The world is in transition, and we must evolve along with it. Understanding and adopting the language and behaviours required to fully include transgender people into society is a change we must all embrace to remain relevant.
...anyone facing the daily challenge of having their gender identity and sense of self challenged by friends, family, peers, employers, and their community, will inevitably suffer significant negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
An individual’s sense of self is most often intimately entangled with their gender identity. For cisgender people, whose assigned gender and internal gender identity match, this matter is uncomplicated. However, anyone facing the daily challenge of having their gender identity and sense of self challenged by friends, family, peers, employers, and their community, will inevitably suffer significant negative impact on their health and wellbeing. Transgender people suffer higher likelihood of familial rejection, social isolation, workplace bullying, unemployment, and even physical violence. As a result, the transgender community experiences a high rate of self-harm and suicides.
Change is a necessity
The process a transgender person must negotiate to claim their true gender is referred to as transitioning. This can involve changing names, hormone treatment, hair removal, voice coaching, counselling, and surgical procedures. An employee undergoing gender reassignment may require additional support or time off. We can, and must, all support transgender people by transitioning our own language and behaviours to meet their needs.
Transitioning your language
When working towards an inclusive attitude, you should adopt respectful language:
- Recognise and use correct pronouns: she/her, he/him/his, they/them, zie/hir
- Understand an individual’s right to wish to be referred to as transgender or as simply male or female and that this choice may change over time.
- Refrain from binding gender with sexuality
- Use a person’s chosen name. Avoid asking what someone’s former name was. Avoid ‘dead naming’.
- Adopt gender neutral and gender inclusive terminology.
- Understand gender umbrella labels but do not using them without direction, careful regard, or absolute necessity. Labels are tricky things.
Transitioning your behaviours
When working towards an inclusive attitude, you should learn to:
- Respect every individual’s self-identity. Treat every person equally. Recognise that gender is rarely relevant in day-to-day business or conversation.
- Avoid making assumptions about gender identity. Avoid bias resulting from first impressions. Take time to understand someone’s identity. Treat everyone as a person first.
- Understand that much of the marginalisation faced by trans people may be invisible to you.
- Speak out against transphobic language and behaviours but allow for error. Focus on intent.
- If you don’t know someone’s preferred pronouns and can’t avoid using pronouns, use the pronoun that is consistent with that person’s gender expression. If you use the wrong pronouns, simply apologise, move on, but try to get it right next time. Be receptive to feedback.
- Never ‘out’ someone. Never reference a person’s gender identity or transition in public. A trans person may choose not to disclose they’re trans for safety reasons as well as privacy.
- Think twice before asking personal questions. Reign in your curiosity and reconsider why questions around gender or personal health matters are even necessary.
- Avoid evaluating how a person presents or expresses their gender. Never offer unsolicited advice about their appearance or mannerisms. Be aware of and work on your own beauty bias.
- Research and try to understand transgender issues. Listen and be led by members of the transgender community.
- Be approachable to anyone wishing to discuss health and wellness matters. Provide regular opportunities for open communication.
Transitioning your workplace
Treating any individual unfairly at work is defined by the Equalities Act  as direct or indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. All individuals have a right to privacy and no job candidates are required to disclose their gender history to an employer. If an individual elects to do so, they cannot be penalised for it.
Every person must be treated equally, and all workplaces must offer an environment that ensures no employee is ever subject to humiliation, intimidation, degradation, or hostility. Workplace policies and practices must provide a framework that enables every individual to assert their rights. Employers are required to consider how to prevent and react against discrimination, harassment, and bullying. Practical measures to facilitate inclusion must be evaluated and put into practice where possible. Clear policies that state an organisation’s diversity and equality values, with an action plan for how those goals will be obtained and managed is a good start. Gender reassignment treatments should never be classified as elective or cosmetic, and absences resulting from unwellness during transition should never be considered differently from other types of absences. Employers should allow for a reasonable amount of time off and this should not be included with other sick leave.
Agender: Not having a gender or identifying with a gender. They may describe themselves as being gender neutral or genderless
Bigender: A person who fluctuates between traditionally male and female gender-based behaviours and identities
Cisgender (abbr: cis): your assigned gender and internal gender identity match
Transgender (abbr: trans): your assigned gender and internal gender identity
do not match
Nonbinary: people whose gender identity lies outside the male or female categories
Gender fluid: A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more man some days, and more woman other days
Genderqueer: Used by those who do not identify with being a man or a woman, or as an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming identities
Third gender: A person who identifies with another gender which is neither male or female. Used by societies that recognise three or more genders
Two-spirit: Traditionally used by Native American people to recognise individuals who possess qualities of both genders
Transition: the process of change during
Gender expression: a person’s external manifestation of gender through name, pronouns, clothing, and behaviour etc.
Being outed: having someone else reveal your gender identity, usually without your consent
Dead naming: referring to a transgender person using their former name
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References: Equality Act 2010. Section 7(1). For more information see Equality Act 2010 Code of Practise: Employment. Equality and Human Rights Commission (2011)