By Rex Fuller
It’s been a busy time for Courtney Gray and Reynaldo Mireles as they get ready for The Center’s LGBT Job Fair. Courtney runs The Center’s Transgender Program and Reynaldo manages SAGE of the Rockies, a program designed to serve the needs of Colorado’s older LGBT citizens. Both Courtney and Reynaldo are working to put the job fair together because both of their constituents face similar issues.
Both elders and trans people of all ages face similar issues in that both groups are stigmatized for who they are or how they appear, explains Courtney. “Both groups are underserved populations and both have historically had difficulty finding and keeping work,” Courtney says. Trans people may be judged by their outer appearance despite their high skill level. Reynaldo agrees. “Older workers may be dismissed as out of touch with the latest technology. We also often hear that older workers are judged to be overqualified for some positions. In the meantime, these people face challenging times when they are unemployed,” he says.
Preconceived notions about trans job applicants have real-world impacts on the lives of trans people. According to a recent survey, Colorado’s trans citizens, on average, live on less than $25,000 a year, Courtney says. Nationally, trans people experience double the unemployment rate of non-trans citizens. Older workers can also face a tough time finding employment. According to 2013 Labor Department statistics, when older workers lose a job, they face an average of 53 weeks of unemployment as compared to teenagers who are unemployed on average for only 19 weeks.
To address the chronic unemployment among these groups, The Center plans job fairs on a regular basis. Past job fairs have drawn applicants from throughout the state and region. The next LGBT Job Fair will take place on Saturday, October 11 from noon to 3pm.
“Because the trans community faces such drastic unemployment rates, we have reserved the first hour — noon to 1pm — for transgender applicants only,” Courtney explains. From 1pm to 3pm, the fair is open to all applicants.
Currently, employers such as the Denver Police Department, Nationwide Insurance, Denver Health, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, and Lockheed Martin are all scheduled to be at the Job Fair with more employers being added all the time.
“Many of the employers have participated in the past either because they’ve had a trans identified employee or see trans employment as an important issue,” says Courtney. “But those who have been to our fair before have said how impressed they are with the quality of the applicants they see at our fairs.”
Applicants have also had great success in the past. “One of our transgender community members came to our job fair after completing his Master’s of Social Work degree and contacted Jefferson Center for Mental Health,” Courtney recalls. “He is now a staff clinician with JCMH and is making a real difference in our community helping others.”
Courtney advises that applicants should attend with a solid updated resume, look sharp, and focus on the skills they bring to the table. “All of our employers know that our folks are LGBT, so your identity should take a back seat to your skills,” she says.
The LGBT Job Fair will take place at UMB Bank at 1635 E. Colfax Ave. Free parking is available behind the bank.