The Struggle Of Job-Hunting While Nonbinary
When dressing “professionally” triggers your gender dysphoria
About a year ago, before I got hired at my current workplace, I was job-hunting like crazy. I had recently finished an internship for college credit and had finally achieved my degree — a major in advertising and a minor in English. I was willing to take whatever copywriting job I could find.
I am unfortunately painfully awkward in interviews. That, coupled with the fact that so many jobs I applied for were competitive (and the fact that advertising as a business is inherently competitive), meant that it took months of failed interviews for me to find someone to hire me.
However, there was another factor that was holding me back: my gender.
I was assigned female at birth, but within the last few years, I have come to realize that I am in fact not a woman. I’m nonbinary. I feel like neither a man nor a woman, but some genderless form in the middle of the spectrum.
However, when I was interviewing for all of these positions, I had to dress nicely. And that, unfortunately, means donning feminine clothes, styling my hair, and wearing makeup.
Never mind the fact that I am absolutely horrid at performing these aspects of femininity. I was expected to be an expert at them when I went in for interviews. Maybe that was part of the reason it took several months for me to find a job.
Because of my nonbinary identity, I went through a vicious cycle every time I went to an interview. I would dress up in “nice,” feminine clothes and makeup for the interview. Then, when I came home, I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and feel a wave of intense gender dysphoria. That’s essentially a way of referring to the discomfort you feel when the way you look doesn't match the gender you feel you really are on the inside.
Seeing myself dressed as a woman triggered severe dysphoria in me. I would become depressed as a result, and lose all motivation to apply for another job for several days. On top of that, I would eventually get a rejection email from a previous interviewer telling me that I didn’t get the job.
I would spend days and days sulking until I mustered up the motivation to apply for another job, and the cycle would begin anew.
Luckily, almost a year ago now, I was able to land a copywriting job at a digital marketing agency. I was a bit reluctant at first, but as it turns out, I love this job. It’s creatively fulfilling, my coworkers are wonderful people, and, best of all, this job lets me wear whatever I want.
Within reason, of course. When I asked one of the people who interviewed me about the company dress code, they said, “As long as you’re covered, you can wear whatever you want.”
On my first day at that job, I wore a men’s flannel shirt, and no one batted an eye. Maybe it helped that one of my close coworkers is a butch lesbian who dresses even more masculine than I do.
Whatever the case may be, I’m grateful. My gender dysphoria hasn’t flared up in quite some time thanks to my workplace letting me dress however I want.
Or, at least, they did before we all started working from home.
With friends of mine graduating from college soon and trying to enter the workforce, I find myself incredibly grateful that I’m no longer in that position. I’m so lucky that I have a job that allows me to wear gender-affirming clothes without making a big deal out of it.
I hope I never have to go job-hunting again. Not only because I absolutely love my current job, but because of the immense gender dysphoria that dressing more professional and feminine brings.
As a nonbinary person, I’m kind of used to being misgendered. It occurs almost every day. But being able to wear what I want and express myself in my own way is incredibly affirming and feels wonderful.
I realize that I am also quite privileged to have a job I love, that many LGBTQ+ people are not so fortunate. So I’m going to count my lucky stars that I have found a place that accepts me.