to gender norms. I have been on hormones for over a year now and the effects are fairly evident even if I dress to hide them. I can and do dress in a manner that hides the fat redistribution and breast growth, however, I can’t hide the changes to my face. Perhaps more problematic from an employer’s perspective, I can’t hide the length of my hair. I have been growing it out for over a year and a half now and it is only a couple of inches from my shoulders. Even if I dress professionally, I don’t appear suitably formal because I don’t neatly conform to gender norms.
I have known that my appearance would impede finding another job since being laid off, but it is still frustrating to actually experience it. So far, I have not had a video interview that has led to another interview or a job offer, only to getting rejected. And while I am certain that other factors do play a role, the interviewers are not subtle about my appearance bothering them. Rather, they are often quite blatant. Most of the time, you can see the surprise on their face the first time they see me. Other times, the interviewers spontaneously have brought up the existence of a company dress code and some have even asked if I would have any issue following it. So far, nobody has directly asked me if I would cut my hair for work, but some have definitely implied the question. I understand that they don’t want or can’t just ask if I am willing to change how I present myself for a job but it is frustrating nonetheless. It is disappointing how much my appearance seems to be negatively impacting my job hunt.
I don’t have a lot of options for how I can address this issue. Some who are familiar with my job struggles but are unaware of my ongoing gender transition have suggested that I should cut my hair short. I am not doing that. I see growing my hair out as an important aspect of my gender transition and I am not willing to discard that for a job. Similarly, I am not willing to stop hormones or grow facial hair so that I appear more masculine and better fit gender norms. I am not yet desperate enough that I would go through that level of dysphoria or sabotage my transition just to get a job.
My current mindset is that if an employer is put off by my appearance and long hair, they likely won’t be accepting of me coming out as transgender either. If anything, this is weeding out companies and managers that would discriminate against me. While this is difficult for me right now, I am still fairly optimistic that I will find a job in my field. It is just a matter of how long it takes and if I end up coming out beforehand.