Blog | 29 Apr 2021

Trans* Inclusion in the Workplace

This opinion piece forms part of our IMPACTxAsia blog series

Trans* Inclusion in the Workplace

Community Business works with organisations to help them better reach their goals around responsible and inclusive practices. A portion of that, when it comes to the LGBT+ programmes, includes advocating for and raising the voices of various community members and making sure they can access an equitable working life. Sometimes this means being a first stop for questions, so that when allies meet with another member of the community, they already have a base line understanding of appropriate behaviours and how to effectively support the community. By creating a safe space for allies to ask questions, the hope is that they come away with a deeper understanding of the LGBT+ community and may have the tools to avoid common mistakes.

Recently, organisations and individuals increasingly want to know what it means to be trans* (and by extension gender diverse) and how to be a better ally - even if they feel they have been doing work in this space for a long time. With that in mind and with IDAHOTB coming up, this seemed like a good opportunity to address some of those questions, understand why this has taken so long in the workplace and some possible quick wins.

What is Trans and gender diverse (include IDAHOTB)

Often when speaking with the individuals organising LGBT+ inclusion efforts in the workplace, a few themes seem to play on repeat:

  1. They may recognise the importance of trans* inclusion and want to do something, but have decided to manage the “easy” parts first (the LGB)
  2. They want to wait to address trans* until someone is already out in their organisation 
  3. They forget entirely that the trans community is unique in itself and may not be well served by general LGBT+ events.

All of these strategies, though doubtlessly well intended, leave a significant portion of the community behind and can hamper later efforts. To tackle the first, one has to remember the role that organisations play in ensuring that no portion of the community is left behind and the great power that an initial push toward knowledge has. There can be a lot of excitement in an initial push for LGBT+ inclusion at work, and if done well, trans* inclusion policies and practices can be well positioned to drastically improve at the same time. Further, if an organisation chooses to focus on LGB first, they may find themselves patting themselves on the back too early, leading to an incomplete sense of accomplishment.

The second type of organisation might want to wait to address trans* inclusion in the workplace until there is someone who is out and needs support. This approach assumes that there will be someone willing to potentially put themselves in the line of fire to gain support, which is never the best option. If you are waiting to get started until somebody is out, then when somebody comes out you’re already too late. 

The third may assume that by having LGBT+ general events and policies, the trans* community will be included automatically, being part of the same community. Those organisations would do well to examine who they invite to their events, who is present in their leadership and really examine if their organisation serves the trans* community fully, through policy, presence and education. 

What happens next/quick fixes

Given this, what can organisations do quickly to support trans* employees while they work on longer term needs and solutions? A few quick fixes spring to mind:

  • Invest in educating employees about what it means to be trans* and how to intervene if they see non inclusive behaviours
  • Encourage your employees to add their pronouns to their email signatures and Zoom names
  • Include period products in both restrooms, not just female restrooms
  • If you show a rainbow pride flag, offer trans inclusion flags

None of these are long-term solutions and every organisation is different in its needs and goals. Seek help from other organisations who are working in this space if you have questions, or work with Community Business.


About the Author: Adrienne Davis, Senior Programme Manager of LGBT+ at Community Business