Transgender For Workplaces - A Gender Agenda
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Transgender For Workplaces

When a person decides to tell their workplace that they are transitioning, the organisation has a responsibility to respond appropriately and supportively. If an employee is requesting to change their status, name and other details, this may require amending documentation concerning the employee. The HR section might need to familiarise themselves with such a process to ensure the transition in the workplace is as smooth, supportive and efficient as possible.

One of the most common requests AGA receive is facilitating workplace education when a work environment is experienced as feeling hostile to a transgender employee. While a solid workplace policy of inclusion combined with training can get everyone on the same page, there are plenty of other things organisations can do to ensure an inclusive environment. Often the best place to start can be sitting down with a transgender employee and asking them what they need, how they wish to handle coming out in the workplace, and when and how they would like to update their documentation. The employee may seek entitled leave over the transition period. While transitioning can be very liberating for trans people, it can also be unnerving due to the anticipation of how others might react.

Workplaces can support the transitioning process by delivering inclusive training to all employees and implementing inclusive practices while the trans person is on leave. This works best, however, when the trans person is able to contribute to the process and is fully aware of what the work place is intending to do in their absence. Another important factor that needs to be considered is ensuring the labelling on bathroom facilities is appropriate.

It is important to have guidelines in place so that the organisation and all employees are aware of what is expected. This also supports the person who is transitioning in knowing what can be expected from the organisation, their managers and their peers, and will reduce any anxiety or distress that might be present. It also supports the employees to feel more confident and comfortable in how to support the person transitioning.

In-house training can support in bringing more awareness and knowledge on this issue and can strengthen the organisational guidelines to ensure the workplace continues to be respectful and inclusive. It is also important to ensure the employee transitioning has good advocacy support which can assist in their workplace transition being as smooth as possible. This support person could be a peer, a manager, someone from HR or even the pride network, which are often placed in large organisations.

Having policies and inclusive practices in place for employees transitioning is a great start for all organisations. However, at times this is often still not enough to ensure trans people are not subjected to workplace discrimination and bullying. This brings to the forefront the importance of being aware to also address the social context and dynamics of a workplace. It’s important that workplace bullying is clearly identified and dealt with immediately. Bullying practices at times can range from being subtle to open hostility or abuse. It can include things such as deliberately using the wrong name or pronouns, confrontation or animosity in gendered spaces (such as bathrooms or change rooms), or deliberate exclusion of the trans individual. Sometimes this can be directly targeted at the employee or it can be undermining or inappropriately questioning their identity behind their back.

There is no reason at all to assume that someone who transitions will be less capable than before – whether in regards to physical tasks or any other kind of work. Gender equality in the workplace is mandatory. In the same way that it is not appropriate to assign sexist roles or make sexist assumptions about cis men and women, it is also inappropriate to make such assumptions when someone is transitioning.

Workplaces need to prioritise inclusivity for all employees.  Creating an inclusive workplace where transgender people feel supported is the best way to ensure productivity and to set up caring and trusting workplace cultures.

Key Points

  • Transgender people can need a little bit of extra support in the workplace, particularly if they are starting to transition while working.
  • Education and policy provide important protections, but it’s important to have guidelines that support an employee through the transition process. Consider having some in-house training provided by an organisation such as AGA if your current policy doesn’t include guidelines to support trans employees.
  • The best way to figure out what a transgender person needs in their workplace is to ask them.
  • Workplace bullying is one of the most common forms of discrimination that transgender people face, and needs to be actively identified and dealt with.