By Jaye Jenkins, Associate
(Before we get started, I want to throw in a disclaimer that I am one young, white, able-bodied transgender woman, and that my worldview and experiences are not representative of the entire community.)
When I first started writing this piece, I based it around the concept of asking my fellow trans women in PR what they wish their workplaces had known about their identity. I immediately ran into a problem:
I only know of two other members of the trans/non-binary community in this industry. I am the only transgender woman I know here.
And that isn’t uncommon in the slightest.
People who identify as transgender make up 0.6% of the United States population, excluding the vast number of trans folks who haven’t come out; those who fear retribution from members of society (trans women experience higher rates of violence in all shades), those who fear for their jobs (the Supreme Court is currently debating whether we can be fired strictly for being transgender), or those who have come out and are ignored because they are unable to legally change their gender (that’s where I am. It sucks.)
Long story short, the transgender community relies on the cooperation of our cisgender allies to survive. Being misgendered or deadnamed can, quite literally, be a life or death situation.
All that being said, here are three easy things you can do to be a better ally in the workplace:
- Normalizing pronouns (and getting those pronouns right!)
There has been a push for using pronouns in email signatures lately, which is a good first step towards solidarity, but we need people to use them in order to normalize pronoun-sharing. When we put our pronouns in an email signature, or say them after introducing ourselves, we are sending a very clear message: These are the pronouns I use to refer to myself, and you should be using them too. Being misgendered can cause what is known as “gender dysphoria”, an excruciatingly unpleasant feeling of being stuck in the wrong body. That pain can be easily avoided if those around us consciously use the name and pronouns people put out there. It’s hard to provide much guidance here besides: please be mindful and use our pronouns when they are provided to you.
- Understanding that coming out is an everyday process (and that we need help doing it)
Identity is the complicated interplay between what we project to the world and what the world perceives us to be. To be transgender is, to some extent, accepting that a key part of your identity will always be out of that balance. Here is where the allyship comes in. As an ally, you can help us feel validated in our trans identity by learning about the nuances of trans identity, then ultimately treating us as you would a cisgender person who shares our gender identity. It’s a fine line, but we want to both be visible in our trans identity while not being objectified or ostracized. Please, please do not ask invasive trans-specific questions. Treat trans women like women, treat trans men like men, and treat non-binary folks like human beings free of the gender binary. Our trans identity is not something most of us want erased, but we do want to be treated like normal people.
- Being vocal about Trans Rights
I mentioned earlier that the Supreme Court is currently debating whether or not members of the trans community can be fired simply for being trans, but that is far from the only piece of explicitly anti-transgender legislation currently being debated. There are 69 pieces of anti-transgender legislation currently on file across the United States, each of which could do unspeakable damage to the community. We need our cis allies to help us fight these. If you are aware of anti-trans practices in the workplace, whether that be from a client or a coworker, or you hear about anti-trans laws being considered, we need you to step up. Donate to charities like the Trans Lifeline or Lambda Legal, read up on the legislation when it’s discussed in the media, call your representatives and tell them it is untenable to treat trans folks this way. The trans community spends all day every day fighting transphobia. Together, we can stop it entirely.