In the workplace, transgender and non-binary employees continue to face discrimination, misgendering and lack of understanding when it comes to their identities. This negatively impacts their working environment and their overall well-being. No matter what your company does, it is vital all employers and co-workers create an inclusive workplace for trans and gender diverse employees. To facilitate this process, we have provided you with three effective steps to ensure trans and non-binary people feel safe and welcomed at your work.
Use the correct pronouns and language
Using the correct pronouns and terminology when talking to and about a trans employee is key to respecting their identity. While mistakes can happen, instances of misgender and deadnaming should be taken seriously. Misgendering is the process of referring to someone with the wrong pronouns. Deadnaming is the process of calling a trans person by their name assigned at birth, instead of their chosen name. In a conversation with our team members, Caelan and Sofia shared that they had also experienced misgendering at their previous workplace. In Sofia’s case, dealing with misgendering and additional discrimination led to serious mental health issues.
To create a more inclusive working environment, try using gender neutral and trans-inclusive language. Make sure that when you are addressing a group of people or an individual you have not spoken to before, you use gender neutral pronouns. It might take a bit of practice but stopping yourself from assuming your employees’ and co-workers’ gender can help trans and non-binary people feel seen and respected. Gender neutral language is especially inclusive of non-binary people whose identity is all too often invalidated.
Introduce the option to state your pronouns, for example, by putting them in your email sign off. However, avoid forcing trans people to come out, especially if they are not ready yet. Where possible, cisgender employees should make their pronouns visible.
If an employee starts their transition at work, make sure that everyone uses their correct pronouns and name. This means calling out other employees and co-workers when you hear them deadnaming or misgendering a trans or non-binary worker. Using the correct language is a bare minimum effort which can make a significant difference in a trans person’s life. Waking up, knowing that you will get misgendered all day makes the workplace an unsafe space. Therefore, ensure you create a welcoming and respectful environment by calling a person what they wish to be called. Ultimately, this is what all of us – whether cis or trans – expect and deserve.
Educate and train your staff on LGBTQ+ issues
We spoke to our team member Caelan about his experience transitioning at work. He explained that when he came out as trans, there was ‘no information that could help trans staff members … through their transitioning process’. His main advice was to implement policies and procedures that can help trans people before a trans employee starts to transition at work. It is likely that trans people are already part of your organisation but fear coming out or are simply not ready to do so yet.
Training staff members on the basic terminology and experiences of transgender and non-binary people is key to creating a more inclusive workplace. All employees and employers should receive mandatory training to increase their awareness in order to avoid discriminatory behaviour towards trans co-workers and employees. Most importantly, work alongside trans people to create policies as the community knows best how to help each other out.
For example, training can include how to practice gender neutral language and what questions you should and should not ask when a co-worker comes out as trans. Discuss the option to wear pronoun pins and remove any mandatory gendered dress code. Taking a step forward, these training sessions can also be used to implement significant changes in your company’s infrastructure, such as adding gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms.
Treat all trans employees on an individual basis
Having a general policy in place which outlines how to assist each trans employee through their transition is the first step. Yet, much like all marginalised groups, trans people are not a monolith. Meaning, employers cannot use a ‘one size fits all’ approach when helping people transitioning at work.
Each transgender person may require a specific kind of support. Each experience is unique. Do not expect a trans man to require the exact same support as a trans woman or a non-binary person. Always listen to the individual’s needs without making assumptions about all trans people. The employee should be in charge of their transitioning process. Everyone’s journey is different which is why tailoring your approach to each individual is key.
Team member Caelan advises all employers to ‘listen to the individual person and how they approach their transition at work’. Trans employees should be at the centre of their process. However, they should not be the ones doing all the work and emotional labour to educate employers on their experiences.
These are just a few ways your workplace can become more inclusive for transgender workers. Ultimately, creating an inclusive environment is about respecting everyone’s identities, educating all employees and listening to the needs of trans and non-binary employees.