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Pride · June 26, 2018

In Pursuit Of: Embracing Transgender Identity at Work

Fostering inclusivity in the workplace (or anywhere) cannot be underestimated in its importance. Along my own journey, and as an advocate for others later, I learned that implementing a few easy changes in the workplace can make a world of difference. In recognition of Pride Month this June, consider a few of these ways you and your company can be better alliesthose who are willing to take action to promote equalityto members of the trans and non-binary communities.

Broaden Your Search For Transgender Hires

According to a report written by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and National Center For Transgender Equality, trans and gender non-conforming people experience double the rate of unemployment as the general population (and up to four times the national rate if they were also a person of color).

What's more, one in six people who were surveyed reported losing a job over being trans, and 27% reported being fired, withheld advancements, or not being hired in the first place. Make it clear that your company is looking for great people of all identities by posting jobs on LGBTQ-specific job boards like Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. This especially goes for internships, where younger transgender peoplewho might or might not be outare often seeking their first professional places of work and can truly be shaped by that experience for the rest of their lives. Your human resources team can also collaborate with local high school gender/sexuality alliances (GSAs) or even LGBTQ community centers with some old-school flyersreaching out to potential hires that others may have overlooked.

Encourage the Use of Appropriate Pronouns

It's easy to make assumptions, but using the right pronoun for a trans person is just as important as getting their name right. Chances are, pronouns will come up naturally in conversation, but if you're unsure about which pronouns a person uses, you can start by offering your own first: "Hi, I'm Hannah and I use the pronouns she and her. What about yourself?" If this idea feels out of your comfort zone or if it still sounds like you're singling someone out, suggest to your human resources team that pronouns and titles become part of your company directory or email signatures, where each employee can write in which one(s) they use.

When in doubt, especially in a group setting, you can use "they" as a singular, gender-neutral pronounin fact, it was the 2015 Word of the Year. At the end of the day, don't beat yourself up if you accidentally use the wrong pronoun. Just apologize and move on.

Implement Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Not everyone falls into the category of "man" and "woman." Designating some gender-neutral restrooms, single stalls or otherwise, not only makes them more efficient for all genders, but its a simple way to increase comfort and safety in the workplace. Many trans and gender non-conforming people have limited access to bathrooms due to the harassment [and] violencethey experience in both womens and mens bathrooms, Ethan Lin, director of grassroots fundraising and communications of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, told Teen Vogue.

In some cases, carrying out a gender-neutral restroom is as easy as slapping on a new sign: Download one Birchbox created here. Companies can even take the signs to the next level by specifying information like whether the restroom contains a single stall, urinals, and/or a changing table to make it easy for employees to know where to go.

Make It Easy to Get Your Building ID

As a medical student when I first came out, my school refused to print me a new ID without a court order, which was an expensive and time-consuming process. My male name and picture on my ID at the time no longer matched my physical presentationinstantly revealing that I was transgender to my colleagues and any patients I encountered. As an interim solution, one department chair offered to place stickers of Hannah over my old name and replace the photo with a "feminine"-looking picture of myself from Facebook.

The school eventually issued me a new ID, but confronting the administration over it (along with other unrelated incidents) escalated tensions that unfortunately led to me taking a hiatus from the programsomething I wish that no one ever needs to resort to. As soon as an employee requests a new ID or an email address update, it's essential that the company moves swiftly to make it a smoother, less awkward transition.

Admit When You Don't Know Something

The best way to be an ally to transgender people is simply to listen and understand that your actions not only help shape a culture of respect, but create a safer, healthier workplace for all people (transgender or not). Don't be afraid to admit when you don't understand something and seek out resources (seminars, articles, documentaries) that will help you learn more instead of making incorrect assumptions. I personally admire writer, producer, and advocate Dawn Ennis, host of talk show RiseUP with Dawn Ennis, who focuses on politics, culture, and guiding readers to learn the facts. I also tell new colleagues and friends who have questions to watch a video I created with Refinery29 called "What Being Trans Is Really Like". But most of all, being a better ally just takes a little confidence and an open mind. So are you ready? Let's not wait to start breaking down conventions.


Alexis Bridenbaugh