Transgender refers to people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. They are in our midst and work with us. Some transgender people are ‘stealth’ (pass as the gender they identify with) and may choose not to publicly identify as transgender, whereas others are out about their transgender identity. How then should we treat transgender people at our workplaces?
- Use gender-neutral terms
Using gender-neutral terms such as chairperson instead of chairman/chairwoman ensures that you are inclusive of transgender people, especially non-binary people who do not identify with one particular gender
2. Inclusive policies
The policies in the organization can be tailored to have inclusive language. For instance, instead of saying he/she, use ‘they’. Using ‘they’ ensure that everyone is represented no matter their identity. Some policies such as maternal and paternal leave can be changed to parental leave. This includes all parents irrespective of their gender. Instead of using the mother to refer to female parents of the child in policies, the term birthing parent, or simply parent can be used to include people who birth children but do not identify as women such as trans men and non-binary persons.
3. Have non-discrimination policies that include trans people
Formulate and develop a non-discrimination policy that clearly outlines that the organization will not condone discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Ensure that all the staff members are well versed with the policy and put in place measures to deal with employees who discriminate on transgender colleagues and clients.
4. Put pronouns on your email signatures
Sometimes transgender support is as simple as putting your pronouns on your email signature. Putting your pronouns not only shows solidarity with trans people but it also makes transgender people feel safe about putting theirs. It is also a great conversation starter to enable people in your email list learn about transgender identities from you. It shows that you are aware and you care for transgender people.
5. Hire transgender people
Hire transgender people. Do not disqualify a transgender person simply because of teir gender identity or expression. If they are qualified for the position, hire them. There are transgender people in literally all the fields. Hire transgender people. You can even choose to have an affirmative action for a given quota of transgender people in your company. Whichever the case, hire transgender people.
6. During introductions at meetings, workshops and team building events include pronouns
During company events that require introductions, have everyone say their pronouns as part of the introductions. This way we normalize saying and asking people their pronouns. Pronouns are an integral part of our language system and how we communicate to others. It means a lot to get the pronouns of a person right, especially if that person is transgender. When you ask for pronouns during introductions, it lets trans people know that it is a safe place for them to talk about their pronouns and names.
7. Have gender neutral bathrooms
Designate a gender neutral bathroom for transgender people who do not feel comfortable using the gendered bathrooms. If you are struggling with the concept of gender neutral bathrooms, they are just like the bathrooms you have in your home that everyone uses irrespective of their sex or gender. Ditto! Now that you get it, have one, or a couple of them at your office. And label them as such so that transgender persons do not have trouble finding it.
8. Negotiate for medical cover that covers some gender-affirming medical procedures such as HRT
You know what would be really great…having health care insurance cover that is able to pay for transgender people’s gender-affirming procedures such as hormone replacement therapy and surgeries. Even better if it can cover psychological and psychiatric services. If you are in a position to negotiate for a cover that can do that, please do. Make it easier and less costly for transgender people who seek to medically transition to do so.
9. Re-introduce trans people when they come out at work
When a transgender person comes out at work and changes their name (legally or not), reintroduce them to the staff. For instance, if Atieno no longer identifies with being a woman and identifies as a transgender man by the name Otieno, reintroduce Otieno to your staff. Let them know of the changes while taking note of the new name and pronouns. Ask the colleagues to also make it comfortable for him to use men’s washrooms and any other gendered facility at work.
10. Respect trans people and do not ask intrusive questions
Resist the urge to ask intrusive questions, especially about a transgender person’s transition. Knowledge about someone’s genitals does not help you in any way unless they are your significant others. Details about their medical transition, just like all medical information, is private. Do not ask them about the transition unless they choose to tell you. Do not use derogatory terms when referring to trans people.
Bonus point: don’t deadname transgender people
What is a listicle without a bonus point? Do not use the old name that a transgender person no longer uses. It does not matter whether they have not legally changed their names. The name appearing on their documents could still be their deadname but do not use it. Keep it buried as it is.