in Work

Creating a trans-inclusive workplace

I recently joined a lunchtime webinar on Creating a Trans-Inclusive Workplace hosted by BIE Executive. It was a superb discussion with excellent speakers and had me captivated. The session was led by Caroline Paige, the first openly transgender Officer in the UK Armed Forces and Joint CEO of the charity Fighting With Pride. I love reading, hearing and learning things that make me see the world from a different angle, and the experience and advice given by the speakers has been on my mind since the event.

Some things I learned from the webinar (with apologies if I use the wrong terms in places — I am very much a student):

  • The armed forces ban on LGBT+ staff was only lifted in 2000. Fighting With Pride are working to help redress the historical wrongs whose impacts are still being felt today.

Most LGBT+ personnel were dismissed immediately, though until 1996 male personnel also faced time in a military jail. Some gained the criminal record of a sex offence, for having a consensual relationship. They were outed to friends and family, bullied, harassed and assaulted, and commonly court-martialled, forced to resign, or left the services ‘voluntarily’ because of the hostile environment. Medals were ripped from uniforms, people with exceptional service records became nameless, homeless, jobless, and told to never associate with the military again.

  • Being told that “you can stay” in an organisation is not the same as being told that “you’re wanted here.”
  • It isn’t good enough to say that your workplace is a safe place to work, you also have to tell everyone what the benefits of an inclusive workplace are.
  • Just because somebody is LBGT+ doesn’t mean that they want to be on a working group for LBGT+ issues in the workplace, in the same way that a black employee may not want to be giving presentations on Black Lives Matter or fronting events during Black History Month. Many people just want to be employees and not speak for a whole group.
  • There are many points of risk in the processes that we run. If someone who identifies as a different gender to the one they had at birth gets all the way through your interview process, there is a point of vulnerability when they have to hand over a copy of their birth certificate to HR. The HR employee who receives the certificate has a lot of power, and can have a massive impact on the candidate depending on how they handle it.
  • Generally, the experience of trans people who identify as female is very different — and much worse — than those who identify as male. In addition to the stigma of being trans, those identifying as female have misogyny added into the mix.
  • Transitioning medically can be very difficult later in life. Becoming male means that puberty may happen in your 20s or 30s, with all of the physical experiences that go with it such as your voice breaking, acne etc.
  • Workplace policies are really important as they give people protection; they can be used when someone tells you at work that as a trans person you can’t do something.
  • It’s important to present the positives about having trans people in your organisation.
    • It shows that you are an inclusive organisation and inspires other people on how they can fit in.
    • If you have someone who has transitioned in the workplace then you have an employee who is resilient and has been able to deal with lots of big challenges in their life — skills that you would like your leaders to have.
    • Those that have transitioned have unique perspectives, such as knowing what it is like to be male and what it is like to be female at your company.
  • For policies, Stonewall has a lot of excellent resources. The Policy for the Recruitment and Management of Transgender Personnel in the Armed Forces (JSP 889) is also available online.
  • Active Bystander is a useful organisation that teaches people how to intervene if they see something going wrong; techniques that avoid escalation of a situation.
  • Little signals such as wearing a rainbow badge or putting pronouns in your email signature can go a long way. They show that you are a ‘safe person’ to be able to discuss these topics with.
  • It’s important that senior leaders in an organisation are seen to be supporting LBGT+ staff, for example through allowing their images to be used. Having the right messages from the top gives people working at an organisation the confidence that someone senior has their back.
  • If staff at your organisation travel to places which are not openly inclusive, for example countries where it is illegal to be homosexual, it is important that the company tells staff about the risks but also that they will be fully supported.

All of this has got me thinking about the things I can do to promote inclusivity at work. An hour very well spent.

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