This resource was put together to help organisations in the non-profit sector make their workplaces more inclusive and supportive of transgender and gender diverse people. Despite the high representation of LGBT+ people in non-profit organisations there is a severe lack of policy and contract conditions to support trans people in the workplace. This resources aims to lay out a number of recommendations from trans people in the sector and compile resources that organisations can use to make their own suite of trans-inclusive policy.
The personal process or processes a trans or gender diverse person determines is right for them in order to live as their defined gender and so that society recognises this. Gender affirmation may involve social, medical and/or legal steps that affirm a person’s gender. Affirming our gender doesn’t mean changing gender, ‘having a sex change’ or ‘becoming a man or a woman’, and transition isn’t the same as being trans. A trans or gender diverse person who hasn’t medically or legally affirmed their gender is no less the man, woman or non-binary person they’ve always been.
Trangender and Gender Diverse
These are inclusive umbrella terms that describe people whose gender is different to what was presumed for them at birth. Trans people may position ‘being trans’ as a history or experience, rather than an identity, and consider their gender identity as simply being female, male or a non-binary identity. Some trans people connect strongly with their trans experience, whereas others do not. Processes of gender affirmation may or may not be part of a trans or gender diverse person’s life. The term ‘trans’ is used through this resource as shorthand.
Definitions taken from TransHub. A glossary of terms related to the LGBT+ community can be found here.
Common barriers for transgender and gender diverse people in the workplace
Below are a few examples of the kinds of barriers that trans people might face in affirming their gender or having their gender recognised in their workplace.
Fear of bullying, social exclusion, being treated differently, and outright hostility.
Worried about losing your job, losing status, forgoing promotions, opportunities or extra responsibilities.
Guilt and Shame
Shame about asking for help, slowing down, or needing to seem like you have it ‘all together’.
Lack of staff education
Having to educate colleagues or managers about ‘trans issues’. Being forced to handle awkward or inappropriate questions. Having to be your own advocate.
Time to have appointments, surgeries, get used to hormonal changes, or take care of your own wellbeing.
Not being able to afford new clothes that are work appropriate. Not being able to afford affirmative care options you desire.
Mental load and mental health
Not all trans people have a linear coming out experience. They may choose to affirm their gender in certain spaces and relationships but not others. For certain people affirming their gender at work is far more manageable than affirming it with their family. The period where someone does choose to pursue affirming their gender and/or comes out to their family, partner, or work colleagues and can be incredibly psychologically taxing. It is a time where trans people are likely to face an intensification of stress, discrimination, rejection, and the possible breakdown of important relationships.
“In an Australian survey of LGBTI people, around 60 per cent of transgender males and 50 per cent of transgender females reported having depression. A 2007 survey of Australian and New Zealand transgender people found that almost 90 per cent had experienced at least one form of stigma or discrimination, including verbal abuse, social exclusion, receiving lesser treatment due to their name or sex on documents, physical threats and violence.” – Beyond Blue
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe, stable and positive environment for all workers, and this can be particularly important for trans people.
These recommendations have been developed through talking with other transgender people in the sector, looking at organisations policies, and discussing proposals with consultants. These are not meant to be a replacement for doing your own consultation within your organisation to make sure that any policy aligns with the needs of your transgender or gender diverse staff.
- Provide wellbeing or gender affirmation leave in all contracts. This time can be used for anything from mental health days, attending doctor appointments, undergoing or recovering from surgery, or adapting to hormonal changes. The gold standard is 6 weeks paid leave and up to 12 months unpaid.
- Support the development of a queer or trans caucus within the workplace, or between trans and queer workers in your industry. This might mean hiring a consultancy to set up the group, or supporting LGBT+ people in your workplace to plan and implement that project as part of their paid work. Workplaces should provide paid time in the work plans of transgender and queer employees to attend these meetings. This could also include setting up a queer mentoring program within the sector.
- Provide access to an Employee Assistance Program that has practitioners with expertise in providing support to transgender people. Many trans people report having to educate their counsellors and GPs about transgender health needs. Making sure that counsellors are trained and experienced can go a long way to making the service more useful for trans staff.
- Create simple HR processes for triggering the necessary administrative changes needed when a person changes their name and gender. Processes should destroy any mentions of that person’s previous name or gender marker unless required to keep them by law. This should include any internal communication platforms such as email, slack, or file drives.
- Do not require someone to have changed their name or gender legally before triggering internal HR processes. In many states a person needs to provide proof that they have undergone expensive gender-affirming surgery to change the gender on their birth certificate. These laws are insulting and reductive. Not all trans people can afford or want to undergo these kinds of surgery. Trans people may also try multiple names over time, your HR department should support them to do so.
- Provide access to a bathroom that matches a persons gender, or a unisex bathroom.
- Provide training on trans identities, pronouns, and gender inclusive language for all staff. ACON and the Gender Centre have resources for training and HR guidelines. Have a conversation with transgender staff members to discuss how they would like misgendering or deadnaming in the workplace to be handled and how they would like other staff and management to support them.
- Include language in your staff handbook that explicitly states the protections and services available for people seeking to affirm their gender in your workplace. Having these policies in an accessible format can make trans people feel safer to affirm their gender if they know the exact support they are entitled to.
- Provide training for your HR team on the needs of transgender employees and designate team members that transgender people can reach out to confidentially discuss plans for gender affirmation and raise grievances with.
- Provide a designated HR team member who managers and coworkers ask reach out to with questions about supporting transgender employees.
- Create flexible conditions for required presentation in the office. This is particularly important for workplaces where there are gendered expectations around professional wear.
- If your workplace requires a high-level of professional presentation (e.g. suits, blazers, dresses) management should provide a small affirmation fund for new work clothes. Gender affirmation can be extremely expensive. An affirmation fund can help employees present confidently in the workplace sooner. Depending on the expectations of your workplace you should consider anywhere between $500-$3000 to purchase clothes, shoes, cosmetics and accessories. The process for accessing the fund should be simple and managed through the HR department.
- In workplaces that have a uniform, management should provide employees with a new uniform that matches their gender, including any amended name badges or identifying accessories.
Frameworks for policy development
There are a number of existing policy templates that you can use as a starting place for your organisation to develop its own policy suite. Note that most of these templates do not cover all of the above recommendations.
- The Gender Centre has put together a template policy for managing an employees gender affirmation in the workplace. Notably it does not include guidance for people transitioning to a non-binary gender.
- Further HR resources can be found here.
- TransHub has an example Gender Affirmation Policy that includes a number of helpful resources.
- Pride in Diversity is the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTQ workplace inclusion specialising in HR, organisational change and workplace diversity. Pride in Diversity publishes the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), Australia’s national benchmarking instrument for LGBTQ workplace inclusion from which Top Employers for LGBTQ people is determined.
As the national benchmark, your organisation should seek to align themselves with AWEI and use that framework to guide your policy development.
For more information about transgender people and gender affirmation check out: https://www.transhub.org.au/
Approaches to policy development
When developing trans-inclusive policies you should invite your transgender or gender diverse employees to be central to the conversation and take their leadership on what changes are a priority.
Some folks may not want to be a part of a process like this. It can feel very overwhelming and awkward to have to negotiate your rights and they might trust others in the organisation to represent their interests. If this happens, or you currently do not have any trans employees, you will need to get advice from elsewhere. Think about hiring consultants and reaching out to people who are connected to trans communities that might be interested in helping you get broader feedback or run the process. Pay them for their time.
The list of changes above can seem daunting, and while many require negotiation and figuring out what works best for your trans employees and workplace, many could be changed tomorrow with very little consultation. When planning out your approach it might help to figure out what are the easy steps that you can get done first.
Other places to go for help:
- Contact your union and ask if they have experience with drafting clauses
- Join Pride in Diversity to get access to their services and advice
- Ask the Gender Centre to run a training with HR staff before developing policies to get everyone on the same page
- Seek out other folks that are doing this work to see if you can share resources and guidance
Educate, agitate, organise!
This work only happens if people decide to champion it in their workplaces. Organise your colleagues, develop the policies, propose the changes to HR or your CEO, and get them included in your next Enterprise Bargaining Agreement [EBA].
It’s vital to get changes included in your EBA. The reason why is because right now we are seeing attacks on trans people skyrocket globally.
For example, in the UK lawmakers have made it illegal to supply people under 18 with hormone blockers, a harmless method for trans teens to delay puberty. These medicines are well-tested and often life saving.
I personally fear that we are seeing the beginning of a growing anti-trans movement in Australia as well. Trans people are being used as the conservatives new wedge issue to stoke public outrage. In 2017 we saw how the Marriage Equality campaign was used to spread lies about trans children and ‘radical gender theory’ to scare parents into voting no.
Making permanent changes in our EBA’s is one way we can lock in protections for trans people, regardless of what happens in government over the coming years.
Get in touch
Jackie Williams: [email protected] they/them
Jackie is an organiser and campaigner who works on climate and economic justice. Based in Sydney they are passionate about community power, developing the leadership of young people, and building movements that can win.
Feel free to get in touch with ideas, revisions, new resources or suggestions.
This resource was developed through conversations with trans people in Jackie’s community, consultation with a number of the organisations listed, and their own experiences of gender affirmation in the workplace.
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