How To: Support Employees in their Transition Journey

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Photo Credits: Alexander Grey via Unsplash

In January 2023, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that out of 45 million people, there are close to 300,000 people in England and Wales that do not identify with the gender that was assigned to them at birth. This article will cover trans visibility at work and how to support employees in their transition journey.

In this, about 48,000 of them identified as trans men, 48,000 identified as trans women, and 30,000 identified as non-binary. The rest either identified as a different gender or did not specify which gender. While these numbers seem quite large, there were still close to 3 million people who did not answer.

Transition Journey: The Current Scenario

With people becoming more aware of themselves and how they really feel, conversations about gender assignment and sexual orientation have become more mainstream. Chris King (they/she), Thunder and CEO of Lightening Travel Recruitment and one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 UK LGBTQIA+ voices, feels that things are moving in the right direction.

Upon asking what they think of the current scenario, they said “Our understanding of issues impacting us as human beings have also taken a massive leap forward. Once taboo topics have entered the mainstream conversation, and that cat is not going back in the bag!”.

On the flip side, Phoebe (she/her/they/them) who is a C++ Programmer (and otherwise wishes to remain unidentifiable), feels there is still a large chunk of society who aren’t as informed about gender diversity, especially during times when people are questioning their gender or transitioning and need help.

READ: How To: Support Non-Binary Colleagues at Work

Speaking from her own experience, she said “When I came to the realisation, I might be trans, I spent 6 months learning and reading all I could about gender diversity. I spent an enormous amount of energy understanding my fears and internalised transphobia and then carefully considering my safety with coming out to family, friends, colleagues, and society. I also was trying to explore my expressions of my new gender in my spare time, hidden from people I know”.

Transgender Visibility and Inclusion at Work

Working, whether it is in a physical office or from home, is what the average British person spends a quarter of their years’ time doing. There is also a large chunk of unreported work that an average British worker takes on in the form of unpaid overtime. With this much time being spent working, it is important to consider how trans or non-binary people feel in spaces that may not be fully taking their needs into account.

According to a Stonewall survey, more than 50% of transgender people feel they need to hide their identity at work, while 34% of them feel excluded by their colleagues. While recalling her initial moments of gender expression, Phoebe said, “I was lucky that I had recently moved to a new city, so I could explore my expression in public without the fear of people I knew seeing me. As well as that, I work from home. However, webcams are required for meetings, especially with clients. I had to hide my gender expression on days I knew I had to be on webcam, and I was surprised at how exhausting it was.”

But it is not all bad. Max Siegel, transgender and neurodiversity speaker as well as one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 LGBTQIA+ voices, felt welcome and heard at their workplace. They said, “When I came out at work, I received reassurance but also congratulations and offers of support”. And while experiences vary, making workplaces inclusive is the need of the hour.

Making Workplaces Truly Trans and LGBTQIA+ Inclusive

  • Being Proactive

Max says, Make a plan before you need one”. Being proactive and creating policies that take into account the needs of trans and non-binary employees before something goes wrong, is the right place to start. This will not only show that your organisation has taken steps to make trans and non-binary people more inclusive, but also make your organisation as a workplace more appealing to people of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • People are Multifaceted – Understand Their Needs

Another way of ensuring that an organisation is truly inclusive is by coming to terms with the fact that people are multifaceted, and that each employee will have different needs.

Adding to this Chris says, “We aren’t one person at work and an entirely separate person at home. For example, because I am neurodiverse, I do some of my very best work in the small hours in intensive bursts, but then I need to sleep and often don’t feel human until mid-morning the following day. As such a 9 – 5 timetable just wouldn’t be very helpful for me.”

  • Create an Environment Where Employees Can Come Out

Phoebe says coming out is terrifying and people can be left feeling very vulnerable when they finally disclose information like this, especially if the company has no guidelines on policies to indicate their stance on trans people.

“Coming out should be treated with the utmost confidentiality, and other people should not be informed of the news unless the explicit informed consent of the person coming out is given”, she advises. Additionally, she feels that if someone has to be informed beforehand (like IT, to change names or add pronouns, in an email), the same level of confidentiality should be maintained.

READ: Are Your Employees “Rusting Out”? Here’s What This New Term Means

Chris feels that if the workplace is not inclusive, don’t come out and maybe look for another job. But that does not mean suffer alone as having a support system is important. They add, “Look out for LGBTQ+ meetups (both online and IRL) from communities like We Create Space, The London LGBTQ+ Centre and Not A Phase etc.”

  • Encourage The Use of Inclusive Language and Pronouns

Getting rid of male-centric titles and using pronouns is also a great way to showcase a truly inclusive environment. It’s even better to incorporate this before a trans or non-binary person has to specifically request for it. Max feels that letting someone know of your pronouns is a great way to show that you are an ally. For Max, they instantly feel safer. 

This is important as Phoebe feels that everyone has their own way of coming out and will do so in their own time. “Some of us want to come out to everyone as soon as possible. Some of us want to come out slowly by disclosing to different people at different times”, she says. This only goes to show that as an organisation, it is important to take little steps that make people from the LGBTQ+ community feel safer, and it starts from using the right language.

  • Understand the Different Aspects of Transitioning

We learnt from Chris that transitioning is different for different people and has three aspects to it. Some people transition socially which means representing themselves through the clothes and pronouns. Some go through medical procedures to align their hormones with their identity. And finally, some go through surgical procedures to align their physical self to their identity. Keep in mind, one person may transition in one or all of these ways. And so, no two perople will have the same journey.

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to helping employees’ transition and this is why working with each employee is a must. It is important to talk to them to narrow down what they need whether it is time off for medical procedures, or just a safe space where they can dress and introduce their true selves.

You can find more guidance on assisting trans and non-binary employees at work on Chris King’s website – Lightening Travel Recruitment.

If you are facing any kind of discrimination at work, be it sex or sexual orientation, get in touch with the legal team at Redmans Solicitors.

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