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The current social and political climate for trans and marginalised genders is predominately toxic. Despite much activism and challenging of transphobia, many face the full brute force of discrimination, as highlighted by the latest statistics from TotalJobs’ 2021 survey

According to their findings, which were taken from 400 participants, approximately 65% of trans employees hide their identity at work. This is largely due to fear of discrimination and/or bullying. What is more, 43% of those who took part admitted to quitting their jobs due to an unwelcoming atmosphere and work environment. 

To put this into perspective, when a similar survey was conducted in 2016, 52% stated that they didn’t reveal their gender identity. The increase in those who feel targeted highlights that transphobia and bigotry is preventing inclusivity in the workplace; it’s not improving but getting worse. 

Society likes to keep patting itself on the back for having progressed so much, but there’s still much work to be done before inclusivity is commonplace.

You don’t have to search far online to see transphobia continuing to breed, not just here in the UK but internationally as well. Again and again, transphobic voices are given a platform with which to share their hatred and intolerance, while trans people are left to deal with the painful aftermath. The difficult truth of the UK is that bigotry governs the majority of the population. 

Even those who are able to avoid direct attacks on their identity, still face microaggressions from colleagues, family, and sometimes even friends. It doesn’t matter if they unintentionally cause harm, the harm is still being caused. 

This is why as many as 40% of trans people expressed concern at the possible anti-trans conversations they could be subjected to at work. Furthermore, even if they weren’t indirectly affected by anti-trans abuse, they still faced being asked inappropriate questions, as if we’re nothing more than a complicated puzzle to them. You don’t ask cis people how they have sex, why they are who they are — so why is that so commonly asked of us? 

To offer insight into workplaces outside the UK, which are equally as affected by transphobia, I spoke with Australian trans indie game developer, @Fenreliania. “I have kept my identity largely hidden – I’ve let my hair grow out and at one point I wore nail polish, but while the responses were mildly supportive, that was around the time my bosses started talking about “appearances” and “impressions”.”

Fenreliania also shares how their colleagues tend to only be concerned about avoiding trouble with HR, and not with genuinely educating themselves and/or changing their behaviour. It’s far easier for colleagues like this to feign change than actively do it. 

Unfortunately, these comments didn’t surprise me, nor will they surprise many who are trans and/or a marginalised gender. We know firsthand that the status quo has been, and largely still is, that abusive colleagues only alter their behaviour in order to benefit themselves and rarely to bring about inclusivity.

Although these findings are the harsh reality that many of us experience, there is hope on the horizon. 

In light of these recent findings, TotalJobs has partnered with trans charity, Sparkle, to advise workplaces on how to create an environment that everyone is welcome in. This is just one of the ways in which Sparkle helps the trans community, as demonstrated by their extensive work since its founding in 2005. 

We know that not all employers will listen to this advice, but the unique situation of this pandemic and its restrictions means businesses are being forced to reassess their attitudes. Not just towards their queer employees, but all employees. 

Arguably, this is why 20% of trans people have faced less microaggressions since working from home: the pandemic has facilitated them being able to work in a safer space. Nonetheless, while this is positive news, it’s also sad to realise that the only way less discrimination is felt is by being physically removed from the traditional officescape. 

Nobody should have to feel empowered through isolation, as this only serves to further reinforce a continued divide between trans and cis employees. Furthermore, it isn’t for the trans community to keep educating the cis community in how they should and shouldn’t behave. 

My hope is that this latest survey finally encourages workplaces to actually listen and respect all within its space, as opposed to paying lip service. Moreover, that as we transition back to a more traditional work environment, those fewer microaggressions continue before stopping altogether. I think it’s still a long way off, but hopefully this survey is the catalyst that helps start a chain reaction of change. 

About the author

Emma Flint

Emma is a genderfluid queer journalist who specialises in mental health, LGBTQIA+, and sexual wellbeing.

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