The workplace should be a safe environment for every person, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. However, even with how far we’ve come as a society, discrimination and harassment toward transgender employees can happen in the workplace, leading to a hostile work environment and inequity.
For employers and employees alike, it’s crucial to learn how to identify the signs of transphobia in the workplace and work to create a welcoming, inclusive space. Let’s explore how to identify transphobia in the workplace and what you can do to address it.
Before we can recognize the signs of transphobia in the workplace, we must first understand what transphobia is and how it impacts the work environment.
Transphobia is the irrational fear or hatred of transgender individuals or those who do not conform to traditional gender norms. It includes prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory behaviors, and systemic and institutional bias that affects transgender people at all levels of society. Transphobia can be both overt and covert and manifest in various ways, ranging from verbal insults and harassment to physical and sexual violence.
One of the most significant ways transphobia impacts the workplace is through its toll on mental health. Transgender individuals who experience discrimination or harassment in the workplace often report high levels of stress and anxiety. This struggle can lead to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and higher rates of mental health disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To mitigate the impact of transphobia on mental health, employers should prioritize creating safe and inclusive work environments where all employees receive proper support and resources. Employers should also consider providing mental health services as a standard employee benefit, including gender affirmation healthcare services.
In addition to mental health, transphobia also has a significant impact on workplace productivity. Transgender individuals experiencing discrimination or harassment in the workplace may feel undue stress and distractions, leading to reduced focus on tasks and poor performance.
Helping transgender individuals feel accepted within the workplace and offering equal opportunities to all employees can greatly increase productivity and morale. Employers should also explicitly prohibit discrimination and harassment in their policies, training, and workshops.
Transphobia in the workplace can lead to high employee turnover rates as transgender individuals seek out more accepting and inclusive work environments. High employee turnover is costly for employers, as they must continuously recruit and train new employees to fill vacant positions.
By prioritizing creating an inclusive and supportive environment for transgender individuals, employers can improve employee retention and strengthen the business’s overall culture and performance. Remember, diversity breeds innovation and success.
Misgendering occurs when someone refers to a person using the wrong personal pronouns. It can be intentional or unintentional, but it is still incredibly harmful to transgender individuals who have likely had to fight for others to recognize their correct name and pronouns. If you notice someone consistently using the wrong name or pronouns for a transgender colleague or employee, it is important to correct them and encourage others to do the same.
Making jokes or mocking transgender individuals is unacceptable, and it can create a hostile work environment that makes transgender individuals feel unsafe and unwelcome. Even if these jokes are meant to be harmless, they can contribute to a culture of transphobia that makes it difficult for transgender individuals to thrive in the workplace. If you witness someone making jokes or ridiculing a transgender colleague or employee, speak up and let them know that this behavior is not acceptable.
Discrimination against transgender individuals can take many forms, from being passed over for promotions to being denied the right to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. It is important for employers to have policies in place that protect transgender individuals from discrimination. Additionally, employees should be aware of their rights and able to advocate for themselves and their colleagues. Discrimination against transgender individuals is not just illegal—it is morally wrong, and it has no place in the workplace.
Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional comments or actions that communicate a negative message to marginalized groups but still count as a form of discrimination. Examples of microaggressions against transgender individuals can include asking invasive questions about their transition, refusing to acknowledge their gender identity, or treating them differently than their cisgender colleagues. These actions might seem small, but they can add up and create a culture of transphobia that makes it difficult for transgender individuals to feel safe and valued at work.
Finally, one of the most significant warning signs of transphobia in the workplace is a lack of support for transgender individuals. This issue can manifest in many ways, from a lack of diversity and inclusion training to a refusal to provide healthcare coverage for gender-affirming treatments. Employers that fail to support and value their transgender employees send a message that these individuals are not welcome in the workplace. Working for an employer that does not respect its employees can have serious consequences for mental health and well-being.
Knowing how to identify transphobia in the workplace, unfortunately, isn’t enough. To protect trans employees, we must also learn how to respond to transphobia and cultivate a more inclusive work environment.
Creating a safe and supportive work environment for transgender employees can help send the message that transphobia is not acceptable. Establish policies that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
Additionally, consider offering healthcare benefits that include gender-affirming care coverage. Celebrate transgender inclusion by recognizing Transgender Visibility Day or Pride Month. You can also create a diversity and inclusion committee to ensure that the workplace is welcoming and inclusive for all.
An essential part of creating an inclusive workplace is to provide support and resources to transgender individuals who have experienced discrimination. The HR department should have resources, such as counseling services, support groups, and employee assistance programs available to provide support to workers.
There may also be local organizations that provide outreach or advocacy services to trans individuals. As an ally, it is important to support others in both your actions and your words.
An effective way to create inclusivity in the workplace is by educating your staff on issues around transphobia. You can do so by hosting workshops or training programs that teach the importance of diversity and sensitivity around trans employees.
Workshops should cover the basics, such as the trans experience, identity, terminology, appropriate language, and how to promote an environment inclusive of transgender individuals. When people feel supported and valued, it can have a huge positive impact in the workplace.
If you’ve been a victim of transphobia or feel transphobia is running rampant and unaddressed in your place of work, contact the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder. Tamara Holder is a sexual discrimination lawyer with years of experience dealing with sexual orientation and gender discrimination cases just like yours. She’ll do everything she can to hold alleged aggressors and abusers accountable.