11/17/2017 15:52 EST | Updated 11/17/2017 15:52 EST

This Transgender Job Fair Aims To Shatter 'The Last Glass Ceiling'

The median household income for trans people in Ontario is just $15,000.

Toronto Star via Getty Images
Biko Beauttah, a trans rights activist, Kenyan refugee and Pride Toronto board member, is organizing a transgender job fair.

The organizer of a transgender job fair in Toronto says she hopes the event will open doors and shatter ceilings.

"We in the transgender community face hurdles that cisgender people can't quite fathom," Toronto transgender activist Biko Beauttah wrote in an open letter on the Trans Workforce website.

"We often are subjected to the most severe forms of discrimination in the workplace — unable to obtain identity documents, bullied by coworkers, treated as 'freaks' — if not frozen out of the formal labour market entirely," she said.

But, on Monday, Beauttah hopes to help change that.

She, along with other members of Trans Workforce, are organizing the job fair, which will take place in Toronto on Nov. 20 — the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Twenty employers (including Indigo, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Parks Canada, and Vice Canada) will be there, and a Facebook event shows over 260 people are interested in attending.

The job fair is for those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, and its aim is to be a space where job-seekers can "interact without fear of discrimination, with employers seeking to give equal opportunity to qualified talent," according to the Trans Workforce website.

No Census Data

A 2012 poll found that 5 per cent of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. But because there's no official space on the census for Canadians to identify as transgender, national data on this population are few and far between.

Too many transgender people live in poverty or can't get work, but it's not public knowledge without census data, Halifax's Jessica Dempsey told CBC.

Thirty per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Canadians face workplace discrimination, according to the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

Workplace Discrimination

Transgender people face discriminatory and structural barriers to employment, according to Ontario's Trans Pulse Project.

According to numbers they compiled, 13 per cent of transgender Ontarians said they were fired because they were transgender (15 per cent said they believed they were fired because they were transgender). Another 18 per cent were turned down for a job because they're transgender, and 17 per cent declined a job offer because the workplace environment wasn't trans-positive or didn't seem safe.

Transgender people also have difficulty getting references, documents, and transcripts using their new names or pronouns, "which puts them in the difficult position of outing themselves up-front in job applications, or being unable to draw on their actual job histories to strengthen their applications," according to the Trans Pulse Project.

The median household income for trans people in Ontario is just $15,000, the project added.

"Just To Survive"

"The idea came around based on my lived experience and my inability to find work despite having nine years of post-secondary education," Beauttah told the Canadian Press.

Mark Blinch / Reuters
LBGTQ activist Biko Beauttah arrives on the red carpet for the film "Stonewall" during the 40th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, September 18, 2015.

Beauttah was born and raised in Kenya but sought asylum in Canada in 2006, according to her biography on the Trans Workforce website. She struggled to find work, at times resorting to the sex-trade industry just to pay her rent, she told CBC.

"Many resort to such underground economies just to survive," Beauttah wrote on the Trans Workforce website.

There's a lot yet to be done for transgender rights, but Monday's job fair is a start, she wrote.

"People of the world, let's come together and shatter this last glass corporate ceiling."

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