Alex Blaze

Gay Resumes Get Fewer Calls

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 04, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, Harvard University, labor, study, unemployment

After being told a thousand times that cis white gay men were the most privileged people on the planet, definitely more privileged than Christian Thumbnail image for The job cyclewhite straight men, a professor goes and performs a study like this:

Harvard University researcher Andras Tilcsik sent two realistic but fictitious CVs to 1,700 white collar job openings, such as managerial positions.

One CV mentioned relevant experience in a university gay society as a treasurer, while the other listed experience in the 'Progressive and Socialist Alliance'.

Mr Tilcsik said that since employers are likely to associate both groups with left-leaning political views, this would separate any 'gay penalty' from the effects of political discrimination.

The results showed that applicants without the gay reference had an 11.5 per cent chance of being called for an interview. However, CVs which mentioned the gay society had only a 7.2 per cent chance. The difference amounted to a 40 per cent higher chance of the heterosexual applicant getting a call.

When I look for jobs I also wonder about whether I should effectively out myself on my resume. Apparently, I shouldn't, although it's kind of hard not to mention previous work experience on Bilerico and PageOneQ since I worked on both sites so long and learned a lot from my involvement in both projects.

There's a school of thought that it's best for everyone to come out in every part of their lives since that's the only way things will advance, although I've noticed that proponents of that tend to have jobs where being queer is an asset (like working in LGBT media). I remember going to a certain straight person's lecture and being told that everyone should come out, and if they lose their job, well, don't worry, you didn't want that job anyway. She was married to an oil exec and never worked a day in her life.

I definitely won't fault any LGBT person who doesn't want to out themselves to a potential employer, especially in this economy. Jobs aren't that easy to come by, homophobia isn't over, and an employer who only wants to employ straight people will find it easy to do so.

But the data is good to know for those of you out there who are deciding whether or not to de-gay your resume.


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It's interesting how this is so different from my experience as a transgender job applicant. When I apply for jobs, usually as a retail manager, I will sometimes get responses and even interviews, but once it becomes clear that I'm a transsexual woman that interest quickly dries up. It's become clear to me that it's not my resume that's the issue (or they wouldn't have contacted me in the first place) it's my status as a transgender person.

That's how companies get around civil rights laws protecting transpeople. They'll give you an interview, but not a job. Outside of New Jersey, such as when I was looking for work in Philadelphia in anticipation of possibly moving there, it's even worse. More than once I was called in for an interview (an hour's drive from where I live in Central NJ) and then told once I got there and they realized I'm trans that they had nothing for me and wouldn't even to go through the motions of an interview. When asked why they called me in for an interview if they had nothing for me, none of these places would offer a credible answer. It's worth noting that both New Jersey and Philadelphia have laws on the books protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination.

It seems that anti-LGBT prejudice among employers is prevalent regardless, but gay people (usually) have the advantage of not being detectable as gay simply from their physical appearance.

Yet another reason why we need a national law and credible enforcement mechanism in regards to LGBT employment and workers.

I was just about to comment on the "passing" idea for gays, bis, and lesbians (not that they don't have their own difficulties), compared with trans discrimination. That's so awful, Rebecca. :(

Not only awful, but wide spread. I have been called for interviews in Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia and then told that the position was no available. In many cases the position would remain on various job boards for many more weeks.

The other thing I've noticed is that some companies will sometimes use a "prior names" section...which would be fine and reasonable if it were only used for past history and record checking... but if you're trans and you leave it blank, and your social security says you used to have a name in another gender, they will not hire you because you willingly left out information on the form. If you fill it in, they will know you are trans before they even call for an interview... I've found that companies with that section tend to respond less to my attempts to find employment.

It seems that anti-LGBT prejudice among employers is prevalent regardless, but gay people (usually) have the advantage of not being detectable as gay simply from their physical appearance.

I think this is one of the top reasons strong employment protections are needed - not being detected has its own psychological toll, although it's not as bad as not being employed.

I've met quite a few gay men recently outside of a sexual setting, and the number that have come through here that talk about how they're closeted at work, and then get really, really defensive (and I don't judge, it's weirdly spontaneous) about how they don't tell people anything and how they're just really private and really, if they had cancer they wouldn't tell anyone but their doctors because they just like to keep things to themselves, so it's not like there's anything wrong.

None of this is too important to the shiny gays who get on the teevee, tho. HRC's not about to start firing people for being gay and neither is MSNBC.

My perspective is similar to that oil exec wife: When I was applying for jobs, I kept my LGBT-related work experience in my resume. My rationale was that if I got passed over for it, the place I was working was a place I didn't want to work for anyway, since things would ultimate come to a head when I had to work in a culture of oppressive bigotry.

Of course, I work in the public health industry, so sometimes experience with LGBT issues and populations can be an asset and people working there tend to be more open minded, but that's not always a guarantee, either. There were some nightmare stories I had heard in the past.

The company that ended up hiring me clearly didn't care (or maybe they even liked it) and the job I do has almost no direct relevance to LGBT populations, anyway...

But I agree. Far be it of me to look at my privilege and tell someone else in a different situation whether they should or should not expose themselves to a greater risk of unemployment. I'm fortunate enough that I have the skill set, the fiances to obtain that skill set, and wouldn't be in dire straights if I had to hold out for a job for longer. Other people are not so privileged and employment, even at a homophobic and transphobic work environment, is the highest priority.

This is a really good companion post to Dr. Jillian's post about trans identity on applications.

It really is dependent on someone's situation, and there are people in situations where they could come out but don't... but I don't judge.

Good for you, though, raising consciousness that way. I hope that if someone ever threw out your resume just because of your work with LGBT people that they'd eventually be struck by a poetic pang of guilt and try to do everything in their power to make right the wrong they committed.

I can't tell if you're snarking, but if you were, I was agreeing with you while examining how my privilege relates to my perspective and allows me to have that perspective, recognizing that others are not so lucky.

Wilberforce1 | October 5, 2011 12:51 AM

Exactly what does cis gay man mean?
I really don't appreciate being labelled by others, with a label I don't understand, especially when transgendered folk insist that they be called by the approved title.

I'm guessing you don't use the labels "white" or "straight" either. I've read from a number of the latter that they prefer the terms "normal" or "traditional" or nothing, which I take you're about to start using.

What do you prefer instead of "cis"?

I use cis for the lack of a better alternative, but honestly it is only partially analogous to using "straight" or "white". In today's society, gay people recognize themselves as gay as opposed to straight. But even if there were no heterosexuals, gays would feel and live the same, except for the political part of their lives. When gays say they are they are in love, they can specifically describe what they feel, without any reference to what straights feel. In this sense, gays exists regardless of straights, although the term "gay" does not.

However, when trans women say which body they want, don't they say they want what cis women have? Isn't the reference point cis women? If cis women didn't exist, would trans women know which body they want? These are not rhetorical questions, I would really like somebody to answer me. I have heard about body maps inscribed in the brain. It is possible that the brain has a prescription for a certain body, and in that case cis women wouldn't be the reference point, and cis could be the analogue of white.

Still, cis means feeling comfortable with the match between assigned and real gender. It is a very peculiar label, because we don't label anybody else who simply feels comfortable with what they have. "White" doesn't mean "comfortable with their assigned colour".

I don't think trans would cease to exist just because cis did...though how that could be set up would be a strange quandary on its own. My first attempt to castrate myself was in first grade, before i ever knew what other girls had, or that it was even different. yes, during my second and third time i had a reference...but that doesn't change the feeling of wrongness. it feels wrong even without other people. it does not feel wrong because of them...it just feels disgusting. There are also sometimes phantom sensations you get where your parts would be, if you had been born the opposite genetic sex. You might not know exactly what it should be without a reference...but i knew the knife went "in" because the sensation was untouchable at surface level. but i'm crazy, so i probably don't speak for other trans people.

Wilberforce1 | October 5, 2011 1:22 PM

What does cis stand for? That's what I'm asking.

"cis" is the direct, Latin opposite of "trans."

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cis?show=2&t=1317846662

A trans-atlantic flight crosses the atlantic; a cis-atlantic flight does not.

Wilberforce1 | October 5, 2011 5:51 PM

Understood. I've been curious about that for a while. So it's not insulting. It's just a way for trans folk to distinguish between us. Cool.

Rachel Bellum | October 6, 2011 6:26 AM

I've grown to like thinking of these words like they're used in organic chemistry.

Molecules and atoms are limited in the ways they can connect. Sometimes the extra bits will point off the main molecule all in the same direction (everything lined up the same way) and this is called cis. Sometimes the extra bits will point in opposing directions and this is called trans.

To me these words just document whether various aspects of a persons gender/sex are aligned or not without making any value judgements.

Rachel Bellum | October 6, 2011 6:27 AM

OH, and Alex it's really nice to see you back.

"After being told a thousand times that cis white gay men were the most privileged people on the planet, definitely more privileged than Christian white straight men".

I have never seen anyone make this claim -- cis white gay men are certainly by far the most privileged people in the LGb(t) community, but not compared to mainstream society. As such, this entire study is pretty much a great big strawman argument.

Really? You've never heard that argument before? I'm too lazy to go googling some instances, but it's made it into the Congressional record as a reason to oppose ENDA (gays make more money than everyone else, so they don't need employment protections) and appears often in the fundier materials against gay rights (gay men secretly control everything).

Even if that argument has never been made, the study can't be a "straw man." If you think it's bad for some reason (other than it not being enough in and of itself, which is true), maybe you could point out how it's bad.