Career Development Practitioners as Advocates for Transgender Individuals: Understanding Gender Transition
Sangganjanavanich, Varunee Faii, Journal of Employment Counseling
Assisting transgender individuals is a concern for career development practitioners because there is a lack of knowledge on this topic. The complexity of gender reassignment surgery brings challenges and unique needs to this population, throughout gender transition, and requires career development practitioners to understand these challenges and needs to provide appropriate services to transgender individuals. The author conducted a comprehensive review of the literature in the areas of transgender issues in career development and counseling, counseling transgender individuals, gender transition, and multicultural counseling competencies. The role of career development practitioners as advocates for transgender individuals who experience gender transition is discussed.
Equal employment opportunity is created to protect individuals against employment discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, and disabilities (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC], 2004). The EEOC governs the federal equal employment opportunity laws prohibiting job discrimination: the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (EEOC, 2004). Federal equal employment opportunity laws also deal with some areas in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Civil Rights Act of 1964 (EEOC, 2004).
Discrimination based on gender is a concern in the field of career development and counseling (Abel & Meltzer, 2007; Hogue, Yoder, & Singleton, 2007; Schmader, Whitehead, & Wysocki, 2007). Although there are laws to protect disadvantaged groups such as women, ethnic groups, and sexual minorities against employment discrimination, this discrimination is still present in various employment settings. Over the past decades, various literature concerning career- and employment-related issues and career development have suggested that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) populations suffer from work and employment discrimination (Anastas, 1998; Badgett, Lau, Sears, & Ho, 2007; Chung, 1995, 2003; Croteau, 1996; Hebl, Foster, Mannix, & Dovidio, 2002; Irwin, 2002). Sexual identity disclosure in the workplace, work discrimination, and coping strategies for such discrimination are areas of concerns for LGB populations (Boatwright, Gilbert, Forrest, & Ketzenberger, 1996; Chung, 2003).
Issues associated with gender identity, expression, and transition can cause a great deal of distress and desperation for individuals. These challenges lead transgender individuals to have unique needs in career counseling, such as complexities in workplace adjustment throughout gender transition. However, career development practitioners seem unprepared and unskilled to assist transgender individuals in career- and employment-related issues (Chung, 2003; Pepper & Lorah, 2008; Sangganjanavanich, 2005).
There has been a call for social justice in the field of counseling and career development over the past few years. According to the American Counseling Association (2005), as a profession, ethical standards inform and require counselors to be multiculturally competent in their services as well as to further serve as advocates in social justice for their clients. The National Career Development Association (2007) has similar standards to inform career development practitioners in providing services to diverse populations in multiculturally competent ways. Multicultural competencies have been identified as one of the key domains of professional competencies. Multicultural career counseling continues to be an ongoing theme in the career development profession (Chope, 2008). As professionals, career development practitioners need to practice multicultural career development counseling with the clients they serve.
Literature concerning career development and related issues of transgender individuals is limited. …