Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kate Blatt required to give pictures of genitals as a condition of employment

What do you need to do your job? List them.

I need:
-a computer
-an internet connection
-a chair
-the ability to type quickly
-the ability to speak aloud
-a fully present mind (which seems to be missing today).

The list above is indicative of a lot of privileges - for instance, in most but not all situations, I'm able to choose the environment in which I work, and my education has afforded me the ability to do intellectual work. The assumption that I have a right to my privacy and my body always has and always will continue to function because of cis privilege and able-bodied privilege. If you're a cis person who is not in the sex industry, you and those in your working environment probably don't regard disclosure of the appearance and functioning of your genitals as a part of the list above.

Deprived of cis privilege, Kate Lynn Blatt was not eligible for such basic rights as privacy, dignity, and respect when she sought a job through the (apparently phallocentric in name and practice) Manpower employment agency.

When Blatt, who had previously found work through the company and had been fired for poor health, sought another job through the agency, she was told that her employment was dependent on more than just a W-2 or a piss test. Branch manager Irene Kudziela required a picture of her genitals and a letter from her surgeon recounting her private medical history before employment so that they could figure out what bathroom she needed to use.

This is just one of countless examples of how trans people are dehumanized wherever they go and whatever they try to do. Blatt's genitals are no more an issue in her work than they are in mine. She's assumed to be unable to navigate the business of changing her clothes and evacuating - to be unable to know what bathroom to use, like a child. A cis woman who is in a position of authority over her thinks that she has the right to know what Blatt's organs look like because of the constant dehumanization and othering of trans people perpetuated by cis supremacy.

Asking anyone for a picture of their genitals in any hiring situation is fucked up. Full stop. If Blatt were cis, it'd be fucked up. If she were a man, it's be fucked up. The fact that she is trans does not give anyone the right to inspect her genitals and verify her authenticity as a "real woman".

Blatt fought back, as she shouldn't have to do, as trans men and trans women are forced to do just to exist in the world:
Blatt, 28, told the Philadelphia Gay News that she found the request “disgusting,” refused to comply, and promptly filed a bias complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, saying she was dismissed wrongfully due to her gender identity and her disability -- she identified her disability as sexual dysphoria.
“I was trying to work there in a dignified and private manner, but my dignity and privacy were constantly being violated,” she said.
Trans people are often accused of wanting special rights, but it's the other way around. All Blatt is asking for, all Andre Edwards was asking for, is the right to exist and live and work free of harm and with dignity intact. What's so special about that?

Manpower's treatment of Blatt is utterly inexcusable. It's voyeurism, it's sexual harrassment, it's othering, it's stigmatizing, it's dehumanizing. It's transmisogynistic. It's fucking wrong in a million ways I can't even see or percieve because of my cis privilege (feel free to point them out).

Are you pissed? Good. Contact Manpower here and channel that anger.

Further reading at Feministe and Kynn's LJ (via voz).


  1. This is so beyond awful I can't even formulate a response right now. But, I will be telling everyone I know.

  2. In addition to suing for gender identity and disability reasons, I hope she sues for sexual harassment. A supervisor asking for a photograph of your genitials as a condition of employment definitely qualifies.

  3. This is horrible. Thank you for sharing this. I let the company know that they should fire the woman responsible.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, all!

    Wallflower, yes.

  5. This is a nauseating case. And given that they're already demanding documentation, I can't imagine what they want the photographs for except to satisfy someone's unpleasant curiosity, or purposefully humiliate Ms Blatt.


  6. Ms.Blatt was treated as she was because so many cis people, including her would-be boss, feel that they are entitled to the most intrusive scrutiny of trans people's bodies and presumptive sexual lives.

    In other words, people think they can judge our characters by our genitals and what we do with them, and that somehow gives them the right to probe us in ways they never would to another cis person, especially one of the "opposite" gender.

    By the way, I just got my new passport today. I could have gotten a new passport with my new name (to which I changed last year) and a new photo. But the only way to get the "F" under "sex" was to prove that my genitals have been surgically corrected to reflect my true identity.

    Joyce Carter, who was my roommate when we were undergoing GRS/SRS, describes her travails in changing her pilot's license:


  7. I have just come across this post and as a trans woman, I am wondering if I should reconstruct my approach to others. I have always tried to be as open as I can about the process that I am going through in hopes that maybe through my disclosure, I can help others around me to become more comfortable with transgendered persons in general. I always thought that people were uncomfortable with subjects that they didn't know about. So, to me, it made sense to expose others to the process that I, personally, was going through in a positive and informative matter.

    After reading this, I have come to re-evaluate what I am doing. Am I actually helping progress? Am I actually doing anything to spread real awareness in hopes of greater acceptance? Am I doing more harm than good by providing my personal details that can't necessarily be applied to other trans women? Would I do better to just make my trans status a non-issue and live as just a woman where the details of my person are no one else's business?

    I know I come from a "privileged" position and have actually had it pretty easy comparatively to others and I thank the universe every time it crosses my mind because I honestly don't think I could be "making it" if I had it any more difficult. When I consider this and (pardon my language from this point on) the shit that others have to go through... it pisses me off and I want to do something about it so no one else has to go through all this bullshit in the future.

    Maybe just demanding to be treated like any other person would be more effective? I just don't know right now.


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