Equality is high on most workplace’s priorities. Employers are keen to make sure their workers are comfortable and happy in order to be more productive, therefore equality and inclusivity are high on any workplace’s priorities. However, according to totaljobs, 60% of transgender employees have suffered workplace discrimination. The same study revealed over half of trans workers felt they had to hide the fact they are trans from their co-workers.
On the other hand, 51% of those asked said they felt that acceptance of transgender workers had improved recently, thanks to media coverage. Yet, there is still work to be done, as totaljobs’ report found that transgender workers felt the biggest challenges remaining in the UK workplace are:
- No support
- Lack of awareness
This article highlights issue of transgender support in the workplace, and how employers can implement measures to ensure their company truly has a foundation of equality.
It is essential to understand the concept of gender identity — it goes beyond merely female or male. ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offered a guide to gender identity terms, covering transgender, gender fluidity, and non-binary terms:
- Trans — this is often used as an umbrella term. It is used to describe a person who does not identify as their birth gender. Not identifying as your birth gender does not necessarily mean you identify as the opposite gender.
- Transgender — someone who is transgender does not identify with their birth gender. For example, someone who was born biologically male, but identifies as female, would be transgender. Note that this term is usually preferred over the older term, transsexual.
- Cisgender — this term refers to someone who identifies as their birth gender. So, someone who was born biologically male and identifies as male would be regarded as cisgender.
- Non-binary — someone who is non-binary does not identify as male or female, identifies as both, or views their gender as something else. Gender-fluid is often considered to be related to non-binary, in that someone who is gender-fluid may feel more masculine or more feminine from one day to the next.
- Intersex — being intersex means a person is born with both male and female biological traits, such as chromosomes, hormones or genitals. This term replaces the now out-of-favour term hermaphrodites.
Misgendering a transgender person signals part of a greater problem, even if done unintentionally — assuming something about a person based on their appearance, manner, or voice. Using the wrong pronouns for someone can be highly upsetting, and wholly disrespectful in the event that misgendering has occurred out of refusal to use specified pronouns.
Proven by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), using pronouns is one of the most personal ways to address someone. If someone requests that you use a different pronoun for them, it is the most basic form of acceptance to use them.
Knowing someone’s preferred pronouns is very important, but it can feel a little awkward asking, (or worse, finding out via misgendering). HRC advises creating opportunities to ask about a person’s pronouns, such as during the interviewing process, or during induction paperwork by having a box to declare which pronouns would be preferred. If your company has an online profile for employees, allowing them to select pronouns on their profile can be helpful, too.
A good way to prevent misgendering is the use of personalised lanyards. Brighton & Hove City Council recently made the news when it announced its staff would be able to choose pronoun pin badges to wear at work. The move has also been used by the University of Sussex, which distributed pronoun badges during International Transgender Day of Visibility. The badges, which were optional to wear, included a range of pronouns, plus a blank version for people to fill in their own choice if needed.
Essential pronouns: he, she, they, zie, ve…