For most people, work itself causes a lot of stress. Now imagine having to bear the weight of being ridiculed, shamed, ignored, discriminated against or worse, sexually harassed at the workplace just because you were from a gender minority group.
These feelings seem almost part and parcel of a person from the transgender community, especially if they are working in an office. Trans people often report feeling discriminated against, treated like a liability and having to present a certain way so that they meet society’s frivolously low expectations. Such experiences are demeaning and psychologically abrasive to trans individuals. They can affect their performance at work, job satisfaction, well being and a tendency to not look for other jobs because of fear of discrimination. While it is important to look neat and professional at a workplace, it is solely your choice as to how you present yourself.
Even though there is a general global awareness about the struggles that transgender people face daily, there are still a lot of employers that are either ill-equipped to provide trans employees with the policies and work demands that they need or are ill-informed about the challenges that the transgender community faces and simply refuse to help them. Because of their tendency to stand out during their transitional period, many companies that are ‘LGBTQ+ friendly” are more inclined to hire “LGB” people (basically cis-gendered people) over transgender and other sexual and gender minorities.
Therefore here are four practices that employers should adopt to make transgender employees feel safe in their workplace.
Adopt Basic Trans-Inclusive Policies
An extensive body of research in social psychology suggests that human beings are highly aware of the value given to them by others. To a certain evolutionary extent, we all see a basic need to belong and a predesigned, unconscious governing system that tracks the quality of all our relationships. When we detect signs that someone is socially devaluing us like showing disapproval, apathy or rejection, we lose our self-esteem and foster negative emotions. When we feel socially valued (praise, affection, or admission to the desired group), the opposite psychological reaction takes place. Thus inclusive practices and policies —such as those related to dress codes, bathroom access and pronoun and name usage—send a strong message to trans employees about their value as an integral part of the organizational system.
One of the best ways to make trans people feel valued is by allowing them to use the bathroom that they feel comfortable going to or by installing gender-neutral bathrooms. The employees should be properly trained on the importance of being welcoming and accepting when they find themselves in a bathroom with a trans colleague. Some people suggest that transgender individuals can be the cause of sexual harassment if they are allowed to use the bathrooms that they feel comfortable in, but this is not true at all. In a 2018 study conducted by the Sexuality Research and Social Policy have stated that sexual harassment at the workplace was caused by cis-gendered heterosexual men on cisgendered heterosexual women.
Some organizations, including big corporate companies like Accenture, have started implementing gender-neutral dress codes. By making all employees select from a range of options, such as pantsuits, dress shirts and skirt suits, companies can help destigmatize the varied gender expressions of people. Such policies may also aid in retention and recruitment by showing that traditional normativity is not expected.
Pronoun And Name Usage
Another way to show trans employees that they are valued is by paying attention to their preferred names and pronouns. Most trans people identify on the traditional binary scale as either male or female and hence use she, her, and hers or he, him, and his as their preferred pronouns. However, many others who also fall under the broad category “trans” like gender-fluid, genderqueer and nonbinary individuals use gender non-conforming pronouns, such as they, them, and theirs or ze, zir, and zem.