Five Ways to Support Transgender Staff Members

We’ve taken societal strides toward transgender awareness and inclusivity, but trans individuals still face many challenges that extend to the workplace. Associations can foster culture and policies that support all staff members.

Transgender visibility is on the rise, with 42 percent of Americans saying they personally know someone who is transgender. But societal stigmas and transgender discrimination persist, posing challenges to people in the community—challenges that extend to the workplace. Among them: lower pay, harassment, and exclusion. Association leaders can empower trans staffers with straightforward policies and practices that support them. Begin with these five actions.

1. Offer Inclusive Health Benefits

Nearly half of transgender people have avoided healthcare because of cost, and research suggests that LGBT people experience some health challenges at higher rates. For example, studies show that they’re two and a half times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.

Provide healthcare plans that include transgender-inclusive benefits, such as covering gender-affirming care, which will demonstrate a commitment to trans employees. But it’s not just offering benefits, as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation points out. You also need to communicate to employees that these transgender-inclusive benefits are available.

“Insurance contracts are typically not readily available or accessible to employees. As a result, employers that have modified their insurance contract to remove discriminatory insurance exclusions … need to communicate to employees (and their dependents) that transgender-inclusive coverage is available,” the HRC Foundation states.

2. Establish Inclusive Policies

You might think that nobody at your association would be concerned about a trans staffer using the bathroom that’s most comfortable for them. But unless it’s a part of your official documentation, trans employees might wonder about how protected they really are. In your policies, explicitly state the organization’s stance on such situations, and include “gender identity or expression” or “gender identity” among protected categories in your anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

3. Work With Trans Employees to Implement Trans-Friendly Policies

When expanding health benefits or revising policies to be more inclusive, organizations would be remiss not to involve trans employees in the process. Developing these policies shouldn’t be the sole burden of trans employees, but giving them a voice will help you craft policies that are informed, reasonable, and beneficial.

4. Celebrate Your Staff

If transgender employees are comfortable with it, make a concerted effort to acknowledge their achievements to promote a culture of inclusivity. You can also officially recognize Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31) and support organizations that assist transgender people. Of course, the key here is getting a consensus from staff members who are being actively celebrated.

“Many employees of all gender identities prefer not to be the center of attention, and it’s important to respect that,” wrote ADP contributor Cat DiStasio. “Ideally, each employee’s immediate team members and direct supervisor would be aware of their comfort level with that type of attention, so check before putting the spotlight on anyone.”

5. Change Your Culture

On top of health benefits and official policy changes, there are cultural adjustments you can make to help transgender employees feel comfortable and included. For example, adopting inclusive language demonstrates support for all employees. Some organizations are doing away with gender-specific dress codes in favor of gender-neutral policies.

“By making explicit that all employees may select from a range of options, such as dress shirts, pantsuits, and skirt suits, companies can help destigmatize varying expressions of gender. Such policies may also aid in recruitment and retention by signaling that normativity is not expected,” wrote Christian N. Thoroughgood, Katina B. Sawyer, and Jennica R. Webster, in Harvard Business Review.

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Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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