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How to create safe spaces for the trans community

Margot Slattery | 29th June 2021

As part of our Pride month activities, Margot Slattery, Head of D&I as ISS, shared with us her tips for creating, building and maintaining safe spaces for the trans community. Her guide is applicable to organisations regardless of how far along your D&I journey you are. 

Start off with intent

  • Foster a sense of belonging – this begins with building a culture that doesn’t tolerate discrimination. Make it clear that certain behaviors and attitudes won’t be accepted in your organisation. Stand up for what you believe in. 
  • Change the system from within – we can’t just bring in a bunch of outside advisors, we have to live the change in our everyday interactions within the organisation.
  • Be more intentionally inclusive – this will help employees bring their whole selves to work, which can make them more likely to speak up, share creative ideas, and give their all to their projects. 
  • Build in checking systems – transphobia and discrimination is experienced in the workplace, so we need to ensure we are developing and promoting all LGBTQ+ individuals and enhancing their professional development equal to all other employees. Regular DE&I listening sessions are a way to ensure this is ongoing. 
  • Demonstrate a commitment to supporting transgender team members  – This can be done in a number of ways, from explicit policies that are consistently enforced to regular training and education sessions to gender affirming benefits.
  • Provide ongoing support – be with your team members for all of their journey and their work lifecycle, not just short term. For the trans community, transition, be that medical or social, is important. However, the return to the workplace can also be a stressful time. It may also be helpful to think about life stages as well. 
  • Have a strong ally cohort as part of your Pride Group – don’t just leave it to the non-binary and LGBTQ+ team to ask for change or bring up challenging questions. 
  • Allow people to come out and disclose as a personal choice –  it is important to respect every trans person and their decision to be out as transgender or to remain ‘stealth.’ Therefore, ensuring privacy is critical to the safety and autonomy of transgender people.

Build with intent

  • Create inclusive policies – ensuring that the language of your policies is gender inclusive as this will mean they will support trans individuals regardless of whether they’re out or not. Ensure all policies are friendly to families of all compositions. 
  • Encourage all employees to use gender inclusive language –  this could be as simple as using “everyone” instead of “you guys”. This is important to make sure that everyone feels included. Inaccurate language can stymie performance and progression.
  • Make the employee name change process as simple as possible –  work with HR, people and culture teams to make sure that there’s a process which is easy to follow. 
  • Offer gender-neutral bathrooms – this is a simple change leaders can make to provide the corporate environemnt needed to protect transgender people at work.
  • Provide educational sessions for employees and managers –  But it’s important not to ask LGBTQ team members to continually do the emotional labour of educating their colleagues about their experience. Outside professionals will often be better suited for this task. Beyond being specially trained in this skill, their third-party status also protects them from the type of harassment an in-house team member could face.
  • Create opportunities for storytelling and sharing – these moments increase empathy, awareness, and support. However, it is important to ensure there are safety boundaries.
  • Make it personal – individuals – both leaders and team members, also have a large part to play, demonstrating openness and a willingness to learn can go a long way.

Continue with Intent

  • Keep engaging with your LGBTQ+ workforce colleagues – If you have a support or pride group, keep engaging and make it cyclical and talk constantly. 
  • Engage externally too – never stop learning or advocating. There’s always more that can be learned or achieved. Don’t be afraid to advocate in a part of the world, or a supplier or partner where we’re not seeing behaviours we expect, we need to speak truth to power. 
  • Foster visibility, inclusion, and authenticity – make sure that we see people who advocate and who show the different elements of our blended and rainbow families. Leaders can show the way in this, by wearing lanyards or pins, or using inclusive trans flags in slide decks or virtual backgrounds.
  • Identify and implement equitable and sustainable solutions – explore our corporate support. How do we support charities, non-profit organisations and others who are supporting others?   
  • Think more broadly than your people team – assumptions about gender and sexual orientation play a large part in product development and marketing campaigns. Holistically rethinking its view of gender may help an organisation better serve and reach to LGBT+ customers, and advance acceptance and support of LGBT+ people in the public sphere.
  • Lead by example – It’s always really important for leaders to set the tone and the stage for a truly authentic environment.
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