Nov 13, 2017 - Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press

TORONTO _ A Toronto transgender woman is holding a job fair geared toward transgender and gender-nonconforming people to try to spark systemic change in the Canadian workforce.

Biko Beauttah, who came to Canada as a refugee from Kenya 11 years ago, says transgender people often struggle to find work in conventional jobs and turn to things like drug dealing and the sex trade.

She started Trans Workforce, an organization that is setting up next week’s job fair and supports the transgender community in Toronto. After multiple attempts to set up the job fair, Beauttah said she was able to set up the event with help from LGBTQ community groups.

“The idea came around based on my lived experience and my inability to find work despite having nine years of post-secondary education,” said Beauttah, a transgender woman who identifies as female.

“The continued marginalization of trans people, you can see it with how we’re not represented in the corporate structure … we’re not given enough options,” said Beauttah.

The absence of transgender people in the general workforce is something Beauttah sees as one of the major unresolved issues in the LGBTQ rights movement.

Beauttah said there will be around 15 employers at the job fair, which will take place on Nov. 20. Some potential employers include the Canadian Armed Forces, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Indigo.

As more companies began to show their interest in the fair, Beauttah said that picking employers who actively wanted to normalize the presence of trans people in their workforce was an important factor.

A Facebook event page for the group shows more than 200 people are either interested in the event or plan to attend.

While Beauttah hopes that events like these will catch on in other cities, she also said that the transgender and gender-nonconforming community could soon reach a point where they don’t need to rely on her organization.

“I hope there comes a time when Trans Workforce isn’t really needed because people will be hiring people because of their skill and talent, and not based on their gender,” said Beauttah.

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Follow-up

Finding work 'without fear': Transgender job fair goes ahead amid claims of racism

Transgender group calls the event an 'affront' to the community after military recruiters invited.

Nov 20, 2017 -  Julia Whalen, CBC News

A Toronto job fair aimed at helping transgender people find work went ahead as scheduled Monday, amid charges by critics that the event was racist and "inherently violent" because Canadian Armed Forces recruiters were invited.

More than a dozen prospective employers took part in the Trans Workforce job fair at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which coincided with Trans Remembrance Day.

Organizer Biko Beauttah said the response to the job fair was "tremendous." Beauttah, a Kenyan refugee, said she's passionate about finding work for transgender people because she's in the community herself.

"I'm so happy to have finally created a space where employers can mingle and interact with trans-identifying job seekers without fear of discrimination and harassment," she said. "I think this is the first step in cracking the last glass ceiling of the gay liberation movement."

Jodha, the emcee of the job fair, was outed as transgender at 16. Now 19, she said finding work has been rough.

"There's a huge difficulty with not only how you see yourself, but ... with how people see you," she said. "There's this huge issue with walking up to a place, handing them a resume, and expecting to be taken seriously as a trans person."

She said people who are transgender never know if their employer will accept them, let alone their co-workers.

"There are so many factors to finding work as a trans person that makes it so much harder to do."

Beauttah said part of the solution to break down barriers is having an event like Monday's job fair, to showcase talent among the community.

"We're also putting our name out there in the spotlight, to where people can sort of find normalcy in how they relate to us."

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