Gender Reassignment: What It Is, Who Has It, And How To Support It At Work
What is gender reassignment?
Unlike biological sex, our gender is not determined. Some people suffer from a condition known as gender dysphoria; the feeling that their biological sex doesn’t match their gender identity.
Gender reassignment makes the physical appearance of trans people more consistent with their gender identity.
Exact figures are unknown, but Gov UK estimates there to be approximately between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people in the UK.
Over the past 10 years, the number of people in the UK undergoing treatment to change their gender has significantly increased. At Charing Cross, the oldest and largest adult clinic, referrals have almost quadrupled in 10 years, reaching 1,892 in 2015-16.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 means those who undergo gender reassignment can legally change their gender identity. However, only 12% of those who meet the requirements have applied to do so (likely due to the bureaucratic processes involved).
With figures for gender reassignment soaring, it’s likely that if you haven’t already encountered trans colleagues in the workplace, you will during your career. Read on to understand how to transgender employees, and why it’s important to do so.
Examples of transgender discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against or treat someone unfairly because of gender reassignment. Sadly, many transgender people still face regular discrimination.
- In 2017, a trans woman was granted asylum in New Zealand on the grounds that it is “safer” for her there after suffering years of harassment and discrimination in the UK
- In 2018, Primark faced a £47k bill for gender reassignment discrimination and was ordered to adopt a policy on dealing with transgender staff after it unfairly dismissed retail assistant Alexandra de Souza E Souza
- One in eight trans people have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers at work.
How to support gender reassignment in the workplace
Supporting employees who have undergone gender reassignment isn’t just the right thing to do. Research consistently shows businesses where staff feel comfortable being themselves perform better.
Here are four ways you can help create an inclusive working environment for transgender employees.
Open up the conversation
Many transgender employees feel too uncomfortable to disclose their identity at work. All too often, those who do face discrimination, from offensive language to being outed without their consent.
Rather than wait for employees to announce they’re trans, employers should actively open up the conversation and seek feedback on how to make their workplace culture and practices more inclusive.
It’s natural to feel nervous about saying the right things, but making an effort to develop your understanding of trans employees is what really matters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions (if trans employees are comfortable discussing their identity, don’t force the conversation if they’re not). And, if you do slip up and say something potentially offensive, apologise. Everyone makes mistakes; the key is to acknowledge that you have good intentions and want to encourage honest and open conversations.
Review & update policies to be trans-inclusive
Like our everyday language, workplace policies often unintentionally alienate transgender individuals.
Only offering ‘male’ or ‘female’ as gender options on forms, for example, is reductive. By adding in ‘other’ or ‘prefer not to say’ as options, you can ensure nobody feels excluded or uncomfortable.
Seemingly minor changes like this aren’t only better for inclusive workplaces; they’re better for business. You may be missing out on top talent who exit job application forms rather than answer uncomfortable questions.
We also recommend reviewing your current workplace policies and introducing new ones that take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying of any kind (including transphobic). 21% of trans people wouldn’t report transphobic bullying in the workplace; making it clear that anyone guilty of discrimination will face harsh consequences will help shift this. With 35% of trans people having been abused by customers in the past year, this policy should cover both employees and customers.
Taking a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination is the first step. The next is to actively promote diversity and embrace individuals’ differences.
One way to do this is by introducing mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all staff. This will raise awareness of why it’s so important to respect everyone, highlight the small steps colleagues can take to create a more inclusive environment (like using the appropriate pronouns), and is a good chance to reiterate trans-inclusive policies. You can build upon this by providing additional training specifically for managers, so they feel confident dealing with any anti-transgender attitudes within their teams.
Another way is by promoting LGBTQ+ role models in the workplace. While this isn’t as easy to implement as our first point, it’s part of a valuable cycle. Transgender talent is more likely to join and thrive in inclusive organisations; once they do, ask if they’d feel comfortable talking to the business and offering mentorship to more junior employees going through similar experiences.
A third and final way is to support and celebrate events like Pride and LGBT History Month. Putting up posters and talking about it is great, but why not take it a step further with a team outing to a local event?
Trying to navigate the nuances of others’ identities can feel overwhelming. But you don’t need to approach it alone.
Organisations like Stonewall offer an array of brilliant tools to educate you on transgender people and offer support for employers looking to creating inclusive environments. From videos featuring trans peple discussing their experiences to reports and a trans allies programme, there’s a wealth of free resources out there to help you get started in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
To find out how Druthers can help you hire diverse talent, get in touch.