Two things more than anything deter many transsexual women from transitioning - their family (parents, wife, children, partner ...) and their career. Sadly, money does matter, and there is no doubt that the careers and income of many transsexual women suffer badly from the moment they transition. While a few successfully transition in the same job, most either change jobs when they transition, or will do so soon afterwards. Unfortunately, the new job is rarely an improvement or step upwards compared with their old job as a man, and thus income is often reduced at a time when outgoings have often increased greatly (medical bills, cost of a new wardrobe, probably setting up a new home, possibly having to start paying alimony, ...). A bitter reality is that is often necessary to down-grade one's career aspirations after transition - and this must be considered when deciding whether to transition.
When transitioning, three main options exist:
in Your Old Job
Although most women who choose this route do so with their eyes wide open, a few transitioning women go down it with their expectations totally wrong. In extreme cases, they seriously seem to seriously think that they can take hormones for a few months, take a couple of weeks off for surgery in Thailand, and then arrive back at the work as a stunning buxom girl who will have her male colleagues lusting after her!
The reality for many girls attempting option 1 is that it is rarely successful, too many days' end in a mixture of tears and anger - while work social events where drink loosens tongues are soon avoided rather than sought. A woman's previous male identity is often a nearly insurmountable obstacle for some work colleagues to mentally overcome, no matter how broadminded they consider themselves to be.
and a New Job
The temptation is to go even further and try to hide that you are transgender (option 3). But this is really really hard to get away with. Going stealth without a lot of prior preparation and practice means you are likely to be quickly out'ed as sadly VERY few transwomen are totally convincing and passable right from their transition day. One good approach is just before your full-time transition ask your friends and family (my mum was ruthless!) to be totally honest with you about your ability to pass, if they say it is "great" then brutally test and verify it at every en-femme opportunity - shopping, in bar's, while travelling, sports events, meetings or conferences, during a weekend break, etc. - getting any stares, furtive glances or strange looks? A few early bumps can pay big dividends later.
Past is Hard to Hide
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of identity related items that need to tackled in the months around transition - with varying probability of success. For example, in the UK it is possible with some effort to get formal academic qualifications (i.e. ranging from GCSE Certificates to PhD Scroll's) changed over in to a new name, but it can often be impossible to get vocational qualifications and training course certificates changed - sometimes the only solution is to take the course again, or at least re-sit the exam(s). Even if you think you have done a thorough job on the name changes, it is all too easy to be quickly caught out by say: a background check for a security clearance, the need to provide an old P.60 (a UK tax certificate), your old (male) NI Number on a document, a problem with a reference who didn't immediately recall your new name, an enquiry about your pension plan, an unexpected encounter with an old colleague who knew you as a man, etc, etc. However the kind of positions that don't involve a danger of being "outed" are not likely to pay well - and may not met your financial needs. And this is before we consider the issues of discrimination (intentional or unintentional) against transsexuals, and the fact that women are often simply paid less then men in similar jobs.
Even with option 2 (openness about being transgender), there are many factors to consider related to the type of job you are applying to. Some are sexist and it may be illegal for potential employers to consider them, but the fact is that they do. There is no doubt that whether or not you admit to being transgender, the chance of being employed once you get an interview depends upon factors such as:
These factors apply to all women, not just transsexuals, studies have shown that "beautiful" women earn more and marry better than their less attractive sister's. Numerous books and internet websites provide advice for job seekers that is specifically tailored to women.
And a slightly more recent report lists the occupations of 32 transsexual women as being:
"Office ..." presumably includes Secretary, and "Store Proprietor" or "Salesperson" includes "Shop Assistant" in UK parlance. "Show Business (Actress)" probably includes the jobs of Dancer and Show-Girl. A brief survey of the internet also quickly reveals transgender women working as a model, promotional girl, hostess, companion, nurse, singer, teacher, politician, engineer, software developer, pilot and soldier.
We should also not forget the kudos still associated with the often less than glamorous job of Air Hostess (aka Cabin Crew and other politically correct titles these days). For example, to mark her 'graduation' after SRS, one British 20-something transsexual applied in 1994 with unexpected success for a position as female cabin crew with a Middle Eastern airline. Intended just as a bit of fun, after passing her wings course she was always about to resign but eventually stayed 3 years, doing everything from cleaning sick in the toilets to lap dancing an Emir on his private yacht.
In the late 1990's the Dutch airline KLM admitted that it employs transsexual women as female Flight Attendants, but said that it couldn't give the exact number as it doesn't identify the condition in its staff records. However KLM is no longer unusual, for example in 2001 Air France reluctantly agreed to one its stewards becoming an air hostess after two years on hormones and SRS, a test found that she was perceived as a woman by passengers. Also, British Airways has made it quite clear that it won't discriminate against suitable and qualified job applicants because of their current or former sex or sexuality, and it also has an agreed policy that transsexuals may remain in their job during their transition and surgery - indeed any discrimination may be illegal in the UK.
In 2011, Thailand based airline PC Air gained extensive press coverage when it announced that it had recruited four male-to-female transsexuals as cabin crew - with opinion highly split as to whether this was exploitation or a positive development for transgender equality. Unsurprisingly the new employees were very positive; Phuntakarn Sringern saying “I like a job where I can show my ability and I love to wear beautiful suits”.
The first part of this article seems to show that transwomen are very likely to choose feminine image jobs, indeed it's perhaps more likely than for genetic women. Unsurprisingly secretarial and other office jobs top the list in the two surveys, being the occupation of about 19% of the participants, but the number of hairdressers and beauticians is also high at 13%.
"Nurse" comes surprisingly low in the ranking (at most 4% of participants), but there are big obstacles to this career for a transgender women, unless it was already begun as a man. In the UK at least, Registered Nurses undertake long and expensive professional training, and in practice state (i.e. NHS) supported hospitals and universities prefer trainee nurses to start straight from school or college, i.e. age 17-19. There is no formal upper age limit on entry, but in practice 29 seems to the absolute limit - which is less than the typical age (30 something) of a British transsexual women at the time of her transition.
My personal impression is that the surveys significantly underestimate the size of the categories "Housewife" and "Teacher" (or child minder), and that the extent of participation in the sex trade industry and prostitution is not honestly represented.
The rather old but still interesting book "Man & Woman - Boy & Girl" by John Money & Anke A. Ehrhardt (1972), shows a similar employment picture for transsexual women to that given above. For reasons of her own, Janice Raymond in her notorious book the "The Transsexual Empire" also points out, and indeed emphasises, the fact that many transsexual women want to be house wives and not work, and those do work had in one study (by Kando) "stereotypical feminine jobs: secretaries (three), waitress (one), dancers (four), hairdressers or beauticians (two), actresses (two), university-affiliated research scientist (one)."
It thus seems that many transwomen are working in - and many more are actively seeking - jobs that largely rely on youth and physical beauty for initial success: model, show-girl, actress, ... even prostitute. For every transsexual woman that manages to make a viable living as say a photographic model, far many more will be disappointed. The reality is that most transsexual women are at a disadvantage when competing for these jobs with often younger and prettier and just as determined to succeed genetic "girl-girls".
However it easy to over-emphasise the situation in the manner of Ms Raymond. It is perhaps essential to point out that many transwomen are very realistic about their career and work prospects, and also that youngest and thus most passable 'transgirls' seem to follow career paths as diverse as 'XY' CIS-girls.
Transgender models try to live in stealth, but this is very hard to achieve, particularly if they start to become famous. From the late 1960's through to the early 2000's a stream of transsexual models have been out'ed, including: April Ashley, Amanda Lear, Terri Toye, Caroline Cossey, Lauren Foster, Daniella Love, Larissa Summers, Jenny Hiloudaki, Claudia Charriez and Alicia Liu.
For many, their career as a female model was generally irredeemably compromised, and they joined an acknowledged "sex change" celebrities such as Roberta Close and Amanda LePore. Claudia Charriez was perhaps was the last to suffer this fate when in 2006 she disqualified from the reality TV contest America's Next Top Model at the semi-final stage when the producer's discovered that she was "not born biologically female". The resulting negative publicity was undoubtedly a factor that influenced the producers decision to allow transgender woman Isis King to participate in the 2008 series. However when Alicia Liu was out'ed in 2010 her modelling career continued, she said seven months later: "To go public with my sex change was more of a help for me than hindrance, and it had not affected my life".
An important development in the early 2010's has been the emergence of openly transsexual models, and the acceptance of these by fashion houses and photographers. Agencies such as Models UK suggest that "designers are no longer required to hire female models for womenswear and male models for menswear as the definition of gender is being challenged. ... It is an exciting time where gender roles are challenged and freedom is welcomed!". According to Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler: “The distinction between man and woman is disappearing, aesthetically at least. This is a big facet of our culture right now.”
The early 2010's has seen an explosion of highly rated models - led by Lea T and Andreja Pejic -whose XY genes has not obviously hampered their modelling career. Adriana Mazzarini, Valentijn de Hingh, Stefania Visconti, Vicky Eriksson, Stav Strashko and Michalina Manios are other examples in Europe. Indeed a flood of androgynous male models from Eastern to Western Europe has even led to complaints from local female models that they are being undercut on rates and can't compete on physical characteristics such as height and leg length.
Looking outside Europe, just a small sample of other transsexual models who have enjoyed some success in early 2010's includes: Hari Nef, Patrícia Araújo, Fabiana Oliveira Melo, Carmen Carrera, Ana Carolina Marra, Non Poy, Geena Rocero, Kayoh Sato, Florencia de la Vega, Carol Marra, Valentina Sampaio and Liu Shi Han.
Caveat - Many female models take some liberties with important facts such as their age. Transgender models often take this a stage further. Amanda Lear is perhaps the best case of where it is impossible to reconcile all the claims and records.
Transgender Supermodel - Andrej Pejić became by far the most famous transsexual model in the world when in July 2014, she announced that she had a sex change, and had changed her name to Andreja. Three years earlier, she - still physically a he - had been ranked no. 98 in FHM magazine's '100 Sexiest Women in the World 2011'.
Andreja and Lea T laid the ground for meteoric rise in 2016 of transgender model Valentina Sampaio. Five years younger than both, by early 2017 Valentina already had a collection of Elle and Vogue front covers that any super-model would be proud of.
One rare exception is male actor Eddie Redmayne who unexpectedly appeared in the lead role in the film The Danish Girl - the story of the world's first post-SRS transsexual, Lili Elbe. Actress Nichole Kidman was previously expected to have the lead role.
Transwomen who have achieved some success as an actress include: Italian born Eva Robin's in films such as Belle al Bar (1994); Candis Cayne in several roles - most notably as the transwoman Carmelita in the television series Dirty Sexy Money; Pascale Ourbih in films such as Thelma; Aleksa Lundberg in several Swedish television series; whilst Spanish director Pedro Almadovar has frequently used transsexual actresses in his films, including Bibiana Fernández and Antonia San Juan - who emerged to fame thanks to her role as Agrado in Todo sobre mi madre. (All About my Mother).
Singing and Musicians
The motive for going in to the sex trade is usually financial. For many pre-operative woman advertising themselves online, in the small ads or on the streets becomes a reluctant but very lucrative option - particularly at a time when their normal day-time career maybe faltering and medical costs and other outgoings are soaring. It also allows savings to be quickly accumulated for expensive feminisation surgery - typically breast augmentation, facial feminisation and eventually expensive sex re-assignment surgery. Because of the financial attractions of the trade, and the potential loss of earnings after SRS, surgery is often deferred. Indeed, in Europe it is uncertain how many of the thousands of "shemales" from Africa and South America that ply this trade can really be regarded as transsexual, many probably revert to leading a "gay" but clearly male life-style as age catches up them.
Whilst there's much heated academic debate about the topic, the reality is that there are many instances of non-transsexual gay men living as a pre-SRS 'shemale', often working in the sex trade. Some such men eventually decide to go all-the-way and have SRS (often but not always eventually regretted), while others stop taking female hormones when they reach a certain age, get any breast implants removed and transition back to living as a man. A further uncomfortable reality for academics is that some post-SRS transsexual women actively seek and enjoy a life as a female prostitute, it combines sexual pleasure as a woman with financial reward.
In 1998-2000 the BBC real-life documentary Paddington Green featured post-SRS transsexual Jackie McAuliffe (left) who was working the streets as a female prostitute. The final series closed with her trying to move on into a career as a musician.
In mid-December 2001, my boyfriend suggested that I move in with him and I agreed - even though it meant yet another move. I then had a short and disastrous period as a Teacher's Assistant at a small Nursery School. It seemed a good idea at the time as I felt that I wanted to work with children, but the timing was poor due to laser treatment that I was having to prevent beard growth. The other staff quickly realised that I was a transsexual and reacted rather badly to that, upsetting me a lot. In February I left, after just 6 weeks.
Unemployed yet again, I completely revamped my CV, cutting it down and removing from it details and references that would bring out my former male past, and instead emphasising employment by several companies which handily no longer existed, and post-transition references that I knew to be safe. Unfortunately this also reduced my "value" on the job market and it took several months of job hunting before I was finally offered a reasonably paying (although less than a third of what I had been earning only a year before) administrative position at a local college. I started work in May 2002 and for the first time had no problems integrating in to the nearly all female office environment - my ability to "pass" had vastly improved compared with when I first transitioned, perhaps helped by a recent orchidectomy. But unfortunately my boyfriend was told by his company that he would be relocated in early 2003, and in December I resigned from my new job and moved yet again. A few months later I began a part-time job as a Sales Assistant at a shop. Over the next five years I slowly worked myself up to Assistant Store Manager.
Looking back, there is no doubt that without the financial support of my boyfriend (now husband), my standard of living would have declined enormously after my transition.
Many Colleges of Further Education, Adult Education Centres, and commercially run education institutes offer part-time (including night-school), full-time or intensive "fast-track" courses in a huge variety of subjects which lead to recognised exams and qualifications
In an ideal world, try to start obtaining these qualifications as a woman before you transition, if you are worried about being "outed" - well keep telling yourself that it's good experience that will pay dividends when you do transition full-time! (P.S. - this is all a case of do so as I say, not do as I did!)
you have any questions, or perhaps just want to know more about me,
please feel free to email me.
Back to Articles
Please send any
comments, feedback or additions to the Webmaster.
Copyright (c) 2012, Annie Richards
Last updated: 13 November, 2012