In the workplace, transgender employees, patients and service users may experience isolation. In the case of staff, some transgender people choose to leave the workplace, undergo transition and then find another job. It is important to have signifiers that show that workplaces/teams/departments follow the guidance of the Equality Act 2010 and do not discriminate against the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. It means that someone who is transgender, does not need to hide their identity when they come to work.

At BSUH we do have processes in place to enable people to transition in the workplace. If you would like to speak to someone in confidence, do contact the team or refer to the Transgender Guidelines available from the Equality Office.

For those in positions of authority, remember that people transition in different ways – each journey is personal. Ask for assistance if you have been approached by a member of your team for support through their gender reassignment and/or transition. You can contact HR for guidance.

Some general things that you can put in place and/or consider to improve your workplace for trans people:

  1. Embed transgender inclusion statements in your communication and processes.
  2. 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.
  3. If you want to collect data to develop an understanding of transgender service users, make sure that the question you ask is with other gender questions and not with questions on sexual orientation.
  4. A transgender person should be able to select the facilities (such as toilets or changing rooms) appropriate to the gender in which they present.
  5. 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 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.
  6. 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 formal they can do so by statutory declaration or deed poll.
  7. Transgender people commonly experience difficult challenges. People often do not use services or visit premises for fear of a negative response unless services make it clear they are welcome.

Terminology

Gender reassignment – medical procedures to change a person’s physical characteristics.

Transgender – a person whose gender does not align with their sex. Remember that not all people in this situation identify as trans or seek gender reassignment interventions.

Cis-gender – a term introduced in academia as the opposite to trans; a person whose gender matches their sex.

Sex – the chromosomal, physical and biological characteristics that distinguish males from females. There are two biological sexes – male and female. Intersex is a term used for disorders of sexual development (DSD).

Gender – the roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society at a given time considers appropriate for men and women to divide labour. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialisation processes. So for example the colour pink is arbitrarily attributed to the gender of woman and the colour blue for men.

Gender identity – a term used to describe a transgender persons sense of self in terms of identifying with the gender of woman or man. For example a transgender person may feel more masculine than feminine as defined by social constructions of gender.

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 your sex.

Queer – this is a term that has been used as a slur against people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. In fact, the term is still implicated in hate crimes against gay men, bisexual people and lesbians in the UK and US. That said, the term was reclaimed by gender theory academics and activists in the US and other parts of the world. So, it is now used by some 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 call yourself queer, 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 sex (lesbian or gay), the opposite sex (heterosexual), both sexes (bisexual).