Workplace Blog and Resources for 2015 Transgender Day of Remembrance

Rita Hester, transgender woman murdered in 1998

Rita Hester, transgender woman murdered in 1998

This blog is loaded with links – please do use them!

The Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, started in 1999, about a year after Rita Hester, a transgender woman and activist in Boston, was found murdered in her own apartment. It is very sad that transgender people are murdered or physically harmed at an extremely high rate compared to the general population, often fueled by hatred of this misunderstood segment of our community. Just this year alone, 2015, 70 new names have appeared on the Transgender Day of Remembrance site (link).

There are now a lot of resources available for people to learn more about the general plight of transgender people, and some are included within and at the bottom of this short blog. As a workplace diversity consultant, I want to focus on one area that can really help our transgender brothers and sisters; equal opportunity in the workplace and the ability to make a living. Transgender people often have the same education, skills, and work ethic as all other people companies employ, and deserve the same chance for gainful employment. Providing equitable opportunity for work is one way we can assist in helping everyone see transgender people are totally equal human beings.

Certainly this workplace journey has just begun, and according to recent statistics, much more focus and work is needed. A comprehensive survey from The Taskforce reported that 15% of US transgender people are living in poverty compared to 5% of the general population, and that transgender people are two times likely to experience assault or discrimination at work.

Here is a quick list of things companies can do to support transgender people in the workplace:
• Add “Gender Identity and Expression” into the corporate non-discrimination policy
• Provide appropriate benefits for employees undoing gender transition, including counseling, hormones, surgery…
• Including transgender information in diversity training that should go out to all employees.
• Appropriate handling of employee record changes, new email addresses, new badge, etc.
• Management coaching for managers who have transgender employees
• Trained Human Resource practitioners to respectfully case manage employee gender transitions
• Trans-supportive handling of the restroom configuration and policy.

As an HR diversity consultant, I am a strong advocate for corporations and organizations taking the lead to provide full respect and opportunity for transgender people.

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Additional Resources:

North Carolina’s LGBT community newspaper QNotes has their early November edition focused on the transgender community.

Trans-supportive religious material from Metropolitan Community Churches.

A blog I wrote earlier this year called “The Perfect Trans-storm” highlighting the increased focus I have seen around transgender people.

A more comprehensive outline on Human Resources for Transgender Employees that I wrote for the Workforce Diversity Network.

A blog I wrote last November: “Five Things to Never Say to Transgender People.”

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.


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