Transgender individuals face more discrimination in the workplace and higher rates of unemployment.

That’s why Compass Community Center in Lake Worth launched the Transgender Economic Empowerment Program this year to assist trans people in finding meaningful, gainful employment.

The TEEP Program provides linkage to services that ultimately help trans folks achieve economic stability and empowerment through career development. In addition to economic stability, the TEEP program will also provide participants with opportunities for self-development in the form of assistance with the discovery of career goals, employment readiness services, and direct support from the program coordinator.

“Unfortunately, transgender people are disproportionately discriminated against in the workplace,” said Jackie Brown, TEEP’s coordinator.  

“Even though discrimination is illegal, we know that transgender people lose their jobs and their earning potential plummets while their need for things like health insurance and a steady paycheck becomes crucial. This program addresses a fundamental need that transgender people have, especially at the beginning of their transition. This program is flexible and we offer a wide variety of services through our Economic Empowerment Program. We hope that transgender people who are out there and could use these services, actually pick up the phone and call us.”

The support is based on the needs of each unique individual, including creating or editing a resumé and cover letter, sharpening interview skills, and professional help with all your “dress for success” needs through direct assistance and referrals to other agencies that are in the area.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the TEEP program is the preparation before the actual interview. An individual that identifies as trans may not know exactly how to portray themselves for the interview. Before starting the initial job search each client works with the program coordinator to figure out the best ways to express their gender, in addition to having the appropriate documentation for the desired gender.

If an individual needs to change a name or needs a new ID, guidance and referrals will be given to the client. The TEEP program also helps you practice for the interview. This program involves interview attire consultations, mock interviews, formulating responses to commonly asked interview questions, and help with questions that you should and not ask the potential employer. Practice always makes perfect.

They have encountered some obstacles since the program’s launch this year.

“One of the biggest challenges we have encountered is reaching the members of the community who would benefit most from this program,” Brown says. “Many trans people can experience discrimination in many aspects of life and as a result, don't live openly. It is very difficult to reach people to offer a program that can help them when their participation could potentially be seen by others. We are building trust with this community to make sure that they are comfortable accessing these services and know that we will maintain their privacy and dignity. It is important that we understand their needs and are able to assist them in attaining stability.”

Compass welcomes an affirming and sex-positive philosophy in fulfilling its mission. All trans people are highly encouraged to participate regardless of past work history (including entertainer or sex work), incarceration, or addiction history.

This program is partially funded by the Jewish Women's Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches and Macy's.

According to a report from the recruitment firm Totaljobs, almost two-thirds of trans people, 65%, feel that it is necessary to keep their identity a secret at the workplace in order to feel safe and also job security. These numbers were different five years ago. Over half of trans people felt this way.