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 and choose to raise awareness about trans lives.
If you are unclear about what trans identities are, what gender identity is and what needs to be done in workplaces to visibly demonstrate trans-inclusion, then you need 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. It can reduce the pressure on individual trans, non-binary and gender diverse people to have to explain who they are and challenge transphobia and discrimination every single time it is encountered. It is easier for institutions and organisations to have clear 24/7 signifiers and communications about inclusion than it is for individuals to have to keep explaining their identities.
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 and anxiety about having to ‘come out’ and/or deal with workplace bureaucracy. 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. 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. Also people do not always express their gender identity – they shouldn’t have to.
- 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 your workplace has just introduced trans-inclusive practices and you are not confident that all your staff are knowledgeable about trans-inclusion, then it is wise to have trans allies in different departments so that trans people can go to them for support or at least know that there is someone else there.
- 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 get 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. Make sure that trans awareness and gender identity training is up-to-date for all members of the relevant team. Don’t expect the trans staff member to have to educate the rest of the team.
- 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. Sometimes they ask. People often do not use services or visit premises for fear of a negative response unless services make it clear they are welcome. Include signifiers in your departments, premises, ward areas – posters, pin badges, lanyards, images, terminology – that show your service is inclusive. If you can encourage trans allies to step forward so that they can support staff – just catching up with some one can help immeasurably. If you want lanyards or pin badges or posters just contact the EDI team. If you want to be a trans ally and/or LGB ally please contact us. You will be provided with support.
- 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 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 be 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 and do not have sufficient measures to protect their rights and to have a say about their bodies.
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) or gender non-conforming (a negation of the gender binary). 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 must 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.
Gender expression – this is how a person presents themselves on any given day in terms of the clothes they wear for example, how they speak, how they walk and so forth. Gender expression does not always match gender identity.
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 a minority sexual orientation and/or gender identity, 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 to cite 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). Remember that for a lot of people, sexual orientation is not static – it can shift over time. Also remember that not all people are comfortable using the terms lesbian/gay/bisexual even if they have relationships with those of the same gender – they may choose to use terms such as ‘same gender loving’.
Asexual – someone who is heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or pansexual but is not physically attracted/barely physically attracted to anyone.
If you would like to help the Equality Team embed trans-inclusion and non-binary inclusion at BSUH, just get in touch.