Trans woman Thomi Clinton knows just how important access to employment - along with health care - is for the transgender community.
“There is a sense of dignity and respect that you get from working,” Clinton tells the Desert Times. “It empowers people. They have a sense of honour and pride, they are not depressed anymore.”
Clinton moved to the Coachella Valley in 2008 and found that she was consistently sought out by members of the transgender community who were being mistreated.
In 2014, she founded the Transgender Community Coalition, an organisation that gives trans people the support they need to access health care, hormone therapy, accommodation and employment.
Clinton has helped over 100 transgender job seekers find work through her network of contacts—helping them get interviews or even just their application looked at.
Candice Sweet, from Palm Springs, can attest to how difficult it is to find a job when you’re transgender—her own mother fired her from the family business when she came out as trans.
“She wouldn’t look at me,” says Sweet. “She was standing out on the street, smoking her cigarette and said, ‘Well, I think it’s time for you to go'.”
“My mum kicked me out on the street,” Sweet continues. “She kicked me out of a building that I bought. It was under my name.”
When Sweet was transitioning at age 40, she wasn’t prepared for the challenges it presented.
“I would close my doors, close my curtains and I’d roll down on the floor and bundle up in a ball and cry,” she explains.
“That plus all the stresses of coming out and trying to deal with an upset parent, an upset ex and employees who said they were OK with it but they didn’t act like they were OK with it.”
Sweet says it's demoralising continually being turned down for jobs she applies for.
“It’s not that you don’t want one, but you just know,” she says. “We’re trying to do a job where people don’t have to see us, sadly. This is not good. You want to minimise the denial, the hurt, the rejection, the bigotry. Eventually you just can’t take it anymore.”
Clinton is hopeful that she can continue to give transgender people the opportunities they often miss out on when it comes to job seeking.
“The point of this is to get you in the door,” she says. “You have to get in the door and work your way up.”