Saturday, 1 May 2010

Job Applications Disclosure Dilemmas including Security, CRB, GRC requirements

Recently I have experienced the dilemma of deciding how much you need to disclose about your past. There is always a risk of your past catching up with you. Socially the challenges of that emotional minefield are becoming much more apparent.

My journey has been a long one for my family & I. My path back to the workplace equally so, but a new day is dawning. It contimues to be a time of great change.

For now this post just explores my humble experience with regard to attempting to get back to the workplace & job applications, Criminal Record Bureau CRB checks & Gender Recognition Certificates. How should I deal with my T history? In my case I also have the dilemma of how much I have to disclose regarding my mental health issues.

Voluntary work does not normally require you to disclose your health issues. If you are offered employment CRB checks may be involved & more personal information requested. As with legally changing your name you can ask for the company’s assistance in making the relevant changes to your records & that it would be appreciated if they can preserve full confidentiality. There is a small team at the CRB office who are dedicated to those who are transgendered, who are very helpful and give very good advice. Further details are available on

With the guidance of my counselor & an employment facilitator when I first started applying for voluntary work we prepared a disclosure letter which explained briefly about my reasons for applying, my previous work history, reason for leaving & relevant confidential medical history. Briefly this explained I had suffered work related stress due to victimization which caused depression & anxiety. During the recovery of which I found I needed to transition. This was fine in my earlier stages of recovering my health but not for the harsh reality of seeking paid employment in the job market during a world wide recession.

When applying for paid positions I have decided I will never mention my trans history in my CV or any application at all. If I am ever lucky enough to get to interview I would not bring the subject up. If I were fortunate enough to be successful & offered a position, I would prefer not to mention it. I think it could be illegal for them to ask me out right during an interview. My appearance mannerisms & voice are unlikely to offer me the opportunity of stealth. After a period of time & if I felt circumstances were appropriate, I may or may not chose to disclose. It should be no ones business but my own but life is not always going to be that simple.

This year I have been given an honorary contract by the hospital I attend to do my voluntary work, so that I can have the legal rights of a paid employee This enables me to undertake many more duties/responsibilities to help the staff I work with, than I could previously as a volunteer. It’s a win, win situation, as I also gain valuable extra work experience. I had to go through a new CRB check having been previously CRB approved as a volunteer a year ago.

For security reasons I was asked to produce my birth certificate. This caught me slightly unawares. Apparently employers are obliged to see proof of legal residency in the UK, for all new employees. This takes the form of a valid passport, a birth certificate or a letter from the Home Office. I do not have a passport or a letter from the home office & do not want to have to go through outing myself in writing if I am ever lucky enough to be offered a new job. This may happen for any new employment. So it would appear unless you have a Gender Recognition Certificate which should enable you to obtain a new birth certificate, regardless of your ability to pass (I hate that term & all the labels flame wars) you may not have the option of stealth.

As a result I had to be open with the HR department who were fine in this case. They took a copy of my old birth certificate & sealed it in an envelope marked confidential & retained it in my file until such time as I could produce my new birth certificate. For this I would need to apply for a gender recognition certificate. I intend adding another post about my experiences with applying for a GRC.If you have recently transitioned, living full time in role & legally changed your name, it is a good idea to keep hold of some of your utility bills from the earliest possible time of living in your new gender role to provide evidence should you require a GRC.

Job application forms I have come across recently have asked for any periods of sickness during previous employment to be disclosed & any relevant medical conditions, reasons why including mental health, which in my case applied to, anxiety & previous depressive episodes. The reality of the stigma perceived or otherwise towards people like me who have had mental health issues adds to the challenge of finding employment. There is an excellent campaign running presently “Time to Change” aims to end the stigma & discrimination, which still have a huge impact on the lives of people with mental health problems, even though one in four of us will experience a problem at some time in our lives. Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end that discrimination.

Gaps in employment history have to be explained. How best do I explain my five year gap in paid employment? Been clothes shopping for five years, run out of money, just won't do!

The truth is I needed that time for my family & I to be ready for the transition, to give it the best chance of succeding. Then I had to go through the medical, physical & mental changes I needed to make to my life. There is now a period of adjusting to those changes which is both exciting & emotional. The pace at which this all happened remains critical to our well being.

My official version for my employment “gap” may go along the lines of “I took time off to care for my elderly parents who I am devoted to, while exploring/developing a new career as a wildlife artists” which is true, if a little economical with the truth.

Initially I did not appreciate I had transferable skills from my previous specialized career. With my new self image & improved self esteem I now realise I have a much better outlook on life. I know I need to concentrate on the positive aspects of my life experiences & what I can do, the life & work skills I can offer a potential employer.

For now I have to be realistic about how ambitious I set my short term employment goals. The only head hunters coming for me , have white coats! Without your health you have nothing. Having taken things a little easier recently I feel ready to face the challenges ahead. To be well enough to pay my way in life again & support my family.

Thanks you so much for your kindness & inspiration. You do make a difference. I think of the friends I have found here a lot although I find myself having less & less time to blog.

I hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend, in spite of the UK weather!
May there be sunshine in your hearts & life be kind to you
Peace & love


Anji said...

I'm amazed at the questions that get asked. Do all employers ask them?

You seen to have to pick your way through a minefield at the moment. Good luck

Hope that you have a great weekend with sunsine

Jo said...

As you know my dear, I'm going through a version of this too at the moment. Different industries, and behind you in some ways, but similar challenges.

Here's where my head is on it.

I'm not mentioning it, until I am offered a job...and until I have the contract in front of me. And even then I am not intending to mention it in a 'there's something you should know' kind of way, but only in ONE way. That is a purely practical one. An "obviously as a transwoman who needs to complete her journey, I will need three months off from you perhaps in 12-15 months time or so" kind of way. A medical need, not a 'social', 'mental health' or 'psychological' issue. Like saying I have a heart condition, and I will need an operation for it that fine...good...move on...

That of course is something you don't need to do...

I could of course not say anything at all. You may chooose not to at all either, as you discuss here. I asked people on my blog, and that's what they said, and they were right. My decision to do so is driven by one thing only - the need to have that surgery (and that's something I know I don't have to mention either) and the desire to signal that I am going to be clear and straight and honest and trustworthy with a prospective employer, and that I wish for the same from them.

Your transition IS irrelevant to all of this hon, don't forget. Irrelevant. All the hesitancies we face are created by our own insecurities. And just like the idea of 'passing' years ago, this too has most to do with us signalling to others than we are confident and comfortable with who and where we are. Others see that and hopefully will respond to it. So in as much as this is an 'issue' they will look to you (or me) and ask "What does this mean?". And our answer is, "It means NOTHING AT ALL."

Lucy Melford said...

This is such an important topic, Debbie. Nobody can be complacent about having to seek a job. As you know, I've retired already, but that doesn't let me off the hook. What if one day the pension doesn't cover everything and I need to look for extra income? All the issues you've mentioned then become frighteningly relevant.

For particular kinds of job, I'm certain that you would be positively wanted. You've got a gentleness about you that says 'caring person' even before you do or say anything. As regards ID, well, if I can get a 'female' passport, so can you!


Anonymous said...

TAHNKS FOR YOUR SHARING~~~VERY NICE ........................................

Anonymous said...

haha~ funny! thank you for your share~ ........................................

Debbie K said...

Thank you Anji, Jo & Lucy for your kind & thoughtful replies.
So far my transitioning appears to have been inconsequential to the people I have meet in the workplace. Not funny, not awkward, not relevant.