My Career, and This Life

I'm continually learning how challenging it can be to be in the blue-collar world as a trans woman. Despite the challenges I face, I refuse to hide who I am or leave a career that I love. I've been in the home improvement industry since 2010, and after building my own clientele I left my day job in 2021. Now I'm even taking my small home care business to the next level. This year I registered a new corporation and started preparing for a contractor's license. Instead of doing any of this quietly I want to excel in my career and represent the transgender community in an industry where very few of us are seen.


I started in home repair as a handsome young man of 21, as a landscaper turned apartment handyman. I later became a carpenter on a crew in Minnesota building large agricultural and industrial buildings all over the Midwest. Building and fixing things makes me happy. I love the fulfillment of leaving something better than how I found it, or creating something that didn't exist before I was there. I started college as an adult which is also when I began several years of work at a Lowe’s store in the production office, where I learned how the administrative back end of trade work functions.


I realized I was transgender while I was working at Lowe's, and left in 2019 to work with my hands again as a carpenter. I wanted to be sure I was living true to myself and finding fulfillment in my professional life before I began hrt in 2020– just to be sure I was approaching that process from the right place in my own life. I knew there would be challenges but all I've ever done is that which I believed to be right. I believe that motivation is how I ended up becoming the crew lead for the carpenter crew at a local termite company. 

It was a cool job that I loved, and I still believe the man I worked for is a very good man with a decent heart. Even so, I do feel like my gender identity presented challenges between us and I did eventually face some negativity at work over it. I don't mean the coworkers who said things like "ya big queen" or made jokes about my gender identity. If you don't understand why I don't take that personally then you may have never worked construction. A lot of those guys will make mean jokes about how you're wearing your hat, it's not personal. Being openly queer and actively in transition is low-hanging fruit. I can't let myself be affected by their choice to go for that. They also expressed enough respect for me as a person and as a professional that I knew not to take the jabs to heart. In general, I've received the respect I would have wanted from colleagues, including my old crew leader from the construction company I worked with in Minnesota. He was always just as mean on the job as anybody else I've known in the blue-collar world, but in real life we've actually stayed in touch over the years– which included me telling him about my transition. He was something of a father figure in my career, possibly my greatest work mentor, and receiving his support and acceptance was one of my most rewarding experiences, personally and professionally.

My last boss, on the other hand, demonstrated just as much awareness of my gender identity without any of the same acknowledgment of my qualifications or professional merits. It seemed like it was difficult for him to see past that certain part of who I am. That was ultimately why I left that job to focus on my own business. I don't blame my employer for anything. I think even good people have a difficult time understanding the nature of what we are, and how being transgender plays a role in our lives as professionals. Even when we're not being discriminated against, we do often feel alienated by misunderstanding. These are common experiences. Importantly: I harbor no ill will or hard feelings.


As of the publication of this article, I've been in business for myself for over a year and I'm very proud of what I've achieved. The majority of my work is repeat business and direct referrals. I've been able to make a decent living on word-of-mouth and repeat business because of the trust I build with customers. I've done some subcontract work as a fallback but as a subcontractor I'm required to use my legal name, which is still Zach. I don't mind that part, change takes time after all. I see the discomfort in that as a symptom of a fact we all learn eventually: that "coming out" is actually a long and ongoing process, not really a singular event. But I believe visibility is the greatest power all transgender people possess in the push for acceptance and equality. For the sake of my own visibility as a transgender professional, I want to move away from subcontracting and pull in more of my own customers by advertising my own business publicly. Later in 2023, I'll even be able to offer major services like structural renovations, once I take the exam for a contractor's license.



I'm also going to hire a crew mate as soon as I'm able. Even without advertisements, I've already had a couple of seasons busy enough to need help, so a partner on the job will help the schedule move quickly. Running advertisements will also bring me to more strangers' houses on a regular basis, which will be safer with a wingman. I hope that expanding my business will allow me to better serve LGBTQ+ people in my area who might be looking for a home care professional they know can understand and respect them for who they are. I hope that succeeding in my business can show others like me that queer people belong in every industry.


I certainly do not take for granted the fact that my working-class life has helped me connect with people who otherwise find it difficult to relate to transgender people. Even though I can't reach everybody, I'm still very proud to be a part of people's lives despite the differences they see between us. I've been afforded many privileges as a transgender person and I recognize that. I seek to utilize each privilege to the benefit of all transgender people. This includes the effort I will continue to make to offer personal support to other trans women struggling through the experiences we share. The more other trans people have reached out to me, the more I've been able to see the issues we face together. This makes my advocacy outside our community more effective because I know the people I advocate for. I'm able to speak with love and conviction that comes from experiencing other people's lives. 


This year I renamed my company Ally+ Building Services because I felt like that captured the essence of my larger purpose in life. I care about making people feel safe, happy, and at home. That includes the homeowners I work for, and the transgender people I represent through my efforts. I've achieved a lot but I'm only just getting started, I really haven't even thrown the first punch yet. I'm working hard to make the differences people need in the world. I would hope to ultimately set an example for others to do the same.

I have a truck and a full equipment loadout, but I do need help climbing over the financial hill to the next level. If you are able to give me a push, please do. I have a Gofundme to assist with the cost of expanding a business while also sharing my energy and resources with my support of transgender people and trans equality efforts.


Please share, that helps most!


© Copyright. All rights reserved.