23 August, 2023
Following on from recent trans inclusion training, Elizabeth reflects and provides advice on how organisations and individuals can further create an inclusive environment for gender diverse people.
Is your workplace a safe LGBTQ+ environment?
Staff from the Babraham Institute were asked this question recently at training that focused on transgender, or trans, inclusion. I heard people around me discussing and the common theme was, ‘I hope so, but how would I know?’ That’s a key question when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion work: if you aren’t from a group how can you be sure if the environment is truly inclusive for them?
The obvious answer is asking for feedback. However, half of trans employees are afraid to be open at work so employers can run into the catch-22 of people not feeling comfortable enough to provide honest feedback because the environment isn’t supportive. So what else can organisations do and what is the Babraham Institute doing?
Consult with experts
Many charities exist to support trans people, like Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence, that also offer best practice advice to organisations on how to improve trans inclusion. We invited local charity The Kite Trust to provide training as well as a consultation on our Biological Support Unit.
Paul Symonds, co-head of the BSU, said:
Our facility is not like most workplaces as it requires all staff entering the bio-secure areas to shower and change clothes. The Kite Trust reviewed our current changing and toilet provisions and offered advice on how to make them more inclusive. Subtle changes will be made to our gender-neutral changing areas with cubicle symbols being changed so as not to depict male and female genders only. Our long-term plans include reviewing the layouts of our gender specific-changing areas to provide more privacy for individuals.
Create trans inclusive policies
Many workplaces have equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies but due to high levels of discrimination and low understanding, it’s worth explicitly including trans people and outlining support for them in these policies. Our EDI policy specifically mentions how we support trans people and has appendices related to trans inclusion and staff transitioning at work. We also had The Kite Trust review this document to ensure it was in line with best practice. Every Institute policy goes through an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) to ensure equitable outcomes for everyone, including trans people. Our EIAs are designed to assess if a policy have a different impact on people from one group vs another and then remove or mitigate that. It also ensures those decisions are transparent and evidence-based with clear reasoning.
Implement EDI training
Support for trans rights has been waning in the UK but EDI training is one thing organisations can do increase awareness and inclusion. In addition to mandatory online EDI training at induction, the Babraham Institute regularly runs Active Bystander and Dignity at Work training as well as occasional training on specific topics like unconscious bias or trans inclusion.
A workplace isn’t just about policies or processes though: it is made of individuals, and there are actions anyone can take to increase trans inclusion at work and elsewhere. The first thing to do is familiarise yourself with trans terminology, experiences, and challenges. Good ally guides are a good place to start. The Babraham Institute have also created basic guidance and provide resources like books for staff to increase understanding around trans issues and inclusion, as well as other EDI topics. It’s difficult to know where to begin with such a large topic so here’s three quick things anyone can do.
Learn key concepts and terminology
Trans, genderfluid, intersex, agender: the amount of different words can seem overwhelming at first and for someone who has never questioned their gender the need for these different terms may not be obvious. Checking out a glossary is a good starting place to learn the basics. When it comes to understanding why someone else identifies a certain way, it actually isn’t that important. As long as you accept and respect their gender identity and pronouns, you don’t need to fully understand their experience.
Don’t make assumptions
Gender presentation – clothing, hairstyle, behaviour – is not linked to gender identity and you can’t always know someone’s gender identity, trans status or pronouns from how they look. In most interactions it won’t matter whether someone is trans or not, all of us should aim to treat everyone with respect no matter what. Also, trans people are individuals so don’t assume every trans person you meet has the same experiences or opinions.
Listen to trans people
People who personally know someone trans are more likely to support trans rights and have better understanding around trans issues. I’m not suggesting you go looking for a token trans friend – the trans people you meet in real life don’t exist to educate you. They may be happy to but it can take a lot of mental energy to constantly explain yourself, even to well-meaning people, so you should first educate yourself. Luckily plenty of resources exist where trans people share their stories like TransActual and other resources linked in this blog. Remember that no matter how much you learn, individuals will always be the experts in their own experiences and you should listen when they tell you how best to support them.
I hope these suggestions give you ideas for how you can further your support for trans people, whether as an individual or through your organisation!
23 August 2023
By Elizabeth Wynn