Monday, February 6, 2012

Transgender Flight Attendants, YEA/NAY

PC Air, an airline out of Thailand, announced in December that they had hired four transwomen in their latest hiring batch, along with twenty-six cis attendents of both genders. Additionally, they publicly announced their pro-trans hiring policies. They released a new commercial that features a little boy walking up some stairs and becoming a beautiful adult woman who appears to be a pageant queen, who then morphs into one of their attendants in uniform on a plane:

While I find it hard to be critical of any kind of publicly pro-trans hiring, I’m skeptical of both the airline’s motivations, and their implementation so far.

Especially with the commercial, this seems more like an exploitative publicity stunt than a well-informed attempt to overcome discrimination. I don’t know what their standards are for the appearance of flight attendants in general (though they do hire men as well), but I couldn’t help notice that all the trans employees look like cisgender super models. They’re hardly representative of trans folks in general.

The airline is also having them all wear nametags that identify them as “third gender,” a policy that is othering and disrespectful. They should have the ability to choose whatever gender identification they want, whether that include mention of their transness or not. It’s basically forcing them to be out to every stranger on the plane, at all times. That’s a hostile, potentially very stressful work environment, and may actually put these women in danger. Thailand has historically been more accepting of gender variance than other countries, but a high possibility for harassment (or worse) remains by forcing these women to be out to complete strangers.

And, as always, I find myself very irritated when people do the basic minimum of human dignity and expect (and often receive!) cookies and accolades and praise. Hiring four transwomen, forcing them to be out and othered at all times, and exploiting these employees to prove how progressive you are does not an ally make.


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