Goodwill store hires transgender people

September 30, 2010 1:13:00 AM PDT
In this economy, it's tough for anyone to find a job, but for one segment of the population it's especially difficult. So one local store is knocking down barriers and putting them on the payroll.

An estimated 70 percent of transgender people in California face workplace discrimination. This is the first Goodwill in the nation to provide training and job skills. It's a temporary store, but those involved in the program think it will have long-term effects.

Mia Tu Mutch, 19, says discrimination is alive and well.

"As soon as I started transitioning with my gender and playing with that and changing with how I looked a little bit, it was very hard to find work," says Mutch.

She came to San Francisco looking for tolerance, but even at job fairs where everyone was interviewed, she was turned away.

"It took me six months to find a job in San Francisco of all places," says Mutch.

The job she found was at a Goodwill pop-up store. The space on Market Street in San Francisco's Castro District has been empty for three years. The area's supervisor, Bevan Dufty, decided to play matchmaker.

"I brought Goodwill together with the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative and it was love at first sight," says Dufty.

Goodwill can have the space until a permanent company is ready to move in, which is likely going to be Trader Joe's. Goodwill has agreed to hire participants from the transgender program.

"This is not just a hire, this is a very unique program tailored to TEEI participants, so it's not discrimination," says Claire Farley from the Transgender Initiative.

The on-the-job training includes teaching transgender employees how to handle unique situations that will come up in the workplace.

"We help them kind of traverse that water that 'Well how do I call my reference from two years back and say now my name is...'," says Farley.

This pop up store could be gone in nine months, but workers like Mutch hope this is the only the beginning of what will be long careers.

"We'll prove we can increase sales and we can get loyal customers and then they'll want to continue to hire trans-people or keep a trans-store somewhere else," says Mutch.

The store has been unofficially open this week, but the ribbon-cutting ceremony is this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and it is open to the public.


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