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Supporting transgender workers in the Trump era
Liberty Martin is the US correspondent and columnist for DiversityQ. She is also a student at Columbia University and has written and produced podcasts for the Financial Times.
In this column, Liberty Martin makes the business case for employers to adopt a more inclusive environment for transgender and non-binary people in the workplace.
Just last month, the Trump administration proposed to limit the definition of gender to biological sex, effectively erasing federal recognition of transgender and non-binary people in the United States, according to a memo obtained by the New York Times. The consequences of this potential policy are frightening for the 1.4 million transgender people across the country because their rights are now completely under threat.
In this light, it’s important that workplaces create a safe environment for trans employees. Here are some concrete methods employers can use to protect and accommodate their transgender workers:
Allow people to determine their identity
Make it easier for administrators to recognize employees’ preferred name and pronouns, even if it does not match legal documents. It can be difficult or impossible to change the name and gender of official documentation as the procedure varies state to state. So, an administrative system that allows transgender people to easily change their name and pronouns will alleviate that stress in the workplace.
Leaving a blank box for people to self-identify their gender on forms instead of the binary of “male and female” is also helpful, because some transgender and non-binary people don’t feel comfortable describing themselves as just male or female. Of course, it is vital that these administrative systems for names and pronouns are confidential for trans workers who have not “come out” yet. A secure and accommodating administrative system can create a welcoming and supportive environment as a person transitions to living as the gender they most identify with.
Facilities that are inclusive of transgender and non-binary people, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, can make life much smoother. Encourage people to use facilities that best correspond with their gender identity.
Opt for gender-neutral (unisex) bathrooms, which can be single-use toilets or bathrooms that aren’t divided by gender, particularly when planning office spaces. It’s possible to convert bathrooms that aren’t gender neutral by using flaps or another structure to cover gaps between dividers and the floor to ensure privacy. Even if it isn’t possible to have gender-neutral facilities, again, make it clear to all staff members that they can use the facilities that best align with their gender identity.
When drafting healthcare policy, you should be aware and inclusive of the needs of transgender people. This can be as simple as including coverage for hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery for those who want it, or being aware that a trans man may need something routine, such as a gynaecological exam, or that a trans woman may need a prostate check if they have not chosen or have not yet had sex reassignment surgery. The Human Rights’ Campaign Foundation clearly details how employers can create trans-inclusive healthcare coverage. Keeping these factors in mind will help to ensure that your healthcare policy covers everyone, no matter their gender identification.
Making sure language in the workplace is inclusive of transgender and non-binary people is a simple way of supporting the community that can go a long way. This can be avoiding gendered language where possible, for example instead of saying “he/she” or “her/his” use “they/their,” which encompasses all genders. Become familiar with the favourable terms surrounding the trans and non-binary community. For instance, it’s best to use “transgender” or “trans” as an adjective, such as “transgender people,” rather than as a noun, such as “a transgender.” LGBT activist charity Stonewall provide useful definitions of trans terminology in their guide to promote trans inclusive in the workplace.