Do something useful with those recruiting emails

Dana McCallum
Jan 31, 2013 · 3 min read

Like most people in the tech industry, I get a lot of cold emails from recruiters trying to hire me away. Sometimes it’s for a hot new startup that’s so stealth they can’t even tell me what it is; other times it’s for established names like Google or Facebook. Invariably, these emails are irritating, which is a shame, because we should all be thrilled to have constant reminders in our inboxes that no matter what, we’ve got a job somewhere. But many people find these emails to be more like unwelcome sexual advances:

Man. Sometimes recruiter emails feel like a date trying to skip dinner and a movie. "Don't worry, I'm awesome. Come inside." - @sprquish

Trying to think of a metaphor for when recruiters try to pitch jobs to you on LinkedIn by trying to friend you. - @Clampants
@Clampants OkCupid? - @MadMelvina

I’m going to leave that particular problem to more capable minds than mine; what I want to talk about is a little project I’m doing that uses these recruiting emails as an opportunity for activism—or, as I like to call it, “trolling for good.” Whenever I get an email from a recruiter, no matter what the position, no matter what the company, I reply (link included):

Thanks so much for reaching out. Quick question before we set anything up: are <company>’s health plans fully trans-inclusive?

Now, if you, gentle reader, are not familiar with the myriad ways that health insurance companies discriminate against trans people—and frankly, why would you be?—you might be wondering what the hell a “fully trans-inclusive health plan” is. So let’s digress for a moment to get you caught up, because this is some heinous bullshit and you need to know about it.

Unless an employer explicitly negotiates otherwise, health insurance companies will refuse to cover any medical treatment related to being transgender. This includes labs, hormone replacement, therapy and psychiatry, surgery, and more. Many plans include language that specifically excludes these treatments from coverage; those that don’t will often exclude them on the grounds that they’re “cosmetic.” (I am unaware of any cosmetic procedure that, when withheld, causes the people who need it to commit suicide in record numbers.) The upshot is that trans people either can’t get the care they need—care that the medical community, i.e. actual doctors, find so not controversial that they’ve codified it into a standard of care—or trans people have to lay out tens of thousands of dollars of their own money while their peers get all the help they need for $15 and a bus ride.

The only reliable way to ensure that a health plan will cover trans-related care is, as I said, for employers to specifically demand it from health insurance companies. And the only way employers will be motivated to do this is if employees or potential recruits demand it from employers.

That is why I reply to every recruiter who contacts me: to let them know that if they’re serious about getting people to work for them, they need to put some effort into making sure all of their employees are taken care of, not just the traditionally-married straight cisgender employees.

So if you’re in the tech industry and get a lot of cold emails from recruiters, don’t just roll your eyes and press delete: write back and ask them about trans-inclusive health care. Or if you have a different employment issue that’s near and dear to you, ask about that. The point is, stop letting these emails go to waste, and start using them to do something good that matters to you.

I’m collecting responses over on a wiki dedicated to this project. If you have a micro-activism project too, please feel free to contribute.

Queer Life

Neither here nor there.

    Dana McCallum

    Written by

    Senior engineer on Twitter's ads API, former lead engineer on Twitter's client API, space nerd and licensed commercial pilot.

    Queer Life

    Neither here nor there.

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