The fact that men and women continue to receive unequal treatment at work is a point of contention among politicians, the media, and scholars. Common explanations for this disparity range from biological differences between the sexes to the conscious and unconscious biases that guide hiring and promotion decisions. Just One of the Guys? sheds new light on this phenomenon by analyzing the unique experiences of transgender men—people designated female at birth whose gender identity is male—on the job. Kristen Schilt draws on in-depth interviews and observational data to show that while individual transmen have varied experiences, overall their stories are a testament to systemic gender inequality. The reactions of coworkers and employers to transmen, Schilt demonstrates, reveal the ways assumptions about innate differences between men and women serve as justification for discrimination. She finds that some transmen gain acceptance—and even privileges—by becoming “just one of the guys,” that some are coerced into working as women or marginalized for being openly transgender, and that other forms of appearance-based discrimination also influence their opportunities. Showcasing the voices of a frequently overlooked group, Just One of the Guys? lays bare the social processes that foster forms of inequality that affect us all.
By Kristen Schilt, 2011