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Supporting Transgender Employees at Work

As we head into Pride Week, it's a good time to talk about tactics employers can and should take to support their transgender employees.

I know many people are baffled by the notion of transgender. And if you can't fathom anything beyond a traditional gender framework, there's probably nothing I can say to change your mind about it.

That's OK.

Nobody's asking you to give up anything about yourself. In fact, unless your own internal, deeply held sense of your gender identity does not match the sex you were assigned at birth, being transgender has nothing to do with you. All that is expected of you is to make your workplace one that accommodates and supports all people.

Including people who are different from you ... and who you may not "understand."

First, to increase your knowledge of terms and definitions, the GLAAD Media Reference Guide is an excellent resource. It defines the many terms you may hear relative to people who are transgender. It also provides a table of Terms to Avoid as well as Defamatory Language. It doesn't matter if you think the terms are perfectly acceptable. If they hurt other people, you should not use them.

Right? Because to do otherwise would just be a jerk move.

Next, a recent episode of The New Way We Work podcast, How Employers Fail Trans Workers and What Can Be Done, from Fast Company (38 mins) offers specific recommendations to make your workplace more accommodating, including:

  • Eliminating gendered dress codes (i.e., women must wear skirts).

  • Ensuring the health insurance coverage your company offers does not have exclusionary or discriminatory limitations for transgender people.

  • Offering gender-neutral restrooms.

Finally, check out 100 Ways to Make the World Better for Non-Binary People, including the most basic, which are:

  • Always use a transgender person's chosen name. Many transgender people are able to obtain a legal name change from a court. However, some transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to legally change their name. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who uses a name other than their birth name (e.g., celebrities).

  • Use the pronoun that matches the person's authentic gender. A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not that person has taken hormones or undergone surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for that gender. If you are not certain which pronoun to use, ask the person, "What pronouns do you use?"

As we strive to transform our workplaces to be more equitable and inclusive, we must recognize the experience of being trans, especially at work, brings some unique challenges.

Happy Pride!

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