Guest Blogger

An Open Letter to Employers

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 31, 2011 9:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Betsie Gallardo, Jessica Bussert, jobs, trans employment, workforce

Editors' note: Guest blogger Jessica Bussert is the mother of Betsie Gallardo, whose tragic story was featured in a series of posts earlier this year. Jessica lives with her wife, Sharon, in Indiana.

Dear Indiana employers, business decision-makers, state legislators, and fiscal conservatives:

As the former owner of a successful information technology consulting firm and a current healthcare professional, I'm well aware of the imperative to effectively utilize available resources if one wishes to prosper in the world of business. The old adage of "waste not, want not" was never more true than in these difficult economic times. That said, there are a huge number of Indiana decision-makers who are completely ignoring a valuable local resource.

Me.

I'm a 46-year-old, married mother of five. My first career of over 20 years culminated in managing the European consulting efforts for a Fortune 100 IT company. After returning to the United States, I began volunteering as a firefighter and an EMT while working toward my degree in nursing. I've managed business accounts worth tens of millions of dollars and advised some of the most powerful executives in the world. I'm an inventor, a clinical missionary, an artist, and a regular speaker on diversity issues. I've volunteered at Methodist Hospital's ER/trauma center, worked as the supervisor for a homeless shelter, and helped out at the local food bank. I've organized both global and local hunger relief efforts as part of my church's effort for social concerns. I've traveled around the world and visited over 30 countries.

I'm also transgender.

Since transitioning over six years ago I have been systematically denied employment at every opportunity. Because of my rather impressive resume I am regularly offered interviews in both information technology and nursing. Once the requisite background checks come back detailing my former name and gender, however, any interest in me quickly evaporates. It's as if my decades of experience and work history were all nullified once I started living authentically. It's also rather ironic that I went from earning about $150,000 a year (and paying taxes on the same) to now being near destitute, with bankruptcy and foreclosure imminent.

I suffer from a genetic disorder that originated at conception and led to a defect in the androgen receptors of my body and brain. Because of all this I was misidentified as male at birth, a fact that led me to no end of suffering as I grew up in rural, northern Indiana. After decades of trying to make sense of my medical situation, I finally found a specialist who was knowledgeable about my condition and recommended the only treatment available to people like me. Since that time I've undergone various surgical and drug therapies to correct the hormonal and physiological defects I was born with. For the first time in my life I feel at home in my own body. Suffice it to say that I didn't choose to be born this way any more than you chose to have a certain color hair or a particular body morphology. I often joke with people that if I did have a choice about my life, I sure wouldn't have chosen this one!

None of my journey has been easy, but at every step I've found ways to overcome the challenges placed before me. This spirit of perseverance doesn't earn me any brownie points with prospective employers, nor does the fact that I had been an exceptionally valuable employee all while I was tortured by my condition. Now that I'm finally unfettered and free to work without all my former emotional baggage, it seems that no one wants to give me the chance.

So, I would like to ask those of you in the business world to take a moment to reconsider your knee-jerk reactions when you come across a person with my medical history. We are strong, vibrant individuals who have overcome great personal obstacles and carry a huge wealth of personal and professional experience. I'd also like to ask those of you in the legislature and judiciary to think twice before you make or uphold laws that further impede our opportunity to fair employment. Each time you limit our access to employment, you reduce the tax base of our state and create more individuals who require social services to pay the bills and keep food on the table. The last year that I earned a salary, I paid over $47,000 in income tax. During the past five years I've paid nothing. Not a smart move, Indiana lawmakers.

I'd really like to ask any of you who know of an open-minded employer who needs a fantastic worker in either IT or nursing to write me, care of Bilerico, about the job. I need work, and I need it quickly. Or, alternatively, when you see that very attractive homeless woman holding the sign on the corner of Keystone and 82nd, please drop a twenty in my can. Ongoing hormone therapy is expensive.

Respectfully,
Jessica Bussert

PS: I have no objection whatsoever to relocating for work. Indiana's loss could be your gain!

Read All of Betsie Gallardo's story at The Bilerico Project:

Photo courtesy of Jessica Bussert


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If you are willing and able to relocate, we can always use both talented IT and nursing folks, especially as we are just about to launch a massive electronic health record initiative. If you contact nursing recruitment at Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla NY, (http://www.wcmc.com), give them my name - Dr Randy Goldberg. I'm an alumnus of the medical college and the residency program, and now on the faculty in the Department of Medicine - if Melissa Verdi is still working in recruitment, she will certainly know me, as she was a nurse manager when I was a resident.

I don't know of any particular employer or job, but I strongly suspect that a) your talents would be highly appreciated in the Bay Area and b) you would not experience anything like your experiences you described when applying for jobs in this area.

You might try contacting some headhunters in the Bay Area.

Jessica, Although the job description is dated April, Michael Wallace the Executive Director of the Ryan White Planning Council (Parts A & C), sent it to various members of the Planning Council last week. I have no idea as to salary and whether or not you meet all the requirements, but the Marion County Health Department is completely diverse and you being transgender will not make any difference. Go to the Marion County Health Department's web site and look for Project and Training Coordinator within the Ryan White/HIV Services Group.

Jassica. May you be blessed with a job that takes advantage of your talent and experience.
I hope you are embraced by your new employer and coworkers for the person you are and treated with the dignity and respect you deserve. Good luck.

It looks like already you're getting some offers! Good luck! :)

Jessica Bussert | June 1, 2011 12:42 PM

Thanks to each of you for your kind thoughts and assistance with my situation. I've already followed up on Randy and Kim's leads and am looking forward to finally speaking with a few opened-minded and receptive employers. If anyone else has information that might be of help I would greatly appreciate your assistance.

As a current RN and a recent IT professional with global consulting experience, I feel that I have the skills and knowledge to be a valuable asset to a number of organizations. Unfortunately, I just don't know if any of them are located in Indiana.

Sincerely,
Jessica Bussert

Ooh I was nodding my head the whole time I read this. Keep your chin up Jessica. Both my partner and I are transgendered and we know how hard it can be, especially with ongoing medical expenses, and huge medical debt. Thankfully, her boss is really LGBT friendly and her job doesn't require background checks like that. But yeah ... we know the long road of thousands of applications, endless interviews, welfare, ridiculous (and mandatory) job-skills and resume workshops, and more, but I need not blather on. Eventually you'll hit on something good. Fingers crossed that that "eventually" doesn't take too long.

Best of luck in your search, Jessica. I understand. I'm nearing the end of my third year of unemployment and job search, in spite of 30 years of business and academic experience (including international program management), an earned Ph.D., and numerous publications ranging from microelectronics architecture to gender diversity in mental health policy. Qualifications, training, experience, hard work and integrity simply don't matter in Depression2.0 America, if you're not young and not born of cisgender privilege --not in the private sector, public sector, higher education, or especially to G/L nonprofits who claim to be transinclusive. All we ask is a fair chance to compete.

"Once the requisite background checks come back detailing my former name and gender, however, any interest in me quickly evaporates. It's as if my decades of experience and work history were all nullified once I started living authentically."

This has been my experience as well. They like the resume I have a mechanical engineering degree), want to talk to me and then they disappear. Most of the time I don't even get a "no thanks" letter. I've been out of a job for 28 months now.