We sat down to chat with Jesse Aviv, born and raised in Boston, Massachussets. He studied at the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore and is a recent graduate. He opened up to Unikorn on the struggles of both – being an entrepreneur and her personal experience as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m currently back in university after taking a year off to transition. I make a lot of chainmail art, play on the university’s polo team, and am about to start work in a lab synthesizing HIV drugs.
Q: What sort of obstacles, issues have you encountered when pitching for investment as an entrepreneur or when applying for jobs when it comes to ticking the gender box?
A: The hardest thing for me has been essentially starting from nothing in terms of a resume and references. While taking a year away from college, I realized that going into the job application process openly trans was generally a worse call than going in claiming no past experience. Everything I’ve done in the past has been under a different name, and with the discriminatory practices (conscious or not) in so many workplaces, it’s usually not an option to include those achievements on my resume. The nice thing about entrepreneurship is that one is judged more on their current ideas than their past achievements. So other than during the beginning of my medical transition, in which there were awkward moments where I was misgendered during Q&A’s or discussions, I think entrepreneurship is one of the easier fields in which to be trans.
Q: Current thoughts on the evolvement of transgender people within the workforce? Any piece of advice they could work on in inclusion or workplace environment?
A: There are so many awkward and difficult moments involved in employment for trans folks, from filling out tax forms before you’ve changed your legal name to bathroom use and office gossip. Most of these situations are not designed to make trans folks uncomfortable, yet there are ways for workplaces to make them easier.
Single stall, gender neutral bathrooms are a great way for offices to make the day less stressful for trans employees. Paperwork can be made less daunting by specifying “legal name” or “preferred name” rather than simply “name,” and not requiring employees to tick a gender box unless absolutely necessary. It may not sound like a big deal, but I was always concerned the name I listed may be cross-referenced with my ID, receipts, or credit card at any point. Before legally changing my name, I wouldn’t know whether to write my legal or preferred name on something as simple as a raffle ticket or food order, never mind forms around the office. Any workplace can also become more trans-friendly by including pronouns on name tags and email signatures. This is a great way to show allyship and support to trans folks both employed by your own workplace and by other businesses with which your company interacts.
Q: What was the hardest part of your transition? Happiest/easiest?
A: I’d say the hardest part of my transition was recovering from surgery. It was a longer and more taxing process than I expected. The happiest part was the everyday moments in which I was gendered correctly and affirmed by those around me. And the easiest part of transitioning for me was getting used to my new body and emotions.
Q: Favorite thing to do to de-stress?
A: My favorite way to de-stress is by taking a long, hot bath! It always feels luxurious, even if it’s just some hot water in a tub.