How do we push for trans and non-binary inclusion in today's mad media climate?
Vitriol directed toward transgender and non-binary people is still on the rise. What can businesses do to support their trans workers? Avery Hennings of agency The Marketing Practice gives 8 guiding principles.
Amid growing media mania over trans people, what can businesses do to support their trans workers? / Alexander Grey via Unsplash
My name is Avery. I am non-binary, my pronouns are they/them, and I am queer.
I’m also hurt and more than a little cross, because right now it feels like I cannot pick up a national newspaper, or visit a news site, without being faced with negative coverage regarding the trans community. It’s been building up over several years, but has reached a critical mass over the last few months.
In the UK, in July 2017, there were 200 media articles referencing the trans community. Five years, later that number is now 1,100 in one month alone.
I wish I could say this was just an increase in national attention, pulling focus to issues faced by the trans community on daily basis. But it isn’t. From my own experience, there’s little to no balance. There’s no hearing both sides.
What particularly enrages me is: that graph of media attention correlates with growth in violent crimes against trans people. It’s infuriating and tragic and it’s causing a mental health crisis within the trans community.
The crisis in focus
In April, the Guardian reported that the mental health of the transgender community was at crisis point following the news that the UK government sought to exclude trans people from a ban on conversion practices. The article featured comment from community leaders and medical professionals. One quote, from doctor Adam Jowett, chair of the British Psychological Society’s Sexualities Section, stands out:
“The mental health of the trans community has been affected not just in the past week but over the past few years: by the perception that the government is hostile to trans rights, the sense that they are not protected and the fact this is happening against a backdrop of hate crime and transphobia on the rise”.
Anti-abuse charity Galop also stated that its helpline saw an increase in calls from “trans people who feel exhausted and dispirited by their exclusion from the government’s proposed conversion therapy ban, and the surrounding conversation on social media and in the news”.
The dejection, the depression and the anger are very real.
It’s the culmination of years of negativity from media, social media and government. But while the media backlash paints one picture, YouGov shows that most people are still pro trans and non-binary inclusion.
From my experience, the working/business world is one of the most inclusive and trans-positive, even if sometimes a little clumsily. That’s why I’m writing this, as a trans person, with some first-hand tips on what can businesses do to maintain momentum for trans and non-binary inclusion at this really difficult time.
1. Establish and work with your LGBTQ+ network
This is the first and most essential thing. Make your trans employees and their allies feel heard. Don’t have conversations or make policies about trans people without including them.
2. Make systems and onboarding processes inclusive
Are you allowing for non-binary identities in your onboarding? Does the process make it easy for people to define their personal pronouns? Do the systems you work with include options for those outside of the gender binary?
3. Use inclusive 3rd party providers
Pensions providers, health care, dental, benefits. Work with providers to discover what their approach is to trans inclusivity. Either work with them to make it better or choose another.
Bathrooms and who can use them have been a media obsession. I find it a strange point of public debate, but at this is a tough one if you are at the mercy of your building layout and regulations in individual countries.
If you’re in the UK and you have individual single-occupancy bathrooms, there’s no reason they can’t be gender-neutral. Your non-binary employees would love to be able to use the facilities without misgendering themselves. Using the disabled facilities is not an answer, for both inclusion and possibly legal reasons.
5. Review your policies and their wording
Considering some recent highly confusing legal cases, it’s more important than ever to make sure policies are tightly worded and inclusive of trans and non-binary people. Give examples of transphobia when you refer to harassment in your policies.
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?
Encourage your people to declare their pronouns where they feel comfortable to do so. But don’t make it mandatory; there are plenty of reasons not to share them that have nothing to do with transphobia. Some trans people may prefer not to.
7. Mark the big days
Trans Pride; your local LGBTQ+ Pride season; Non-Binary Visibility Day; Trans Day of Remembrance. It doesn’t need to be external, but at least mark them internally.
8. Get senior leadership involved
Nothing lends more credence to a culture of inclusion than leaders banging the drum. Get them to put their name to initiatives and support content for them.
I’m skimming the surface, but I hope that you’ll find these points helpful and rewarding in your efforts to promote trans inclusion in your business.
From personal experience, the last couple of years have been tough to be a trans person in the UK. It can end up feeling like everyone around you hates you; right now, it feels like that backlash is getting worse.
But I must believe that this won’t last, that this massive backlash which goes way beyond and into much bigger and scarier things, won’t last forever. There’s so much amazing work being done by businesses across the world to make workplaces safer and more inclusive for trans and non-binary people, and I’m excited to see where you take this.
If you ever feel unsure about what you can do, I refer you back to point one. Ask a trans person.
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