Posts Tagged ‘Laverne Cox’

The Perfect “Trans-storm”

Please see and use the many links featured in this blog to read additional details.

Raffi Freedman Gurspan, the first openly transgender employee of the US White House (AP Photo / National Center for Transgender Equality)

Raffi Freedman Gurspan, the first openly transgender employee of the US White House (AP Photo / National Center for Transgender Equality)


Many people are familiar with the term, “The perfect storm” that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will impact a situation drastically. I truly believe we are now in “a perfect storm” for the fight for equality including workplace and health benefits for transgender people. Many positive recent happenings have now all aligned so that is there is a tremendous focus on understanding and appreciating this misunderstood and often maligned segment of our population.

As a diversity consultant with a deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity, when I have presented an LGBT Diversity workshops to Human Resources Professionals throughout 2015 (see my blog about this), a vast majority of questions during the Q and A time are about the transgender segment. Just last week I delivered a workshop titled “Corporate and Organizational Support for Transgender People: The Whys and Hows” at the monthly meeting of the HR Management Association of Greensboro (North Carolina) to a sold out crowd of over 150 engaged HR practitioners. Yes – we are not talking New York City nor San Francisco, but here in North Carolina!

Here are the five items in chronological order which I believe have contributed to what I have termed this “perfect trans-storm:”

1) The 2009 “coming out” of high profile celebrity Chas Bono, the child of pop singers Sonny and Cher.

2) The growing popularity of transgender television star Laverne Cox on the hit television show “Orange is the New Black” which premiered in 2013 and is still running. And this was followed in 2014 with a photo of Laverne Cox on the cover of Time Magazine with the story titled “The Transgender Tipping Point – America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.”

3) The executive order signed by US President Obama on July 21, 2014 making it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and explicitly adding discrimination against transgender employees within the federal government. Link to blog about this announcement.

4) The much publicized gender transition of Olympic champion Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn in July of this year.
SRHM Mag Cover

5) On August 19, 2015, The White house announcing the hiring of its first openly transgender staff member, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Outreach and Recruiter Director for Presidential Personnel.

Coincidentally, the day I presented my workshop at the Greensboro SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) chapter meeting, the September issue of the SHRM monthly “HR Magazine” was delivered to my home. And the cover story? “The New Face of Diversity – Transgender Employee Policies Are Gaining Support – Are You Ready?”

Five things never to say to transgender people

Many thanks to two local gracious trans-knowledgeable people Rebecca Chapin and Elaine Martin for their review and suggestions on this blog.

In recognition of November 20th being the annual “Transgender Day of Remembrance” I am publishing this blog called “Five things never to say (or ask of) transgender people.” A few years ago I wrote “Five things to not say to gay people” which was my first blog to ever get over 100 hits, which motivated me to add this new installment.

Transgender woman Laverne Cox made history by being the first transgender person on the cover of Time Magazine (May, 2014)

Transgender woman Laverne Cox made history by being the first transgender person on the cover of Time Magazine (May, 2014)


For those of you in North Carolina, here is a link to our local Transgender Day of Remembrance activities.

Transgender people are getting much more visibility and recognition today as evidenced by the cover story in the June 9th issue of Time Magazine titled “The Transgender Tipping Point – America’s Next Civil Right’s Frontier.”

In addition to my five listed below, check out this humorous yet very educational YouTube video from Calperia Adams titled “Bad Questions.” (link)

1) Do you have a penis or vagina? Or “when did you have the surgery?” Not all gender variant people are able to afford, wish to have, nor are moving in the direction of surgery. This question perpetuates the mentality that all trans people are physically transitioning and that genitals are the ultimate decider of a person’s gender. Plus you normally do not ask other people about their private parts … they are called private parts for a reason.

2) Calling the person by the wrong pronoun. Or also asking “what is your real name?” When a transgender person is dressed in women’s clothes and presenting as a female, she probably wants to be referred to as “she” and if presenting as a male in male clothes, addressed as “he.” If you are in doubt, respectfully ask the person what gender and preferred name they would like used in addressing them.

Transgender man Chas Bono, child of iconic pop singers Sonny and Cher, brought great visibility to the transgender community when he appeared on "Dancing with the Stars."

Transgender man Chas Bono, child of iconic pop singers Sonny and Cher, brought great visibility to the transgender community when he appeared on “Dancing with the Stars.”


3) Asking “when did you decide to become transgender?” or “when did you choose to be a transgender person?” Like sexual orientation, gender identity is not a choice, it is the way a person was born. Most transgender people have identified internally in their hearts their desired and honest gender since early childhood.

4) Asking “Are you straight or gay? Do you like men or women?” Normally, you do not ask a casual acquaintance if they are gay, straight or bi, so why ask a transgender person? People will disclose their sexual orientation when they want to in the context of a growing friendship. It is also important to keep in mind that sexual orientation (who you are attracted to) and gender identity (who you feel you are deep down inside) are two very different aspects of a person.

5) Being sexually intrigued by them and asking them to participate in kinky games with you. That totally dehumanizes a transgender person and basically turns them into a “curiosity” for you instead of respecting them as full normal human beings who deserve the same respect as everyone else (if not more respect for some of the issues they have had to deal with.)

Please take the time to research this important community, get to know transgender people as people, and please be an active ally for transgender people advocating for full equal rights and respect.

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FYI with photo above – link to Laverne Cox’s interview with Time Magazine on the Transgender Movement

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