‘Trans-form’ Your Workplace to be More Inclusive of Transgender and Non-Conforming Employees

Although employers don’t intentionally create a hostile work environment for transgender and non-conforming (TGNC) employees, often the outcome is a hostile work environment due to a lack of understanding and education.  Many TGNC employees experience unnecessary barriers that make working harder than it needs to be on a daily basis.  When it comes to any marginalized group such as TGNC employees, true inclusion does not arise from creating a more diverse workplace; it’s about ensuring the organization treats all employees equitably when it comes to employees everyday work experiences.  Here are 9 simple ways to make your workplace more inclusive of TGNC employees.

  1. Don’t make TGNC employees educate you. Whether you’re a manager, supervisor or co-worker, you must understand that it is not the responsibility of a visibly TGNC employee to answer your questions about all things TGNC despite the fact that you have good intentions behind your curiosity. It is important to respect all employees’ privacy.  If your organization is looking to become more TGNC-inclusive, consider hiring a TGNC person as a diversity consultant.  Other ways to educate yourself and your employees is to build TGNC examples into sexual harassment or respectful workplace training.  Including TGNC examples in how your company trains its employees by clearly communicating how you expect your employees to behave that will pave the way to make the workplace more inclusive.
  2. Try to become gender neutral in all aspects of the workplace. Moving towards gender neutrality will create a workplace where people of all genders can authentically express their gender identities. Using more inclusive language in employee handbooks and notices, such as “people of all genders” or simply “employees” as opposed to binary language, such as “men and women,” is another way to impose gender neutrality in the workplace.  Additionally, employers should revise dress codes to avoid gender stereotypes.  If your company’s uniforms must have a “male” or “female” version, let employees dress according to the gender they identify with, or provide a gender-neutral option that all employees are permitted to wear.
  3. Acknowledge and use the employee’s preferred name, gender, and pronoun. To the greatest extent possible, company directories, email addresses, and business cards should include the employee’s preferred name and gender. When addressing a TGNC employee, employers, supervisors and co-workers should also use the employee’s preferred pronoun and avoid misgendering.  Misgendering occurs when you call a TGNC person by their old name after they changed their name, or using pronouns that don’t match the TGNC person’s chosen gender identity.  Employers may want to offer the option of including the employee’s preferred gender pronoun in their email signature to let others know of their preferred gender pronoun.  Employers should also establish ways to deal with a discrepancy on any legal documents and do the best they can to use the employee’s preferred name, gender, and pronoun.  It might be easier to think about the information your company really needs for documentation purposes, and to refer to an employee’s legal name only when necessary.
  4. Respect everyone’s confidentiality and privacy. All supervisors, managers, colleagues and co-workers should understand that it is obviously inappropriate to ask a TGNC employee about their transitioning or surgical status. Although it may be an intriguing topic to discuss, employees must understand TGNC people are in no way obligated or expected to disclose their personal information to you.  Should a TGNC employee choose to share their personal information with a supervisor, the supervisor should have the conversation in a private place where the TGNC employee may speak freely.  Supervisors and managers should make sure they do not disclose their personal feelings on the topic, and to take care not to share any private details, including medical decisions, that the TGNC employee did not authorize to be heard.
  5. Model an inclusive and safe work environment. Creating a safe and more inclusive workplace simply requires employers, supervisors, and managers to think about how they talk about marginalized or minority groups. One way to do this is to always assume there is a TGNC person in the room and to make sure all conversations involving TGNC people or any other minority is respectful and appropriate for the workplace.  The way a supervisor or manager speaks about a certain group of people sets an example for employees to follow.
  6. Plan for transitions before they happen. Implementing policies and procedures to help employees who transition on the job can relieve a lot of anxiety and reduce the amount of speed bumps for the employee. Developing clear guidelines for supervisors and managers to support an employee going through a transition is necessary.  Supervisors should be instructed to start by listening and let the employee guide the conversation.  Managers and supervisors should express their willingness to help develop and brainstorm ways in which you can support them throughout this process.  It might mean that you communicate the necessary information to others on behalf of the employee with their permission, or you help the employee come out to a small number of coworkers as necessary.  Supervisors can let the employee know that there are set procedures for how employment records are changed and how their transition is communicated to staff that are required to be notified.
  7. Allow employees to use their preferred-gender restroom. To ensure an inclusive workplace, allow TGNC employees to use gender-segregated restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Other options may include permitting employees to use gender-neutral single-occupancy restrooms.  Any unnecessary bathroom restriction can result in an employee avoiding using the restroom at work, which is dangerous and unhealthy.  Any way to help alleviate anxiety for TGNC employees will significantly improve conditions in the workplace.
  8. Include TGNC employees in decision-making involving TGNC staff. It is shocking how many employers will create TGNC policies without consulting their TGNC employees. It should come as no surprise that a policy will likely be ineffective when that policy is developed by those it does not affect or apply to.  It may be a good idea for employers to enlist outside expertise from TGNC groups for guidance and direction when drafting policies or making decisions involving TGNC employees.
  9. Adopt, display and follow through with a formal non-discrimination policy. To assure employees and customers know that your company seeks to create an inclusive work environment, develop a formal non-discrimination policy and display it proudly in the workplace and on your company website. Such policies let all marginalized groups, including TGNC individuals know that they are welcome to apply for employment without fear of discrimination and that employees may show up to work every day without fear of harassment or discrimination.  Displaying the policy can serve as a reminder of how all employees are expected to treat one another and that there are severe repercussions for violating the policy.  To ensure everyone adheres to this non-discrimination policy, employers must consistently enforce this policy.  Although an employee’s concern may seem insignificant or appear to indicate that a minor mistake was made, one incident may be indicative of a larger problem.  Take and investigate all concerns and complaints seriously in order to maintain a safe and inclusive environment for all employees.

Take and investigate all concerns and complaints seriously in order to maintain a safe and inclusive environment for all employees.



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