GPEL Leadership Team Member, Jordan Rubenstein, Shares How To Be A Trans Ally In Your Workplace
April 26, 2015

Working Towards Trans-Inclusive Workplaces
Jordan Rubenstein | April 25, 2015

Transgender people are all too often silenced - invisible to society as a whole, and even within LGBT organizations and spaces. Many transgender people live in poverty, unable to buy political influence, and left with few people to advocate on their behalf. Oftentimes, they face systematic oppression from government institutions, including school and policing, and they frequently face discrimination in access to health care. In most states in the United States, and in many countries around the world, transgender people can be fired for their gender identity alone.

Facing oppression at every turn, transgender people are often jobless, leaving them with few options and resources. To bring about change, we need more privileged LGBT people and allies to advocate on our behalf.

Here are some ways that you can fight for acceptance of transgender people in your workplace:

Talk about trans issues with your colleagues

The best and easiest way to make your workplace more trans-inclusive is to raise awareness about transgender issues among your colleagues. Talk to your co-workers about struggles that a transgender friend is experiencing, or share with them the latest news story about transgender people. Make transgender people a part of your dialogue, and combat stereotypes, misinformation, misgendering, or transphobia that you hear. Make sure to use the right pronouns when referencing transgender people - your co-workers are likely to follow your example. When transgender people are better understood and more people are aware of transgender issues, it will lead to spaces becoming more trans-friendly.

Fight for representation

You can help to make transgender people more visible and to give transgender people more equal access to employment and other leadership opportunities. Are there any transgender people in your workplace? Consider talking to your human resources department about hiring practices and encouraging them to put a line in their job postings specifying that minorities, including transgender people, are encouraged to apply. Staff-wide diversity programs that specifically include transgender issues can also go a long way towards educating and raising awareness among staff. Find out what’s currently covered in any cultural diversity training and make sure transgender issues are discussed. Also make sure that the language used in the rest of the program doesn’t include gender-binary or cisnormative language. Working on putting together a panel for a work event? Make sure that there’s at least one transgender person on the panel. Others may not think to include transgender people but as an ally, you can work towards more equal representation for transgender people.

Make your workplace welcoming

Even once a transgender person gets a job, they are often faced with challenges including disrespectful coworkers, uncomfortable restroom situations, and lack of adequate health care. Ask your workplace if there are any gender-neutral bathrooms, and if there aren’t, advocate to make one or more of the restrooms in your workplace an all gender bathroom. Find out if your employer’s health insurance includes transition-related care, such as hormone treatment and gender affirming surgeries. If transition-related care isn’t covered, discuss with your employer how that may affect any transgender people who want to join the staff - many employers will offer medical reimbursement to transgender people for health care costs that aren’t covered by discriminatory health care plans. Check your company’s dress code policy and talk to someone if the requirements only acknowledge people who fall within the gender binary or stigmatize people who express themselves outside of gender norms.

Considering that most states in the United States don’t have laws preventing workplace discrimination based on gender identity, many companies add to their official company policy that they don’t allow discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. These policies can help protect transgender workers from unfair discrimination and show a transgender employee that a workplace may be a welcoming environment.

Access to a transgender-inclusive workplace is one of the most important and fundamental necessities for transgender people. It’s hard to get by without a job but it’s hard to get and keep a job with widespread discrimination against transgender people. Transgender allies can make all the difference in making a workplace welcoming for transgender staff. Every step you make in changing your workplace to be more transgender-inclusive could help a transgender employee immensely.

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