Tag Archives: business

On Transition and Unemployment

Today marks the year anniversary since I was laid off. One year ago today, I was given my severance and told to hit the road.

It honestly wasn’t that bad of a day. I talked with my co-workers, wrapped up some loose ends, had an excellent burrito at Mex-I-Can, and had some hope for the future. I had just started a publication with my partners in crime who had stable work themselves, I was going to build an excellent guitar, I’d have some time off of work to lounge around and transition in peace. It honestly looked like it was going to be a good year, but it wasn’t.

Inatri started slow; honestly we were discouraged by the response to the second piece. My guitar came together but was a lot of hassle. My mental health started to change drastically come summer. My transition progress was slow and I wasn’t making the gains I wanted to. Lastly, when I started to look for a job, I found nothing. Most of my responses were instant rejection, or failure to contact.

As the months dragged on, I lost hope. Where before I had looked for jobs in my field of study, now I was just looking for anything. When I thought about commuting, it felt alien and weird to me. I couldn’t imagine ever feeling that normal, ever being one of the nine to five workers again. I began to feel strange and detached, like I was less than others.

Unforgiving Job Market

It’s not a good time to be unemployed, especially when so many are underemployed. In Canada, youth unemployment is 13.9%, but youth underemployment was found to be 26.4%1. Admittedly these are 2013 numbers; however, the unemployment rate in Canada has been a fairly consistent ~7% with a few dips as low as ~5%2. This may not mean much to a lot of people, as the youth bracket is defined as 14-28 years old, but I am at the top end of the bracket and this experience is consistent with my friends and I.

Because of high underemployment, job opportunities that would normally be available for the unemployed are now receiving interest and applications from the underemployed. These individuals are often looking to move up from their current position or to step sideways from a similar position into a new company or environment which would offer full time or higher paid work. We are overqualified for our jobs.

The jobs I was applying for over the last year, were not jobs in my field, nor were they jobs that suit my qualifications. I am a Political Science graduate looking for mostly administrative or secretarial work. I was laid off from an administrative job in finance paying $16 an hour with no benefits and no future. I was part of that underemployment statistic.

There is also a rather worrying shift in Ontario from full-time to part-time work, which dramatically increases underemployment. Furthermore, there is a growing trend of involuntary part time work; extra jobs individuals are taking to make ends meet due to a lack of well paid full time employment3. The shifting ideas of employment in Ontario have done me no favours over the past year. Competition for full time jobs is fierce, and that will not change any time soon.

Let’s be clear: I’m not applying for anything above my reach, I’m applying for entry level jobs. Most of the entry level jobs I’ve found have asked very clearly for experience doing that job. Most of the people I know have assured me that the experience requirement is just there to deter non-confident individuals from applying. More than once in the last year, though, I’ve been rejected on the basis of lacking experience.

One of these rejections was fairly recent. It was for an educational software company looking for QA testers. This is a basic entry level contract job for most developers. The required experience was one year as a QA tester. I did not have that on my CV, but I did make it clear that I have had similar experience with my former employer when our Oracle system went live and we had to create routines, test the limits of the system, and design processes as we were thrown head first into a shark tank. Seven hours later I got a rejection saying I lacked the required experience.

Whether or not my rejection was based on a different reason, the justification being used was the lack of experience. Lack of experience for an entry level job that, in essence, should require little to no experience but rather job training and mentoring. However, with a job market so glutted by capable individuals looking to move up from part-time or unsatisfying work, even in an entry level position experience can matter greatly. To get a job in this market, you need to have a job.

Throwing Trans Into the Mix

Things really get tough when you start throwing any marginalization into the mix. Transgender individuals face higher unemployment and more barriers to employment than cis[gender]4 individuals. As a demographic, 37% of us are employed full time, 15% are employed part time, and 25% are students. Our unemployment rate is 20%5. Bear in mind that’s the overall trans population; trans youth unemployment may skew higher since youth unemployment tends to be higher than the general population.

If finding a job were based on qualifications alone, the statistics would look very different. A study by Trans PULSE found that 71% of trans people in Ontario have post-secondary education6. That’s nearly 3/4 of the trans population who have qualifications and training above and beyond high-school. These are individuals with expertise in their fields, and diplomas to back them up. However, to get a job you often have to do an interview, and this is where being transgender will most likely ruin any chance you have at getting a job. In a TorStar article, a transgender woman noted that no-one would give her a second interview and that occasionally interviewers would make up excuses as to why they couldn’t conduct an interview5. I’ve had similar experiences myself.

There is a certain level of transphobia I’ve experienced in interviews. I am a femme leaning trans woman and because of this I feel immense pressure to conform to cis-normative beauty standards. I’ve only been on HRT for 14 months, my hair has not grown out nearly as long as I’d like, and I still see things I hate about myself when I look in the mirror. I feel like because of these, because of my failure to meet normative beauty standards, that I tend to be judged harshly by hiring managers most of whom only see gender through a binary lens. Since interviews are just as much about appearance as they are about qualifications, trans individuals who do not embody cis-normative beauty standards are often judged harshly.

Being a marginalized individual in any way makes it hard to be confident. Even if there’s no overt vibes of transphobia, I find it very difficult to be put in centre stage and judged on appearance, demeanour, and confidence. I don’t believe I conform to cis-normative standards and I don’t believe that people are taking my identity seriously. This very much hurts my confidence.

I’m very sensitive and care a great deal about what others think of me, so negative comments about my appearance, my gender, my genitals, my height, my weight, my lack of wardrobe, always have a huge impact on me. I take all of these comments to heart, even when I know they’re untrue and even when I know people are just looking to get under my skin. I internalize these thoughts and it completely erodes my confidence. Where I was once assured of the truth, the negative comments will eventually wear away at me where I’m simply full of self doubt, and this is baggage that tends to weigh heavily on me during an interview.

Conclusion

My experience is not unique, and this is a problem. In a generation that is constantly attacked as entitled and lazy7, we sure as fuck don’t seem to have a whole hell of a lot in terms of gainful employment and market power. Most of us are incredibly overqualified for what few jobs are available.

We were sold a narrative that the baby boomers would retire and leave a vacuum in the job market. This is yet to happen; the boomers have yet to retire8. What this means, however, is that we face incredibly high youth unemployment rates, almost double the overall population. It also means that marginalized individuals are more likely to be left out, competing for jobs in a market scarce of employment opportunities.

In a game that rewards confidence and conformity, being different often hinders an applicant’s ability to compete. Especially for trans people, the lack of conformity could become a huge hindrance to the pageant portion of a job application. Trans individuals may find themselves passed up for a cis applicant simply because they do not fit into a strictly binary and cisnormative model of gender, even if they possess similar or greater qualifications to a cis individual. Eventually, the discouragement faced by these individuals becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; when you’ve been turned away so often from interviews because of your appearance, you become less likely to apply in the first place.

I think it’s about time we start to think both about who we have as hiring managers, and how the hiring process is conducted. Hopefully when we’re given the reins of power we can have an honest discussion about hiring and decrease the amount of sway a hiring manager with appearance based prejudices could have on the hiring process.


Endnotes:

  1. Alex Paterson and Claude Dumulon-Lauziere, “It’s not unemployment, it’s underemployment,” Canada 2020.
  2. Canada Unemployment Rate,” Trading Economics.
  3. Robert Benzie, “Ontario’s job market undergoing ‘seismic shift’ from full- to part-time jobs,” Toronto Star.
  4. Cisgender, as opposed to transgender. Individuals whose identity (closely) matches the “sex designation” they were coercively assigned at birth.
  5. Transgender unemployment is a result of discrimination, advocate says,” CBC News.
  6. Helen Wolkowicz, “Transgendered Ontarians struggling with jobs and equality at work,” Toronto Star.
  7. Margaret Wente, “Inside the entitlement generation,” The Globe and Mail.
  8. Lydia Dallett, “Hard-Charging Baby Boomers May Never Leave Their Jobs,” Business Insider.

Interview: Daina, A Former Escort

Preamble

I’ve known Daina for a while. We met while playing a certain MMORPG and quickly hit it off after I recruited her for my guild. A charming conversationalist with opinions on a great deal of things, she would keep me up most nights, and we would just gab on about anything and everything until sunrise.

It came as some surprise to me that she formerly worked as an escort. I’ve known sex workers in the past, but none were from eastern Europe. We started talking about sex work, both her background as an escort, and my fall-back plans of pornography and prostitution. It’s something a lot of unemployed and underemployed women consider, especially when money is tight, so it’s often a very engaging topic.

Almost immediately after meeting her I proposed the idea of an interview and she agreed. The following is a modified transcript of that interview. Hopefully, you find it as engaging as I find her and it sheds light onto the experience of being an escort, the economics of sex work in Ukraine, and remains respectful to both the profession and its clients.

Because I never asked for the basic information in the interview, I’ll write the basics out here. Daina worked for a large escort company based in her home city of Kharkiv. She’s 27, cis, and holds an advanced University degree. She worked as a call centre employee after she stopped working as an escort.

The interview was conducted over the course of 2 hours on January 14th, 2016 via text. There were a few cuts made for information that was shared in confidence and not to be shared in the article. There were also readability changes made by the editor with the interviewee’s consent. The raw transcript will not be made available.

Interview

Elizabeth: How long were you an escort?

Daina: Around 4 years. To be precise: 3 years, 10 months.

Elizabeth: I didn’t know it was that long. Did you work for yourself at all in that period or was the work strictly done with a company?

Daina: Strictly with a company. I was afraid to start my own business of it. [I’d] rather have protection and a secure environment.

Elizabeth: Being a big company, they must have offered a good amount of protection. Was that the case?

Daina: Yes it is. Three to four security [members] at each apartment and a personal driver if client requests to come over or go somewhere. Personal driver waits for you outside at the place ur going into if it is by hour. If it is paid for day or night you can ask him to wait or let him go.

Elizabeth: That sounds like really tight security. Knowing that there was always muscle around, did it make you feel safer working as an escort?

Daina: Yes, especially in the first months.

Elizabeth: Did you ever have to rely on them? Was your safety ever threatened while working?

Daina: I can recall four or five times they had step in, but only one was a really serious case.

Elizabeth: Ah. I can understand if you don’t want me to prod, but may I ask what happened?

Daina: Client on xhimia (Bath Salts) which wouldn’t leave after his time was up. Started screaming, saying he didn’t even cum, that it was 20 minutes not a full hour. When I tried leave room and call for lady in charge grabbed me and tried force me into having sex. I recall my attitude wasn’t quite nice too. I simply hate xhimia and what it does to people. Lady in charge came check just few seconds later to remind me the hour was up and noticed client and called for security.

Elizabeth: That sounds like a dreadful experience.

Daina: Partially my fault as well. My attitude wasn’t professional at all. Kept nagging and stuff. He refused take a shower before we started. Kinda deserved what came to me

Elizabeth: I wouldn’t say that. In my opinion a client should be as professional as the escort. If he didn’t clean up before hand, that’s on him, but I digress.

Daina: There’s a certain way to talk. Lets just say I was in a grouchy mood and it was 5am. Just got woken up by the lady in charge.

Elizabeth: Apart from the dangerous, drug using clients, how was the work? What were you responsibilities to the company and the client?

Daina: Depends on the client choice and how much you can bend rules. Some clients just wanted company or drinking partners, some looking for sex only, and some rare people were looking for love or the rubbish “blah blah” they see in movies.

Elizabeth: The 80s movie cliché of the sex worker with a heart of gold?

Daina: Yea or a girl to save from escorting or “blah blah” which made me pretty sick.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s such a strange narrative to have. What precious metal would you say your heart is?

Daina: I can’t be objective for that, you’d have to ask people around me, but I’m pretty sure it would be something close to gold.

Elizabeth: Having known you I’d probably agree, maybe Platinum. How much were you paid?

Daina: Depends. At first, when I was still new, 45% less than the last time I worked. Also depends on how many clients.

Elizabeth: That’s fair. Would you be able to guesstimate monthly income? Like on an average month how much would you be taking home?

Daina: On good months up to $350 – $400, which is really a lot in my country.

Elizabeth: That’s interesting. How much was your rent/food per month?

Daina: Spent around $140 – $180 a month and saved the rest. Well first I was a VIP (above average) because of my short height and my Arabic ethnicity.

Elizabeth: That’s actually a fairly really nice chunk of savings. In general what were the demographics of the clientèle? (age, ethnicity, poor/rich, etc.)

Daina: Most client either were either rich or foreigners. Foreigners were mostly young, around early 20s. Since Ukraine is mostly known being a huge university [destination] for foreigners, some cities stack up 28k foreign students.

Elizabeth: Was it easy dealing with clients, given the nature of the business?

Daina: Most of time yes, but it was harder with client who were looking for BDSM and extreme stuff

Elizabeth: Ah. I could imagine. That’s more of a speciality thing, isn’t it?

Daina: Yes i did my share of extreme BDSM, but i found my most comfortable space in swingers/couples.

Elizabeth: So you were often employed by couples?

Daina: Not a lot. Most of time I was escorting people to parties or foreign student sex. Foreign students for sure made 70% of my clients during all my escorting days. To them $50-80 a hour is a joke and the most expensive are $80-120 an hour. The cheapest were $15-30 an hour.

Elizabeth: Wow, ordering a pizza costs more over here. Does it ever get boring?

Daina: Boring? How?

Elizabeth: I mean, the sex. There’s this narrative that a lot of people have that sex as work could make sex boring.

Daina: Yes it does. Standard sex, regular foreplay, at a certain point you’re just like laying down on your back, letting him stick his penis and faking joy.

Elizabeth: Did the boring-ness of standard sex make the fetish work more appealing? Enjoyable?

Daina: Yes it did.

Elizabeth: What tips would you have for other women considering sex work?

Daina: Know your employer and its reputation. Have clients shower before sex even if he said he did, condoms at all times, have that water that make dick slip in easily (Don’t know name in English), be creative and most of all do not agree with every type of sex. Set your limits.

Elizabeth: Moving forward, how do we (as a society) promote safe sex work? How do we make sex work sustainable? Change societal opinions?

Daina: Unfortunately we can’t, but safer sex work comes when people realize we are not simply whores. Just like them we need money to live on and that some of us have already received university degrees. Personally I majored in economics, I’m a pro accountant which is equivalent to Economic Engineer. Five years of university. And I know others who had same or better degrees.

Elizabeth: Some of my friends over here have similar qualifications. But yes, I fully agree with you, it must be treated as a valid profession. That was my last question, thank you.

Daina: Hahaha you didn’t even bother ask what I learned from escorting or how it changed my personality.

Elizabeth: I had intended to ask: How did you experience working as an escort change your personality, your opinions, and your character? We were running a bit long on time.

Daina: It ain’t all bad, you know, it forged my personality and made me discover aspects of my self to be true and honest with my soul. Never make me believe in a mist and that some things just happen good or bad. That’s a fitting ending.