Transgender community struggles with unemployment, MetroHealth hopes job fair will help

CLEVELAND - For the fourth year, MetroHealth will host a transgender job fair this Saturday, making Cleveland one of the few cities in the country to take on such an initiative.

Lourdes Negron-McDaniel is the director of inclusion and diversity for the MetroHealth system. She said according to research, the unemployment rate for transgender people is twice as high as the general population. For transgender people of color, the unemployment or underemployment rate is four times as high.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Negron-McDaniel said. “It is the right thing to do for us to create a safe space for a very vulnerable population to come professionally and seriously and search for employment.”

So far, MetroHealth has lined up 25 companies to be at the job fair — big names like the Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Giant Eagle, Hyland, Keller Williams, KeyBank, MetroHealth, PNC, Starbucks and more.

Negron-McDaniel said they have 80 interested transgender people registered already, ranging from high school graduates to those with PhDs.

She said the hospital has been made aware of the challenges to transgender unemployment through patients who visit its PRIDE clinics and PRIDE network, so the hospital wanted to be responsive. The PRIDE network is a group of physicians who treat LGBTQ patients.

Devinity, who asked that her last name not be used, knows the challenges firsthand. She transitioned from male to female at the age of 18 and lost her job soon after — a job she had held for two years.

“When I started my transition, I was a general manager for Burger King and when I transitioned, they didn’t like it. They didn’t want someone like that to represent their company,” Devinity said.

Since then, she said it has always been difficult to find work. It's a concern she hears from many of her friends in the transgender community. Other challenges involve background checks, birth certificates, and name changes.

“Just because you transition to be transgender doesn’t mean you can’t work, you don’t have a brain, you can’t think, or you can’t have responsibility,” Devinity said. “Just because I dress differently than what you say I should dress like, that doesn’t mean my qualifications can’t run this company or be a CEO of any kind of organization.”

The Northeast Ohio Transgender Job Fair is Saturday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at MetroHealth’s main campus.

Registration will close on Friday.

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