Thursday, November 3, 2016

What's Old Is New Again

So today was my first day of training at Starbucks. Mostly it was sitting in front of a laptop watching videos and learning about the company's culture and values. Pretty easy stuff, especially since they mesh so well with my own values as well as my idea of what working for a modern retail establishment should be like.

It's kinda funny. On the one hand, a goal I set for myself a long time ago when I was maneuvered out of my last job in retail several years ago was to avoid anything that involved uniforms and nametags ever again. Of course, that was before I came to the unavoidable conclusion that it would be a long time, if ever, before I'd be able to make a living as a writer. I do make money on my writing, but it's not enough to live on. Even when I was the Media Correspondent for the Advocate I didn't make what most people would consider a living wage, certainly not if living includes paying rent and feeding oneself.

On the other hand, I've been surprised to discover that I like the idea of working at Starbucks. Of course I can't fully judge the experience yet, but I can say that I like the idea of working for a company with progressive values that reflect my own. It motivates me to see just how far I can take this job on my own skills and abilities, knowing that my being trans isn't going to get in the way.

That's a big deal for me. I've had other retail jobs where I've all but begged my bosses to let me do more and demonstrate that I can handle more responsibility only to run up against a solid pink ceiling that would never allow me to progress beyond an entry level position. In fact, in many of these situations the feeling seemed to be that my ambition to be and do more was evidence of my being ungrateful, of not knowing my place and being eternally thankful that the company was willing to employ me at all.

I'm not going to name names here of course, but I will say that on the vast majority of retail jobs I've had since going fulltime it wasn't a long time on the job before I discovered that I'd never be promoted above the position I was hired for, no matter how hard I worked, how good at my job I was, or how deserving I could prove myself to be.

In every case, the problem was the same: Someone(s) in the chain of command had a problem with me because I'm trans and as a result I'd never be seriously considered for promotion. They'd usually be ok with me ringing a cash register or stocking shelves, but not with anything that involved close customer contact like sales or management.

For example, when I worked at a big-name electronics store, they literally hid me behind a curtain, apparently so customers wouldn't see me. I repeatedly asked my managers to put me on the sales floor, where I knew I'd do well, but they staunchly refused.

At one point, there was a fire in the store I worked at and the employees were loaned out to work in other stores while our store was being repaired. I decided to see if I could take advantage of the situation and make a point to upper management in the process.

I was assigned to another local store and asked the manager there to put me on the sales floor in the computer department. He did, and with absolutely no training, going only by my own sales skills, product knowledge, the store signage, and an occasional question to those working in the department, I sold over ten thousand dollars worth of computers and accessories in one afternoon. Needless to say, I was kept working in that department until it was time for me to return to my own store.

When I returned to my home store, I went to the store manager, told him what I'd accomplished at the other store, and asked him to reassign me to the computer department. He told me I was needed where I was and ushered me right back to my phone operator desk behind the curtain. It was at that point it became clear to me that I'd never be anything more than what I was at that store because the store manager simply wouldn't allow it. When I asked for a transfer to the other store, where I felt I had the best opportunity to succeed, I was told there were no positions available there and laid off soon afterward.

I could tell several other similar stories, but you get the idea. As a trans woman, I was expected to know my place and to be eternally grateful for it. Trying to rise above that position and demonstrate I was more valuable than I was being allowed to be was considered "not fitting in", as one manager told me, and reason enough to let me go.

I've been around long enough to be a little wary of any company I work for, at least initially, but if Starbucks corporate culture is what they say it is and my ability to move up and succeed there is entirely dependent on me and how good of an employee I am, then I think I'll do well there.

There's another factor too, one which probably means less at Starbucks than it does elsewhere, but I bet it'll still make life easier on the job: No one makes me as trans anymore. The store manager knows (because I told her), but no one else there knows as far as I can tell. This is the first customer contact job I've ever had where that's been the case, probably because it's the first one I've ever had without a fully functional testosterone factory between my legs.

Tomorrow, I get to go in for more training and learn how to actually do stuff like make the various coffees. I'm looking forward to it.


Another extremely cool thing that happened today is a pair of sneakers I ordered came. My feet are pretty big, 11.5 EEE in men's shoes, which translates to a 12D in women's. Finding women's shoes that actually fit me has been an exercise in frustration since I came out. Estrogen can feminize a body in a lot of ways but changing shoe size isn't one of them. Right now as I sit here typing this, I'm wearing women's sneakers that actually fit me for the first time in my life. I have a feeling that I'm going to be using this site a lot.

For ladies who are also in need of such sizes, I can't recommend this site enough. The prices are very reasonable, the fit is excellent, and they showed up exactly when promised. Go get 'em, girls.