Kenyan-born Biko Beauttah came to Canada in 2006 with a dream – she wanted to make a difference and embrace the opportunities this country had to offer.
But Beauttah tells Global News that since she transitioned to a transgender person, the job opportunities have been few and far between.
“There is a loss of privilege that comes when you transition, especially if you are a transwoman of colour and it so devastating. It affects you throughout your life,” Beauttah said.
Beauttah left Kenya to seek asylum in Canada because being LGBTQ was considered a crime there.
However, she says in Canada, although the LGBTQ community is well supported, the job market is a much different story.
“One time, I was like a human being walking through life like everybody else and then next, it was like a nightmare,” Beauttah said.
She says a number of transgender people experience bias and discrimination, and often do not get the job or the promotion because they are transgender.
“Diversity is about people, and inclusion is about culture. So even in a corporation, you can be all about transpeople, but then we do not see that diversity reflected at the top. It is only relegated at the bottom,” Beauttah said.
“Even with all my skill, nine years of post-secondary education, I still cannot find a job and I don’t know why that is.”
It is that struggle to find a job that inspired her to create the Trans Workforce and hold the first ever Transgender Job Fair.
“It’s very difficult to show up to a company in your own transness and get the job because there are so many factors that go into it like background checks and a lot of transphobia … if you are trans living in the street, homeless, or face these routine humiliations, this job fair is what’s needed,” Beauttah explains.
VIDEO: Canada’s first transgender job fair held in downtown Toronto
The job fair is being supported by TIFF and it includes job opportunities from groups like the Canadian Armed Forces, Parks Canada, Apple Canada, Correctional Services and government-level jobs.
Beauttah said she wants to break the mould and stereotypes that exist with transgender people, and she feels this job fair is the place to start.
“This whole adventure was started by a trans-solution, which is a solution for transpeople by transpeople,” she said. “And through my struggles, I am hoping that a transperson can see this and be inspired and know that you don’t need the world to do something great. All you need is an idea and people to believe in you.”
Beauttah said there is a great deal of concern in the trans community about the struggle to make ends meet.
She says many transgender people resort to using food banks because they cannot afford to buy food, and some fall into areas like the sex trade because they are desperate for money.
As a result, suicide rates are high and the stereotypes and barriers for transgender people continue to exist.
“It’s the most frustrating, humiliating and degrading thing in the world,” Beauttah said.
“When you don’t want to ask the world for anything, you feel you can self-determine your own fate, but only if you had a chance … but when they take all the opportunity away from you, you are just watching everybody else’s life go by. You are just stagnated. And then you wonder why the suicide rate is so high in the trans community. This is why.”