Trans awareness week is an opportunity to explore how ingrained binary gender norms negate the lived experiences of people who identify as trans, making it difficult (and sometimes dangerous) to navigate different services, organisations and social spaces. It is also an opportunity to recognise the achievements of trans individuals who are out about their identity.
If you are unclear about what trans identities are, what gender identity is and what needs to be done in workplaces to promote trans-inclusion, then you need to take the initiative to contact the Equality Team to deliver awareness and Q&A sessions. It doesn’t take very long and can be the first step to improving inclusion in your service and among your team.
In the workplace, trans employees may experience isolation. Some choose to leave the workplace, undergo transition and then find another job. It is estimated that around 50% of trans identified people choosing to transition do this because of fears about transitioning at work. This is why it is important to have clear signifiers that workplaces/teams/departments are trans-inclusive. It means that someone who is trans, does not need to hide their identity when they come to work – many trans people do this on a daily basis out of fear of discrimination. Another reason is to ensure that trans people are not afraid to apply for jobs in other departments – even if you do not have someone who is trans and out in your team, you still need to make sure that your department is trans-inclusive. Otherwise trans people will feel limited in which teams/departments they feel safe to apply to work in. This can have a longer term impact on their ability to progress in their career.
At BSUH we do have mechanisms in place to enable people to transition in the workplace without having to leave their jobs and without fear of being discriminated against. If you would like to speak to someone in confidence, do contact the team.
For those in positions of authority, remember that people transition in different ways – each journey is personal. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance if you have been approached by a team member for support.
Some general things that you can put in place and/or consider to improve your workplace for trans people:
- Embed trans-inclusion in all your communication and processes.
- Practice this: try not to assume you can always tell someone’s gender by looking at them or hearing their voice. This is particularly important to remember on the phone.
- If you want to collect data to develop an understanding of trans service users, make sure that the question you ask is with other gender questions and not with questions on sexual orientation. Gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation. Conflating the two creates confusion.
- A trans person should be free to select the facilities (such as toilets or changing rooms) appropriate to the gender in which they present.
- If someone transitions at work, ask what would make them feel most comfortable at that time. It may be useful to develop a plan together so that badges and names on forms etc. are in place and their privacy is protected. Make sure IT systems, swipe cards and other documentation is updated at an agreed date with the person’s new name. The vast majority of documentation can and should be changed on request. It may be necessary to inform your staff members who will have contact with the person that they have changed their name and gender identity. This should be planned with the trans person and briefing sessions should be run in a timely way.
- There is no legal requirement that needs to be satisfied for a person to change their name – it can be done by common usage. If people want to make the change more formally they can do so by statutory declaration or deed poll.
- Transgender people commonly experience difficult challenges – ranging from disappointment to outright fear and physical harm. Because of this trans people often look for clear evidence that a service is transgender-friendly. People often do not use services or visit premises for fear of a negative response unless services make it clear they are welcome. If you can, include signifiers in your departments, premises, ward areas – posters, pin badges, lanyards – that show your service is inclusive. If you want lanyards or pin badges or posters just contact the EDI team.
- Familiarise yourself with terms and concepts:
Trans – a person whose sex attributed at birth does not match their gender identity. Being transgender is not a choice. Remember that not all people in this situation identify as trans or seek gender affirmation interventions. Sometimes the trans journey is a life long process – there is not always an end point. (Note: please do not use the terms ‘transsexual’, ‘transvestite’ ‘sex change’.)
Cis-gender – a person whose sex attributed at birth matches their gender identity.
Sex – a term used to denote male/female/intersex variations, largely based on visible physical differences and attributes. In general, a sex is attributed at birth is based on visual indicators. However, sex attributes are often (in most countries) tied to binary gender constructs – what it means to a man/woman. So sex and gender are related, although they are not the same. It is important to remember this, because people who have intersex variations are also located on the spectrum of sex attributes.
Gender identity – how a person sees themselves/feels in terms of social constructions of what it means to be a man/woman and sometimes, their own feelings about what being a man/woman actually relates to. Other gender identities include trans (see above), non-binary (a different conception of gender that does not sit within the man/woman binary), gender queer (outside the gender norms) or gender fluid (a gender identity that shifts and changes over time/place). Remember that some trans people who choose to go through a gender affirmation process may identify as a binary gender – man or a woman – at the end of the process or at different points in their journey or at the very start. They may no longer choose to use the term trans or they may never have used the term trans. They may not want to disclose their trans journey and this should be respected. It is against the law to out someone as trans and nor should you expect all trans people to want to talk about their journeys.
Queer – this is a term that has traditionally been used as a slur against people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual and also those who are transgender or non-binary. In fact, the term is still used by some who are homophobic and transphobic and is often implicated in hate crimes in the UK and US. That said, the term was reclaimed by activists in the US and later across the world. So, it is now used by many people who identify as LGB and/or T and is often used in voluntary/community organisations, university courses and grass-roots programmes. Unless you are part of any of these settings or identify as queer yourself, it is best not to use the term unless it is the name of an organisation/group.
Sexual orientation – who you are attracted to. You could be attracted to the same gender (lesbian or gay), the opposite gender (heterosexual), both genders (bisexual), people across the gender identity spectrum (pansexual) or you may not be attracted to anyone/barely feel an attraction (asexual).
If you would like to help the Equality Team over Trans Awareness Week and beyond to embed trans-inclusion at BSUH, just get in touch.