6 ways to make your workplace more trans-inclusive

the voice and vision of a new generation

6 ways to make your workplace more trans-inclusive

November 18, 2019

When I was 19, I worked as a server at a cute brunch restaurant. Besides the free muffins, my favorite part of working there was the gossipy, fleeting conversations I would have with fellow servers about our tables - from discussing who complained about cold pancakes again to deliberating why someone ordered a vodka cranberry at 9:00am.

One day, my favorite coworker discreetly waved at me to come over. She began to giggle, and under her breath she asked me, “Is that a man or a woman? I can never tell with them.” This water-cooler-talk-turned-transphobic-comment made me cringe and turn red, as I realized a simple truth—I hadn’t told my coworkers that I am transgender.

Although the remark might not be described as blatant discrimination, experiencing that sort of discomfort is often a part of being trans in a transphobic society and transphobic workplaces. Being transgender in the workplace is often met with passive ignorance, offensive invasion of privacy, and sadly, complete discrimination or even termination of employment. In fact, 90% of trans and non-binary workers reported some form of workplace discrimination. As LGBTQ+ employee civil rights are being debated at the U.S. Supreme Court, trans people are increasingly put under a microscope by employers.

These anxieties about working in a cisgender and heteronormative environment are varied. But what do you do when every move you make is shrouded in systemic cautions and discrimination? The occasional misgendering or offbeat comments can seem like just missteps, but then it starts to build. As the microaggressions, like misgendering and hurtful comments, become macroaggressions, like discrimination, and anxieties become full-blown fears, trans workers become othered and isolated. Performing actual work duties take a backseat in performance reviews and feelings that you might become the “next HR nightmare” for your employer become the prime concern. Without effective office allyship and comprehensive workplace protections, working while trans can feel like trying to disarm a silent, invisible bomb.

GLAAD creates many resources to provide people with information on how to become better allies to transgender people. In the fight for workplace protections nationwide, here are some tips and linked resources on how you can make your workplace trans-inclusive:

1. Talk to your Human Resources (HR) representative about current trans/non-binary support resources. If they don't exist, work with them to help create resources like Employee Resource Groups, trans-inclusive health benefits and coverage, etc.

2. Normalize including pronouns at work. Add your pronouns to your email signatures, bios on the website, intros in meetings etc. (Don't for get to drop the 'preferred' - just call them 'pronouns')

3. Encourage open office discourse about the realities of transphobia.

4. Work with colleagues in your HR or Operations departments to establish tangible workplace policies for trans equality in hiring, inclusive employee handbook terms, etc.

5. Petition for all-gender facilities and dress codes.

6. Create mandatory diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives and workshops that are trans-inclusive.

These actions and initiatives should be taken up by office allies, regardless if trans people work there currently or not. If this work remains undone, we enable transphobia and it will continue to decay the mental and financial health of trans and non binary people. Destabilizing trans worker’s access to healthcare, reputation building, and ability to produce capital can not be an option in our fight for equality. 

Christian Kenoly is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, studying public relations and black studies. On campus, they are the Communications Director for the Queer Trans People of Color Agency. They also do creative work with Orange Magazine, Spark Magazine, and Audacity Zine.

the voice and vision of a new generation