A superb transgender awareness keynote from Janet Mock

Janet Mock, 2016 NC State SHRM Conference Keynote Speaker (photo from NC SHRM Conference website)

Janet Mock, 2016 NC State SHRM Conference Keynote Speaker (photo from NC SHRM Conference website)

As a diversity consultant with a deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) diversity, I have often heard of young transgender activist and media superstar Janet Mock, but had never seen her. Therefore, I was thrilled with our North Carolina SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) Conference planning committee scheduling Janet as this year’s North Carolina kickoff keynote speaker. And the timing is perfect as more transgender people are visible in our work places and as North Carolina continues to struggle with the negative impacts of our horrific anti-trans, anti-gay HB2 bill. (see my recent blog on the five impacts of HB2 on our state.)

Janet’s talk and her gracious telling of her personal story truly helped raise the awareness of what transgender lives are really about. I heard so many attendees exclaim that they were so moved and learned so much from Janet’s keynote. Particularly poignant was her vulnerability in sharing her personal story, including how she totally lived as a woman in graduate school and early career before even disclosing she was transgender.

Some of Janet’s key points included:

• That HR professionals need to take the lead in embracing the differences of others, building coalitions across differences, building a culture where differences are valued … this can be a huge strategic business advantage.

• In our ever increasing multi-cultural world, being different is becoming “the new normal.” More people are embracing their difference instead of minimizing their differences to blend in.

• As a black, female, native-Hawaiian transgender millenial, Janet shared that she cannot fit into “one box” as which often happens with identifying someone’s diversity. Many people now incorporate several aspects of diversity and difference.

• Transgender individuals often have very difficult lives as they are thrown out of their homes and end up unemployed on the streets and in prison.

• Issues are so often not addressed because we are afraid of difference. Instead we should ask “who is not in the room” and create a space where there can be open dialogue among a diverse set up people.

• HR professionals should invest time in reading about and learning about people living in their “other-ness.”

I join many others in thanking Janet for making her first trip to North Carolina during a time when our state laws are unwelcoming to and creating a hostile environment for transgender people.

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From the NC State SHRM conference website with lots of links: Janet Mock is the New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness and the host of So POPular! — a weekly MSNBC digital series about culture. One of Oprah’s “Supersoul 100,” she is a sought-after speaker and the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women. Since 2011, she’s become one of the most influential trans women and millennial leaders in media.

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Take my 12-question organizational transgender awareness self-assessment to gauge how trans-inclusive your organization is.

The Nightmare Continues – Five Impacts of North Carolina’s Infamous HB2

Recently, the US court of appeals sided with trans teen Gavin Grimm that he may use the restroom corresponding to his gender identity in his high school

Recently, the US court of appeals sided with trans teen Gavin Grimm that he may use the restroom corresponding to his gender identity in his high school

As a workplace diversity consultant, with a specialty in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), and working with multiple businesses and organizations across North Carolina, I am deeply entrenched in our infamous anti-LGBT HB2 law passed earlier this year. Though it has multiple components (link to the actual bill), the one part that has grabbed the most attention is the provision that transgender individuals must use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates in public facilities.

I have previously written two blogs about this bill
“Why do we all need someone to hate on? … and now in North Carolina, it’s transgender people” on how I believe it is politics of hate and division which motivated HB2.
“North Carolina’s HB2 – don’t boycott us, Cyndi Lauper-ize us!” which provides an alternative to boycotting our state.

Now that the law has been on the books for a while, I am following up with these “Five Impacts of HB2.” The first two are focused on broad economic impact and the final three are focused on various personal impacts.

1. Negative Business Impact: North Carolina has lost millions of dollars of revenue and thousands of jobs as various entertainment and sports events have been moved out of state, and various planned corporate expansions into North Carolina have been cancelled.

2. Impact on talent recruitment: I have heard from several of my clients that they are having a far more difficult time recruiting top talent for key positions, including enticing people to take internal transfers from other states. North Carolina is now viewed by many professionals as a “backward bigoted anti-diversity” state that they do not want to live nor raise a family in.

3. Overall safety and self-esteem of transgender individuals. This state law that singles out transgender people as “abnormal” and “not fit to use the bathroom of their gender” both stigmatizes transgender individuals as well as making them an increased target of hate crimes and ridicule. In addition, it diverts law enforcement from more pressing issues and increases the chances of vigilantism and violence.

4. Impact on transgender children. With a higher number of high profile transgender people “coming out” and more acceptance of transgender people in corporate America, more children are feeling safer about coming out to their parents and getting the support to live in their true gender. However, now in NC schools they are singled out in terms of restroom and locker room usage, and this undue attention also opens them up for additional schoolyard bullying.

Cisgender people (like female cancer survivors who lost their hair) my now be getting questioned about their rest room usage.

Cisgender people (like female cancer survivors who lost their hair) my now be getting questioned about their rest room usage.

5. Impact on cisgender* people who may appear “gender non-conforming,” particularly “butch-looking” women or gender ambiguous people. For example, this law may make it very uncomfortable for a female cancer survivor who has a mastectomy and lost her hair who uses the women’s room and has her gender questioned.

This horrific law has caused so much harm at some many different levels, immediate and total repeal is truly the only reasonable option. And even with that, it may still take years for state economic and personal psychological harm to be reversed.

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Cisgender* – refers to people who have no issue expressing their gender in the typical manner of someone born into that gender. Cisgender is to transgender as Straight (or heterosexual) is to gay

Take my transgender diversity 12 question self assessment to see if you organization is truly supporting transgender employees and clients.

I have added a new transgender consultant, Elaine Martin (link to the announcement) to assist me in providing transgender diversity workplace training, policy development and program management. Please contact me at [email protected] or 919-787-7315 to discuss how we can assist your organization around transgender diversity.