Gender and the Politics of My Outfit

In October of 2016, I attended a networking trip to Los Angeles with Scripps CP&R. I was excited for the trip, but full of anxiety about how to dress. I am a transgender man, I had to decide whether to dress comfortably in men’s clothes or dress safely in women’s clothes. Picking a first impression outfit becomes more difficult when I’m not sure how interviewers and potential employers will read me.

Everyone worries about what to wear to an interview, a company visit, or the first day of work. We worry what interviewers and employers will think of us, and whether our appearances will help or hurt us in our attempt to get a job. But some people have to worry more: women have to worry about the high and ever-changing standards placed on their appearances; People of color have to worry about the ways in which their natural skin or hair might be perceived as “unprofessional”; transgender people, too, have to worry about how they present themselves to potential employers, often with the stakes of their safety and their careers.

The decision of “should I dress masculinely or femininely?” also relies on my status as a pre-hormone therapy and pre-surgery transgender person. For any transgender person who isn’t always read as their true gender, deciding whether or not to attempt to “pass” is a constant question. When I get dressed for an interview, I have to decide whether I am going to try to be read as a man, and perhaps fail, or give up and dress in women’s clothes. Wearing men’s clothes means I feel more comfortable in my clothes, but my clothes might influence whether or not I get a job–I might be perceived as a transgender person or as a lesbian, and an employer could, knowingly or subconsciously, decide that someone else is “better-qualified” for the position because they perceive me as a member of the LGBT community.

Dressing in women’s clothes means I will feel uncomfortable in my clothes and definitely uncomfortable in the way I am perceived, but might have a better chance of getting the job or internship I’m trying to get. During the trip in October, after much anxiety, I chose to wear a blouse, a women’s blazer, and trousers, as well as a full face of makeup for the first day of company visits. Wearing these clothes felt outside my range of comfort: I would have much preferred to wear a men’s shirt and maybe a tie.

I was once talking to a transgender friend about how to dress for an interview, and he told me that it was the most important thing to be true to myself: however, I think that sometimes I have to just make the choice that will keep me safe and ensure that minimal drama arises in my life. Sometimes that means being uncomfortable, but, to me, that’s a necessary sacrifice.

If I learned one thing from the networking trip, it was that in the future I would do research on whether the companies I want to employ me are LGBT-friendly. I recommend, for other transgender job searchers, doing your research. Try calling or emailing human resources at your target companies if you can’t find the information online, or reaching out to any connections you might have at those companies. Once you know whether a company will support your identity, you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth it to pursue a job at that company.

Sometimes going undercover as your assigned gender might be worth it for a while; sometimes it might be a better option to not pursue positions at companies that don’t support transgender employees. It’s up to you, but having all the information is key and can definitely cut down on anxiety. Ultimately, it’s most important to remain safe, and only take the risks you’re comfortable taking–and make sure you have all the information first.

Further reading: “How to Manage a Job Search as a Transgender Candidate”

The Interview

Like the college application process, interviews are the only way an applicant can really show off their personality. If you have an interview for a job, congrats! You are really in a great position – you know that the employer thinks you have the credentials, work experience, and skill set needed for the position. Interviews are for confirming that you would fit in, that you’d be a positive addition to the workforce, and that you’re able to communicate clearly. Below is a list of websites that talk about what interviewers look for, as well as my responses to them. I draw on my experiences interviewing both in person and on the phone.

Positivity is a must – though interviewers want to see that you take the job seriously, speaking with anything but a smile is not going to win over your interviewer. Smiling also reinstates how confident you are and how excited you are about the job opportunity. Maturity is also needed, especially when you are up against other college-aged candidates because it will set you apart. I tend to speak really fast and use abbreviations/slang/”like” so I always watch myself and make sure I speak slowly during interviews. I have been interviewed by people who are young and seem buddy-buddy, and I’ve been tempted to disclose fun stories and start using slang. One interviewer started talking about concerts, and while I could have talked all about my concert-going experiences, I caught myself because it was not work-related. Also, appearance is the first thing interviewers register when they see you. There’s no “magic” outfit that will get you the job so anything goes as long as you look neat, clean, and professional.  I always wear a dress, blazer, black shoes, and no jewelry with my hair pulled back.

There are important qualities on this list that interviewers look for, though it is hard to get these qualities across sometimes. A common question in an interview is “tell me about your previous job”. I always have a 2-minute response prepared that shows I am a hard worker [I worked 40 hours a week in my last job], a team player [I explain a school project I worked on and what my role was in it], and a problem solver/prepared/detail-oriented [I explain a problem that arose during this group project and the steps I took to fix it]. When prepping for this interview question, I always think “ok, what qualities of mine do I want them to know I have,” then I memorize a few work/school experiences that show these qualities.

Do. your. research. Citing a recent article/news event that is relevant to the company, or even a study conducted by the organization, will show you are already invested in the job and that you have respect for the organization. I  do this when the hiring manager asks “how did you find out about us?” Speaking enthusiastically about what you learned so far about the company gives the hiring manager confidence that you will be a positive contributor. Also be prepared with a copy of your resume, references, transcript, and cover letter. One time I did not bring these materials in because I assumed they would already have them from my application – turns out they were somewhat disorganized and lost my materials, so when it was time for them to choose an intern, they did not have my cover letter, resume, or references.

If you stumble over words, forget the name of your old boss, or mispronounce something, don’t freak out! In my experience, it’s the overall impression from the interview that is important i.e. how you carry yourself. Interviews are inherently nerve-wracking, but have the confidence that you’ve made it this far, read up on the organization, and look sharp!

Feelin’ Good On A Wednesday


I feel bad because I still haven’t actually posted anything containing actual information or advice, but I think that will just make it all the better when I finally come up with something worth advising y’all on. So in traditional fashion, this will just be a series of terrible jokes that only vaguely relate to my future career options.

So I’ve been on the job search basically since I got here, but for all type of reasons (I’m poorly motivated when my other option is Netflix) I’ve been pretty unsuccessful. Plus after a series of interviews that went rather less well than I’d hoped I was feeling pretty nervous about my options for the term. EXCEPT THEN SOMEHOW EVERYTHING WENT REALLY WELL. I wish I could give you a step by step to nailing group interviews and all, but I’ve bombed as many as I’ve aced, which sounds like something a WW1 fighter pilot would say.

i don't actually know what ww1 fighter pilots say, or if they even had group interviews to ace *sigh* the world may never know

in my head ww1 fighter pilots also say “boy-o” a lot, but i’m pretty sure that’s inaccurate

I’m honestly still riding a weird high off of that night. I don’t know if y’all ever get that feeling where you know that you totally killed something (and yes, I am from Texas, and yes I’m actually very good with a gun, but I don’t mean literally), but it’s a pretty awesome feeling. If you haven’t I highly recommend revisiting your childhood and totally pwning all those K-8th graders who think they can play math based internet board games better than you can. But basically I killed it.


preferred aesthetics include (from left to right): 40’s camp counselor core, high school rom-com girl next door, normcore forest deity, and naturally, nightmare dressed like a daydream


kill it. kill it with fire

It’s probably because I was riding a major confidence high. My hair wasn’t doing that thing it always does where is pretends to be curly so it can get stuck around things and I managed to put together an interview outfit that still fit one of my many aesthetics. If we’re being honest, my real aesthetic is somewhere between like, Oscar the Grouch and Louise Belcher, but that looks like this so….


I dunno, I guess maybe this post could be about confidence? When you’re around so many talented and intelligent people it’s easy to get down on yourself. But none of y’all look like that > (thank god)


and maybe that’s what’s really important in job interviews.

also make eye contact

(BOOM. that was advice (i think i’m really getting the hang of this))