Coming out as transgender is a huge step for any individual, and each journey is different for each person, so it’s our job as employers to ensure we make this process as easy as possible when it comes to coming out at work. The stats are shocking – according to Stonewall, 51% of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination. The first step is to create a workplace where all employees from all demographics feel safe, welcomed and are shown understanding, so that your transgender employees know that you are a company that cares about their welfare and will support them through this change (see our article here for more information on this).
There are a few practical things you can do to help them on their journey:
- Acknowledge the employee's gender identity. Use the employee's preferred name and pronouns and update any internal records, email addresses etc. in the same way.
- Be mindful of over-questioning someone or asking personal or medical questions about their transition. Transitions are different for everyone and there is no “one size fits all” approach, and you need to be respectful of this. Allow your employee to open up to you in their own time.
- Ask the employee how you can best support them. Some employees may want to share more about their transition, while others may prefer to keep it private.
- Ask the person about communication internally and externally and how they’d like to progress with this, if at all, and be respectful of the person’s choices and their own timeline.
- If a transgender employee may need to come out to external parties because of the nature of their role, sit down and discuss this with them, how they’d like to approach it, and what you can do to support.
- Educate your team on what discrimination can look like. Micro-aggressions are extremely damaging, as well as misuse of language, but it’s easy for people to get something wrong. So education is key but also be clear that there is a zero tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination.
- Speak to HR – are your policies inclusive of the trans community? Do you have a transition policy? Does your healthcare cover mental health support? Does it cover gender-affirming care? Is the person’s line manager and/or HR business partner aware of all of the resources you do have available and do they understand them? If not, this is an important step.
- Offer resources or support. There are a number of resources available to help transgender employees, such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality, as well as a number of charities such as The Mermaids. Be patient. Transition can be a long and difficult process and it is different for everyone. Not everyone will want to be out or ready for people to know about their journey straight away.
- Be patient with the employee and let them drive the choices on communication.
Additionally, your business might already have transgender employees (whether you know about them or not), and so here are a few additional tips you can follow to create a supportive and inclusive workplace for them:
- Educate yourself about transgender issues. This will help you to better understand the employee's experience and how you can best support them. A great starting point would be a book called The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye. Why not host a book club for your business/team and ask them to read the book and discuss it?
- Make practical changes to your office environment to make them feel supported – for example, making your toilets gender neutral
- Educate your business on what it means to be trans+ – you could organise an educational workshop, invite in a guest speaker or work with a DE&I consultant to support your business.
- Look at other businesses in your space and see if any other businesses are leading the way on LGBTQ+ inclusion, specifically trans inclusion, and reach out to your peers for education, sharing ideas and support.
- Take a step backwards and consider inclusivity within your business. What does LGBTQ+ inclusivity look like within your business? Is your business a safe space for the trans community to exist and come out? What could you do better?
- Be an ally. Stand up against discrimination and harassment when you see it. Especially in your work place!
- Create a safe space for everyone in your team to raise issues – this could be a colleague in HR or DE&I, another senior person, or even something as simple as a link to a website or email address where someone can provide feedback in confidence.
By following these tips, you can make a difference in the life of a transgender employee. For more information on the above, or if you’d like to discuss any of the DE&I articles on or blog or want some further advice, contact Lucy Morgan in confidence – firstname.lastname@example.org